Hello and bonjour!
Forgive me for my very interrupted writing schedule…I had great plans to write more often which very quickly gave way to enjoying the region, getting schedules organized and visiting with my Mom and sister who came to celebrate Mackenzie’s birthday – amazing.
I cannot believe I have lived in Champagne for 3 months – I have never lived anywhere other than North Vancouver and Vancouver. Setting up a new life in a new language is not for the faint of heart – navigating the shopping isles looking for school supplies was an exercise in extreme patience.
I have visited about 25 champagne villages so far and not nearly enough champagne houses…I wanted to wait until harvest was complete to start setting up meetings and visits. The scenery is quite breathtaking, ever more so now, as Autumn is upon us and the grape vines have started to turn colour. The temperatures here have plummeted with nighttime lows of 2°C and daytime highs between 15-24°…quite a drastic change from the high 30’s we had for the most of August – it is a welcome change.
The harvest in Champagne was a banner year in regards to grape production and sugar levels. The individual maximum limit given to the growers were easily surpassed and, as I drive throughout the hills, there are still uncut grapes on the vines and some on the ground. I have learned that all growers are asked to cut all grape bunches from their vines that they have not used during harvest and let fall to the ground. It is a request, not an obligation.
I have met some fascinating people and everyone has a story to tell. There are people who only speak French (why wouldn’t they) and they speak with me very quickly like I understand what they are saying such as our friendly neighbour Denise who is about 86 years old and works in her vineyards, almost daily, tending the vines. I have a few key phrases like any typical Canadian would, ‘Je m’excuse’ = ‘I am sorry’. I say it frequently and it tends to get waved off with a ‘C’est ne pas graves’ = ‘It’s not serious’. I can understand about 60% of the French I hear and am at a complete and utter loss at the other 40%.
I am going to find it incredibly difficult to ever buy a bottle of wine or champagne once I get back to Vancouver. The prices here are outstanding and there is value for money everywhere. For example, I picked up a bottle of Ortas ‘Le Temps au Temps’ Côtes-Du-Rhône Vieilles Vignes 2017 for a whopping 3.95€ and it was on sale for 2.75€ – which is about $4.41CDN. And, you know what, it is a good wine – great even for the price. It is an old vine blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Cinsault. It is tasty and smooth – bursting with flavours of blackberry, blueberry, mocha and violets. It is everything you could ever hope for for such a price. And this is just one example! I have had champagnes in and around the 13€ to 22€ from grower/producers and cooperatives that rival many of the big houses at half the price.
Life continues to be busy and I am looking forward to meeting more winemakers and visiting more houses and independent houses.
Here’s to the next three months! (And more champagne reviews!)