Hello and happy wine Wednesday, wine lovers! I had a most extraordinary trip to the Champagne region of France. Champagne, as many of you know, happens to be one of my all time favourite beverages and the story behind this special region along with the methods in which champagne is made simply fascinates me…so off I went! I covered so much on this trip that I will be posting more often and I will focus my post on one of the houses and my review of the tour and their champagne.
Veuve Clicquot was my first tour of the trip and one of my top picks of my entire time in Reims (pronounced Rance like France without the ‘F’) or Epernay. This house is owned by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy) and radiates class, elegance and I would say perfection. Yes, I know – a lot of adjectives but the tour and the champagne set the bar VERY high for the rest of the houses to measure up to.
Vincent was my ‘La Grande Dame’ tour guide and his humour, class and knowledge went a long way. Based in Reims, Veuve Clicquot has 24 KM of underground chalk caves and tunnels where they store and age their wine. During the first and second world wars, the people of Reims hid underground in these hand dug tunnels. Absolutely amazing history and walking through the tunnels and cellars at Veuve Clicquot, I was awestruck and happy to be there.
The Widow (Veuve) Clicquot did many things that a ‘traditional’ woman in the 1800’s would not do. Along with taking over a champagne business at the age of 27 when her husband died, she also invented the riddling method in champagne production. This is a process in which bottles are turned ever so slightly and moved from a horizontal position to a vertical position over the course of a few weeks every day. The goal is to move sediment and lees (yeast) from the bottom of the bottle up to the top of the neck where it can be frozen off and you are left with a sparkling clear liquid. There are now gyropalette machines that do this mechanically in about one week but Veuve Clicquot still hand riddles all of the Grande Dame champagnes.
As mentioned, I did ‘La Grande Dame’ tour which is a vintage Veuve Clicquot that is aged between 6 and 10 years before it is released. This champagne is the 2004 vintage. A beautiful glass of sparkle with 8 grams of sugar per litre compared to 10 gram/litre for the non-vintage yellow label. It had tasting notes of brioche, apricot and fresh peaches with a very long finish and nice amount of acidity. This is an excellent champagne and we can get it here in the local B.C. liquor stores for $231.95. Yes, I know it is steep and far beyond my usual review of price points. However – significant life events and milestone birthdays almost shout out for this type of bottle. As ‘La Grande Dame’ is already a vintage champagne please remember it is always a good idea to drink your lovely bottle of sparkle within 2 years of purchase.
Should you ever find yourself in Reims or in Paris with a day to take a fast train to Reims to do a champagne tour or two – please put Veuve Clicquot at the top of your list. You will not be disappointed!
More to come in a few days on my tours at Lanson, Pommery, G.H. Mumm and Möet & Chandon…