Friday, December 02, 2011

And now, Champagne

While our friend Cheryl was here in October, we drove up to Champagne for four days just to check it out. We rented a gîte in a small town called Bouzy, on the southeastern flank of the Montagne de Reims, not far from the city of Epernay. Our goal was to see what Champagne felt like and to taste a variety of wines.

Part of the town of Verzenay on the northern slopes of the Montagne de Reims.

All three of us had been to Champagne before, mostly the city of Reims, but also to Epernay. Those visits were quick overnights or drive-throughs over the years. This time we wanted to explore a little more. We arrived on a Monday afternoon and after checking in and doing a little food shopping, we made dinner accompanied by a bottle or two of the local bubbly.

The next day, we planned to drive around the base of the mountain. Well, it's not really a mountain, but a large bulge in the otherwise flat countryside of that part of the Champagne region. It's on the flanks of that mountain that you find many of the pinot noir vineyards.

This windmill was built in 1818 on a promontory above the town of Verzenay.

Pinot noir is one of the three grapes that go into a typical Champagne. The other principal grape is chardonnay, mostly grown on the hillsides south of Epernay which are called les Côtes des Blancs (the slopes of white grapes). The third grape in Champagne is pinot meunier, grown mostly in the Marne River valley west of Epernay.

Unless the label on the bottle says otherwise, Champagne is a blend of these three grapes. Also, typically, a Champagne will be blended with wine from the previous year. Winemakers do this so that the finished wine will be more or less consistent from year to year.

Some wines will be pure chardonnay; they are the blanc de blancs. Others will be made from just the red, or black, grapes; they are the blanc de noirs. Other wines will reflect an exceptional year and not be blended with last year's vintage; these are the vintage wines labelled millésime.

We tried some of each. We also tried the red still wine they make in Bouzy. We left no bottle uncorked. Ok, we did because we brought a bunch home with us. We're working on those.


  1. It's nice to near a little bit about wine sine I know nothing about it. Why don' t you e-mail me and I'll answer the question you asked earlier?

  2. Which of the champagnes was your favorite?

  3. Walt, I like this "welcome back" post. It is for me, right? I will share this post with Fred. Verzenay is his hometown. And some of those vines might be his as well. He has three brothers with whom he has to share. But it's his cousin who runs the vineyard. I asked Fred what the champagne was named these days after the death of his grandfather and his cousin took over. But he got really defensive and said that he doesn't want me to broadcast it over the internet. The French! I'll never understand them.

  4. Hey Walt, nice post. Mark wanted me to comment since this is my hometown... gosh, I must have lived there 25+ years, and I still recognize the path from the Moulin... did you move the pebble in the lower right section of the photo :) ?
    You may have heard the expression:" Verzenay, il n'en est qu'un". Did you know that people from Verzenay are nicknamed "bouquins", and we are truly one of a kind... for the better and for the worse. Who else would call a hill a mountain, and a hill Top, "Mount Sinaï"? at least the wine is goooooood.
    I should have explained to Mark that although I grew up in Verzenay, our vines are located in Verzy... a world/hill apart, right?... but he was not in the mood for details. You know what, I have somewhere a picture of Mark the 1st time he came to visit me back in 1990: he was standing in the falling snow, almost in front of the large white house (top picture/1st house on right)... anyway, to answer Mark's question, at the moment our grapes are mostly sold to "La Veuve".

  5. Champagne remains one of my favorite drinks. Sadly, I don't drink it enough.
    My favorite - Pol Roger. Is it made near by you?

  6. buddy bear, thanks.

    evelyn, the bubbly ones. ;)

    mark, you had said previously that he was from Champagne, but I had no idea where. Cool!

    fred, merci d'avoir laisser un commentaire. No, I hadn't heard that expression. It's cool to know that we stopped in your home town. Makes it all more real. Champagne is one of my favorite wines, but since I live in the Loire I don't drink as much of it because they make some very decent sparkling wines here. We sure did enjoy our time up there, though, and tasting and drinking the wine, of course!

    michael, near by? No. They're up in Epernay, very near to where we stayed in October. That's about a 4 or 5 hour drive from where I live. :)

  7. This is nice post. love to read it.

  8. Soo beautiful.. I can just imagine walking around there.. Ohhhh.. makes me want to live in the countryside.. Seriously!!

    Lovely photos, Walt!!


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