Champagne Festival in Epernay

The « Habits de Lumiere » Festival in Epernay is only a couple of weeks away now, and the theme this year is “Imagination”.

Your weekend starts at 6.30pm on Friday 14th December, on the Avenue de Champagne, where the usually closed doors of the large champagne houses, fling open their gates and invite you in to taste their champagnes at the bars,   indulge in the gourmet food, listen to the live music, and maybe even dance.

Chestnuts are roasting on the street, fairy lights adorn the buildings, and the sound of music, Jazz, Spanish, Mexican is everywhere along this famous street.

At 7.15pm the street procession begins at Place de la Republique and finishes at the top of the Avenue de Champagne at Mercier, where at 8.30pm you’ll witness an amazing firework display set to music.

Time to head on back to the champagne bars and indulge a little more perhaps?

On Saturday 15th December, there’s more, with many local celebrated chefs giving live demonstrations of their culinary skills and of course there’s wonderful delicacies to delight your tastebuds.  Art exhibtions, photographic exhibitions and of course cellar visits, followed by the street procession again at 6.45pm, and then back to Chateau Perrier for a fabulous light display and perhaps another glass of champagne?  Why not…

And on Sunday morning, if you’re feeling up to yet more champagne  (and why wouldn’t you be? ), there’s a vintage car procession starting at 11am through the town of Epernay.

A fabulous weeked not to be missed…. Are you coming?

 

Champagne Harvest 2012 is coming soon


 
How would you like to join us here in Champagne and experience the highlight of the year – The Harvest?  We’ve put together a programme so you can do just that!

Between the 20th and 30th September, you have the opportunity of becoming part of the harvesting team for one day,  picking the grapes, following them to the “pressoir”, tasting the juice as it comes directly from the crushed grapes, and experiencing the atmosphere and excitement of this special time.

Your day will begin at one of our favourite champagne maker’s “vendangeoir” where you’ll pick up your secateurs and be taken into the vineyards with the team, where you’ll begin picking.  You’ll then follow the process back at the “pressoir” and witness first hand how it’s all done champagne-style.

A traditional harvester’s lunch and some serious champagne tasting is included, and all you need to do now is to book yourself a place by clicking here.

The package includes:

  • Two nights’ B&B accommodation at Les Molyneux
  • Dinner on your arrival night with champagne and wine
  • A full day out with one of our favourite champagne makers

Prices are 355 euros for one person and 520 euros for two people sharing a room.

Here’s what you need to do now:

  1. Simply Click Here to book your accommodation at Les Molyneux
  2. Choose two nights’ between the 20th and 30th September
  3. Put a note for us in the Comments Box of the reservation form that you want to come on the Harvest Special

That’s it!  We’ll then organise your day’s harvesting, and be in touch with you again very soon.

Places are limited, so hurry and book now and we’ll see you soon in Champagne!

Yvonne

x

Rent a Renault Twizy 45 in Champagne

Have you ever wanted to try out an electric car ?  How about drinking champagne in the region where it’s made?  Well now the Tourist Office in Epernay is combining these two dreams into one.  Discover the vineyards and the champagne houses of the champagne region by hiring Twizy, an electric car directly from the Tourist Office and… grab a free bottle of bubbly to drink for yourself!

You can hire Twizy for an hour, a half day or a whole day.

Where can you go with an electric car in Epernay?

Start off by driving up the Avenue de Champagne, calling in at Moet et Chandon for a swanky, stylish guided tour of their cellars and a glass or two of bubbly afterwards.  Did you know that there are approx. 21 kilometres of cellars just under Moet’s building and 110 kms of cellars under the whole town of Epernay!  Incredible, but true.

After your visit to Moet why not drop into Champagne Andre Bergére, just a short drive in your little car further on up the Avenue.  Maxime or Stephanie will be happy to welcome you and introduce you to their smaller but good quality champagnes, made at their production facility in the Cotes des Blancs but on sale here on the Avenue.

And then further on up the Avenue, drop into Champagne Mercier where an elevator experience will descend you down into their cellars and then onto their cellar train for a guided tour.

Aftwards, Champagne de Castellane will introduce you to the mechanics of champagne making where you’ll get to see the bottling and labelling room – fascinating.  And for the best view in Epernay, climb the steps up to the top of the de Castellane tower.

You’ll probably be hungry after all that, so try La Banque on the Place de la Republique for a well-earned bite to eat.  Or La Table Kobus, behind the church, where you can take your own free bottle of bubbly to drink there.

Whatever you do, you’ll have a lot of fun.

Champagne Stories from the Vineyards

What a priviledge it is to be able to live and work in Champagne!  I am in awe of the beauty of the landscape and the work and toil of the people every single day.  My drive to the supermarket is through vineyards owned by such luminaries as Moet et Chandon, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and I marvel at their visions which began almost 3 centuries ago.

I am indeed lucky.

But life wasn’t always bubbly in Champagne. After the devastation of the phylloxera epidemic during the late 1800s and the wine growers’ revolts in the early 1900s, the emergence of champagne as we know it today began.  But life was still tough, and many farmers were very poor.  So much so that over the years, many of their offspring left the bubbly trade in search of adventure elsewhere.

One of those sons is our friend Christian Briard, who after having explored life without bubbles, has returned to his roots and taken up the baton in his grandfather’s champagne business, Champagne Christian Briard, in the Marne Valley.

Christian explains what lead him to where he is now in this interesting article and I encourage you to read it here

 

Bunjee jumping in Verzy!

With the torrential April showers hopefully behind us now, we can turn our attention to what’s happening in May in Champagne.

May is the month of the brocantes – those street markets which sell cast offs and collectors items, featuring everything from used tyres (?) to champagne caps.  Verzy’s brocante was last weekend, and needless to say I didn’t buy anything.

There’s a brocante every weekend now in several villages in the region, and if you like milling around bric-a-brac and looking for a bargain, then don’t miss, come on down.

The highlight of events in Verzy (not to mention the Summer Dance Gala on the 16th June, where yours truly will be dancing!) is the Fete Patronale which is happening on the last weekend of May.

I’m really excited about this because last year it was an absolute hoot on the Sunday afternoon.  We were drawn into the music and entertainment of the drag artists singing and dancing in their luminous outfits and unbelievable wigs.  Sipping champagne in the sunshine with friends and enjoying the ambience of the real France was incredible, and this year promises to be even more fun with the opportunity to participate in bunjee jumping.  Needless to say again, I won’t be jumping, but you can!

Join us if you can, we’re looking forward to meeting you in Champagne!

The French are rude!

Living and working in France has and still is one of the most enriching experiences of my life.  I love it here!  I even left it once, only to return “home” as soon as I could.  Why?  I find the French philosophy on life refreshing and it just makes sense to me.

Here in Champagne, the people are warm and friendly, and there is a sense of community, that long-forgotten feeling that used to prevail in the homeland, the UK before it all went wrong.  The French are attached to the earth, the “terroir”, the planet in a way that makes me feel safe and secure, and even loved.

You can imagine my surprise then, when friend and business partner Marion Ryan sent me this article this morning.  Apparently the French have been voted the most rude country to visit for tourists!

Yes, yes, I know that sometimes they are rude, but isn’t everybody?   But what I’ve learned about the French during my many years among them, is that it’s NOT intentional.  My daughter describes them as “direct” and that’s a good description.  They don’t put up with nonsense, poor service, poor food, rules that don’t make sense to them, working harder, working longer (remember they only work 35 hours a week!)  and their lives are much more important than any commercial transaction.

There is a respect here for each other, with the essential “Bonjour Madame or Monsieur” whenever you meet someone in the street.  Eye contact is normal and people smile.  Old people are respected and children are cherished.  People help each other in a distinctly and guarded French way, but nevertheless the support is there.

Of course, I may have to eat my hat if Marine Le Pen wins the next election! God help us!

Reiki and Champagne

I’ve just received the monthly newsletter from the Tourist Office in Epernay (pity it’s only in French) and I’ve noticed that there is a “Reiki Conference” happening on the 31st March.  (The Tourist Office’s website is undergoing some maintenance at the moment, otherwise I’d put a link in here for you).

I know that alternative health treatments are pretty popular around the world, but so far, in France I’ve yet to discover much at all. In fact one of my English students whispered that that sort of thing isn’t welcome in France. And I’m not surprised. The French are pretty wedded to their mainstream medical system, and anything natural or slightly “out there” would probably be shrugged off.

In fact, many of the “spa” treatments the rest of the world has to pay for privately, are offered on the French national health system.  A good friend of mine recently had a heart operation and he was sharing with me recently, that the option to take a “spa” treament was part of his recovery package!

But now, we have a Reiki conference taking place at the stunning Hotel Royal Champagne on the hills outside Epernay on the 31st March, starting at 4pm. I’m certainly going to be there. Anyone else?

Fete Henri IV in Aÿ

If you’re planning to come to Champagne this summer, then you won’t want to miss the Bi-annual Fete Henri IV in Aÿ (pronounced aye)

Aÿ used to be the capital of Champagne, over 400 years ago, and at that time was most famous for its still wines.  It’s still home to some of the big well-known champagne houses,  such as Bollinger, and some of the best grapes of the region are to be found in its vineyards.

The best time to visit Aÿ is every other year (even years)  when they hold the Fete Henri IV.  In 2012 it’s on the 6th/7th/8th July.   Many of the champagne houses large and small, open their courtyards, gardens and doors to visitors, where you can sip a glass or two and relax.  It’s a lot of fun.

If you come to the Fete, you’ll be able to walk in and taste some of the little known gems of Ay plus enjoy the atmosphere of a typical champenois event, where the music plays, the food is plentiful and the champagne flows.

Launching an App feels like giving birth….

Finally, the day has arrived when you can now have your own personal network of contacts in Champagne downloaded onto your iphone or ipad!

Champagne Day App is being launched at 12 noon GMT tomorrow and I feel as though I’m going to give birth!

It’s been an exciting few months, contacting old friends, making new ones, gathering information, shooting videos, getting the files ready and then sending everything over to our wonderful appman Simon Williams.  If I’m the mother, Jiles is the father, and Simon is definitely the midwife!

And so the “baby” is about to be born, packed full of exactly what you need to plan and enjoy your Champagne experience.  It will introduce you to and take you to meet and see the people and places you probably wouldn’t find on your own, but where we know for sure you’ll have a great time.

To take a look inside the App, before it’s launched tomorrow, by clicking on the video below.  If you’re not already on the VIP Priority List where you can get your App tomorrow at the special one-day-only price then you’ve only got a few hours left to do that, by clicking here. 

I’m looking forward to meeting you soon in Champagne.  Cheers!

Champagne Tasting in Champagne

April is one of the best times to come to Champagne, before the season really gets going, and if you’re a champagne enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to be at one of four of the best and most dynamic champagne tastings taking place this year.

The first is the Terroirs et Talents de Champagne and  takes place in Epernay on  Sunday 13th and 14th April at the Restaurant Au  Théatre. In no particular order (!) Champagne producers taking part at this tasting will include:

From La Montagne de Reims:

  • Aspasie
  • Maxime Blin
  • Penet Chardonnet

From La Côte des Blancs:

  • de Sousa
  • André Jacquart
  • Vazart Coquart

From La Vallée de la Marne:

  • Janisson Baradon
  • Michel Loriot
  • Sélèque

And Jacques Copinet from Le Sézannais
and  Coessens from further south in La Côte des Bar

To book your place at this event, simply email: terroirs.et.talents@gmail.com

Your next date is on  Monday 14th for the Terres et Vins de Champagne at the
Hotel Castel Jeanson, Ay, and in no particular order,  the champagnes being presented at this tasting will include:

  • Horiot
  • Agrapart
  • Françoise Bedel
  • Bérche
  • Francis Boulard
  • Chartogne-Taillet
  • Couche
  • Doquet
  • René Geoffroy
  • Etienne Goutourbe
  • Jeauneaux-Robin
  • Benoit Lahaye
  • Laherte Fréres
  • Tarlant
  • Leclapart
  • Franck Pascal
  • Hubert Paulet
  • Pouillon & Fils

Go here to book your place at this event (the picture is from last year’s event, sadly)

http://www.terresetvinsdechampagne.com/home/formulaire.php

Go to Formulaire d’Inscription

And third is Les Artisans du Champagne on 15th April at Chateau Les Crayeres, Reims.  You’ll be able to meet and chat with these producers there:

  • Maillard
  • Paillard
  • Savart
  • Huré
  • Hébrard
  • Gerbais
  • Doyard
  • JL Vergon
  • Alfred Gratien
  • Margaine
  • Vilmart
  • Lancleot Pienne
  • Dehours
  • Gonet Médeville

You’ll need to go here to get yourself into this event:

http://www.lesartisansduchampagne.com/

Go to Inscription en Lignes,

And finally, on the 16th April, David Pehu and his group will be presenting their champagnes, venue to be confirmed.

Well, if that’s not a great selection of small producers, I don’t know what is! Looking forward to seeing you in Champagne in April.

Stay Bubbly!