Every Spring in the Champagne region, the ‘Printemps des Champagnes’ takes place in Reims. It consists of at least twenty ‘Salles de Dégustation’ or wine tasting rooms, spread throughout the city, where wine professionals, importers, sommeliers, the press and bloggers can go along and taste the ‘vins clairs’, that’s the still wine from last years harvest before it’s turned in to champagne, as well as various finished champagnes from each participating grower, over the course of four to five days in April.
It’s an event that we attend every year and we find it invaluable to be able to keep our eye on current trends and up and coming producers.
This is all very well and, indeed, we find it very useful to be able to catch up with what’s going on in Champagne from one year to the next. However, we find that the press have cottoned on to their own favourites among these growers… which is all good publicity, but there are many other growers that attract less attention and we’ve found that it’s not always those who stick their heads above the parapet that have something to say.
Taste is always subjective
So, we travel far and wide, keeping our eyes peeled and visiting as many producers as we can. The best stuff can be just about anywhere, sometimes in the most unlikely places and, despite what the ‘experts’ would have you believe, they certainly don’t know them all. Also, taste is still subjective, as the layman will always remind you. Just because it’s unnoticed doesn’t mean to say it’s undrinkable – far from it!
We once turned up at the home of a biodynamic producer, by the name of Champagne Augustin. The husband, Marc, produces the champagne whilst his wife Emmanuelle runs a business upstairs practising reflexology and HomSham, a kind of homeopathic healing system – something to do with vibrations (I think!)
We had a fascinating tour of the cellars; whose ceilings were beautifully painted like the sky and studded with celestial bodies. The base wine was stored in amphorae, just like the ancient Greeks. It was all quite surreal. We were willing to be impressed – but, at the end of the day, to us, it’s always about the end product. Nevertheless, despite the somewhat distracting nature of the heavenly and historical surroundings, the champagne itself was astronomically good. (We make no judgements about biodynamics, which is a step on from organics, but the two do go hand in hand and we find that there is a lot of good stuff made by growers who practice it. Maybe it is something to do with their diligence and dedication, I don’t know, but whatever it is, it seems to work.)
A session on the treatment table
Anyway, after tasting our way through much of his range, Gerry was whisked away by the grower to see something out in the yard. I can’t remember exactly what. Meanwhile, I decided to show an interest in what the wife did. So, I asked her a few questions about her homeopathy venture, and she offered to take me upstairs to her consulting room. Once there, she ushered me on to the treatment table, laid me flat out on my back and proceeded to place these bowls of varying shapes and sizes – I think they were metal - on top of my (fully clothed) body. Then she picked up a small, rubber headed hammer and started banging the bowls, making vibrating sounds. (Not her, the hammer). Being someone who isn’t into this sort of thing, I found it all really odd. So, I got my phone out and started to film it, for posterity.
At this point, I heard Gerry and her husband making their way up the stairs, both giggling and sounding highly amused, as they must have known what was going on. As soon as Gerry appeared at the door, the wife pounced - making him stand in one of the bowls and placing another one upturned on his head, which made him look just like a Flowerpot Man!
Then she started on him. Readers, I have it all on film – although, for the sake of good order, I couldn’t possibly share it with you, you must understand! Bizarre though it all was, what I would say without reservation, is that this was a great way to get to know people. It certainly broke the ice, as far as we were concerned and has provided a talking point ever since. It also shows that the French have a seriously good sense of humour.
As for the champagne, we’ll have some available as soon as this pandemic is over!