What do you do when you’re driving up a narrow street and someone has left their car parked so you can’t get past? Do you honk your horn and wait patiently, and still no-one comes? Or do you get in the car, seeing that the keys are in it, and move it so you can pass? That’s exactly what Nicolas Rainon did this week, when I was invited to experience an “Oenovasion Vendanges” – a Harvesting Discovery Day! That was just the beginning of an eventful and amazing day.
We climbed into his Landrover Discovery at 10AM and then found ourselves driving along the disused railway line called the CBR which used to connect all of the villages along the Montagne de Reims until it was finally taken up in the 60s. Then he stopped while we admired the view, and then he advanced literally over the cliff! I must confess I didn’t look! And then we were in the vineyards literally, driving along grass tracks while he was explaining how to tell the difference between the different vines, and how in fact 50million years ago, the chalky terrain now known as Champagne was created. Nicolas is a mine of information about this region.
Next we climbed 102 steps up the lighthouse in Verzenay while he explained just how small each parcel of vines can be and why each grape farmer must spread his parcels far apart to avoid localised adverse weather conditions and complete destruction of his livelihood. It was all truly fascinating.
After a hard morning’s study, we then pitched up at his wife, Marie-Noelle’s champagne house where we were treated to a harvester’s lunch and 4 matching champagnes. Marie Noelle is passionate about the skill of matching champagne and food and is in fact, teaching this skill to their 6 year old daughter, Marie Amelie, by never mixing flavours on the same plate of food.
Then came the hard part. Out into the vineyards we were taken by Nicolas, this time by the road (!) and we each took our secateurs and a bucket and were given instructions on how to pick the grapes. When we had all picked a bucket-full, we emptied them into a large box, and then followed the boxes to the pressoir, where we witnessed the pressing of the grapes we had picked.
The press is so sophisticated, that it only presses the mature grapes and leaves everything else un-pressed, even the ladybirds!
The results of our hard work will not be known for at least 4 years, but I’ve no doubt that it will be an amazing cuvee that everyone will be talking about for years to come!
If you’d like to know how you too can be part of this exciting event on the Champagne calendar in 2012, email now at firstname.lastname@example.org before all the places are taken. Looking forward to hearing from you soon