During our week in Champagne, we will, of course, be exploring the famous wines. We’ve organised a series of visits and tastings that will showcase not only the fantastic marketing triumph of the Grand Marques, but some of the recent innovations that are producing really good wines that reward a bit of effort.Monday. Champagne Bourdaire Gallois
Our first visit, on Monday morning, is precisely what I talk about under ‘Is there any good news?’ in my blog about the making of Champagne.
David Bourdaire, proprietor at Champagne Bourdaire Gallois in Pouillon, is the 10th generation in his family to make wine, and the 3rd generation of champagne makers. We’re in the hills to the North of Reims, the Massif de Saint-Thierry, and Bourdaire Gallois is 85% pinot meunier.
Their vineyards are grassed-over, and as far as possible they try to till only under the rows. They minimise the use of any chemical products, under-dosing, and wherever possible eliminating completely. This is part of the new culture of looking after the soil and respecting the ‘terroir’, which is mercifully becoming more common in Champagne. They vinify each grape variety separately, and dosage is added on a wine-by-wine basis, with sometimes none added at all.
This is exactly the sort of information you need to look for to begin exploring champagne. A genuine wine of its terroir, made with an eye to the quality of the final product, rather than maximising the yield.
They make six champagnes at Champagne Bourdaire Gallois, Brut, Reserve, Cuvée Prestige, a Blanc de Blanc, a cuvée millesime (single year vintage) and a rosé.
This is precisely the type of of champagne producer that is helping to rescue the reputation of Champagne as a fine wine producing region.
Tuesday. Vranken Pommery
For all that the Grand Marques sacrifce quality for volume and marketing, they put on a great show, and we have to visit one of the major houses to see their exhibition, and explore the vast labyrinthe of tunnels where the champagne is made and stored.
On our way out of Reims we’ll visit the Villa Demoiselle, and the champagne maker Vranken Pommery, the 3rd largest of the Grand Marques after LVMH (Moet et Chandon, Dom Pérignon) and Lanson BCC (Lanson, Chanoine Frères etc). The Villa is a lovely surprise, built in the early 20th century, a showcase of the art-deco and art-nouveau styles.
Vranken Pommery’s best-known champagne is, of course, Pommery, and we’ll explore their beautiful visitor centre, and enjoy a glass of the famous Pommery champagne.
Wednesday. Champagne Launois
Located in the prestigious Côte des Blancs, Champagne Launois boasts Grand Cru chardonnay grapes.
They grow all their own grapes, and make all their own champagnes, predominantly pinot noir and chardonnay. All signs that we’ll be looking out for by our 4th day. I know this shouldn’t make any difference, but they also use beautiful bottles!
Thursday. Rilly la Montagne.
It’s a delightful wine-bar dedicated to champagne, particularly to small producers and champagnes of ecxceptional quality. They also offer snack and food-matching. By now I hope we’ll have developed some idea of what makes a good champagne, and perhaps developed our own preferences. We can out that to the test with a bit of exoert help at Prise de Mousse.