Tt le mondeThe dates for the champagne harvest for 2013 have been announced, and it starts in Verzy on the 4th October for Chardonnay grapes and the 6th October for Pinot Noir grapes.

And you can come and get involved if you want to experience the atmosphere and the excitement of the highlight of the year here in Champagne.

Your day starts with a trip out to the vineyards and armed with a pair of secateurs, you’ll be instructed on what to pick, how to pick and where to put the grapes when you’ve picked!

And then, off to the press house to enjoy the process of crushing the grapes and watching the juice being extracted, followed by a tasting of the juice straight from the press.

Lunch follows where you’ll enjoy 3 champagnes and a typical harvesters lunch with the team.  Would you like to come?

Click here to find out more and we’re looking forward to seeing you in Champagne for the 2013 harvest ;-)

 

 

Why is champagne so expensive?

Tasting at Henriet-Bazin 2Fancy making your own champagne ?

Many people who come to our B&B ask if we own vineyards or is the champagne we’re serving, the one we make ourselves…..

Well, no, on both counts, and here’s why…

A hectare of champagne vineyards at the lowest quality (cru) is currently valued at and costs in the region of 1m euros to buy, with a hectare of grand cru vineyards valued at 2m euros, that’s if you could ever find any vineyards to buy.  Vineyards typically change hands between existing champagne producers, by word of mouth, so as foreigners, this would simply not be available to us, even if we wanted that.

There used to be strict rules governing the sale and purchase of vineyards, meaning that the larger champagne houses were not allowed to buy up the smaller vineyards, otherwise there would be a monopoly.  In France, everyone has to have the opportunity to make a living, and so the larger houses and the small producers co-exist happily together, with no-one holding all the power.

I am not so sure any more  that there are official rules about this or that it would even be legal for there to be rules. I think that people try to avoid selling to the big brands if they can for exactly the reasons I’ve mentioned, but money talks and sometimes people will sell for a good deal whoever the buyer is.

new vinesHere’s a new vineyard that’s just been planted in Verzy.  I’ve been following the work going on in this vineyard while out on my daily walk with Pepper, our dog.  These little babies will one day be adult vines, producing beautiful juicy pinot noir grapes to make into champagne, but it won’t happen overnight, which is another reason why we would never want to own any vineyards.

Here’s what happens…..

The little vines will take 5 years to be fully fruit producing adults, worthy of producing good champagne.  During that time all the money is tied up in the investment, with no cashflow whatsoever.  And  then when the vines are fully grown and the grapes worth picking, it will then be another 3 years before the champagne is made and on sale  for you and I to buy.

I make that a total of 8 years investment, with no return, and no guarantee of the end result being good enough to be part of the champagne making process.  Plus, our one hectare will yield around 10,000 bottles and let’s say the selling price is 12 euros a bottles, then your revenue would be around 120,000euros before tax.  So that means it would take almost 10 years to get your money back on your investment in the 1 hectare of average quality vineyard.  Sounds good so far?  But wait there’s more….

adult vinesYou’ll need to spend time and money working the vineyard – the vines don’t just grow on their own – well they do but left to Mother Nature, they won’t produce the result you want in terms of quality.

Then you’ll need to pay the pickers as the harvest is all done by hand. No machines allowed here.

And you’d need to buy a press which you only use a couple for weeks per year ( or pay for someone else to press the grapes, perhaps by joining a co-op)

You’d need to buy vats to ferment and store the wine, acquire cellars to age the wine ( or again  pay someone else to do it for you e.g. join a co-op)

All in all you are probably looking at 20 years or even longer to get your money back!

It’s a risky business, for sure, and I know that if I had 1m euros to invest, I’m not sure I would choose this investment, would you?

And people ask us, why is champagne so expensive??????

To which we reply…. Why is champagne so cheap?

 

Want to learn more about champagne and the people who make it?  Check out our private champagne tours and tastings by CLICKING HERE

 

 

 

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

On the Pilgrim Trail

Running a B&B is a great way to meet new people, and the thing is, we never know who is going to show up next, and that’s exciting.

Verzy is situated on not just one, but two of the great Pilgrim Trails which start in various locations in northern Europe and either lead to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, or the Via Francigena to Rome in Italy.

People take this pilgrimage for a variety of reasons and not always religious.  Some are walking for a charity or in the memory of someone they’ve lost, or some are doing just because they can. But they all come with a story, and we love to hear their stories.

Some embark on this adventure alone and some with a partner or friend.  Some do the whole thing in one go which takes around 3 months, and some do it a couple of weeks a year, spread out over several years.

Some plan their overnight stays and some don’t.  Some simply knock on the door hoping to find room at the inn, and some have their ipads or other mobile devices, keeping in touch with the real world while on their travels, and have all their lodgings pre-booked in advance. Some are blogging about their adventure and staying connected during the whole journey and some completely cut themselves off to focus on the journey itself and the inevitable silence of being alone.

Some are travelling on a budget, and some are doing it “in style”.  Whoever they are, we welcome them and offer them great accommodation, a good meal and a fond farewell the next morning.

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!

B&B moments in Champagne

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!

Happy days :-)

 

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 yvonne@yvonnehalling.com before all the places are taken.  Looking forward to hearing from you soon :-)

 

A Walk in the (Verzy) Forest

Today was such a beautiful day, my daughters and I took a stroll through the wonderful forest of Verzy and shot some video so you can see what it’s like.  Rare beech trees grow here, called “Les Faux” which literally means the false ones, but they’re not false, they’re real!  Instead of growing straight up like a regular beech tree, they grow this way and that in a gnarled and hap-hazard way, and cast their branches right down to the ground, making a sort of umbrella or igloo shape.  Rare indeed.

Take a look at the video here… enjoy!

More Clicquot

Continuing the Veuve Clicquot theme that I started on a previous post, I took Pepper out into the vineyards today, behind the Clicquot Manoir here in Verzy, and discovered some little yellow signs alongside the vines.  Each sign had a name on it with a date, and I was fascinated to learn what they were for.

Take a look at the video and you’ll find out.

Enjoy!

Veuve Clicquot’s Mansion in Verzy

I was out and about with my dog today, so I took three short videos on the lovely mansion here in Verzy, built by Mme Clicquot in the mid 1800s for entertaining her very important clients from the European aristocracy. It’s still used to today to entertain VIP clients, by invitation only. Take a look at the videos here… Enjoy!

Sexual confusion in the vineyards

This is a short video about how the grape farmers stop the rot caused by two particular butterflies.  They attach small brown plastic pods to the wires which support the vines, inside of which is the sexual hormones of the female butterflies.  The emission of the hormones confuses the male butterflies and so they can’t find the eggs to fertilise!  I thought that was so clever when it was explained to me by Isabelle Corbeaux of Champagne Pierre Deville and Veronique Lallement of Champagne Lallement, two lovely French ladies who are part of my English class here in Verzy. 

You can see what I’m talking about in this video below.

Enjoy!