La ChampagnePosted: September 4, 2011
An irony, a co-incidence, or just plain French that the sobriety of La Somme is immediately adjacent to the insobriety of La Champagne Region!
Driving to Champagne I wondered when we would start to see vines. We are now living amongst valley after valley, black and white grapes, sprinkled with black and white pickers! Its harvest time!!! And its all about the Champagne. There are more tractors on the streets towing trailers than there are tourists. A peek into any courtyard will see large timber barn doors pulled back and grapes packed, fermenting or being washed down.
Champagne, of course, is big business.
French laws determined that “Champagne!” can only be produced from grapes within designated areas. This has recently been expanded to meet growing demand. A windfall for the local farmers who were included in the broadened net of the “Champagne” area.
338,7 million bottles of champagne were produced in 2007!! That’s a lot of cork popping celebrations. There are 9716 Champagne labels from this region, including a few “Big Names”, Mumm, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon to name but a few. Most are small scale Champagne houses, prospering in and around 320 villages. Thousands of grape growers supply the “vignerons.” As we drive, cycle or walk between villages, we realise how dependent this existence is on the value of Champagne. Its here you know the “Sparly” that is served in the finest restaurants in the world, firstly passes the hands of peasants!
It’s not only great Champagne characters of history that have shaped these communities. Legends, myths and tales have grown here including those about Joan of Arc, Atilla the Hun, Prost! Baroque, Gothic, Medieval architecture, centuries of history underlay what we now enjoy as the “Bubbly capitol of the World.”
It is the perfect environment to village hop. Along the 100 km Route de Champagne Cote des Blancs, a trail north to south, leaning against the Plateau Brie, there are 41 villages, many more within a few kilometres. Some are too big and are some too hilly like the picturesque Hautvillers, resting place of the 17th century Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon. (Was it Dom Perignon or Madam Veuve Clicquot Pocsardin who perfected “methode champenoise”???) Some villages are just right and the Medieval village of Sezanne is that. Tasting good coffee, baguettes and local food, (Frogs legs, snails and chicken gizzards for Tony, salad with grilled cheese on toast or deep fried potato croutons for me!!) The municipal camp ground here is the best – location, cleanliness, and price, that we have come across in 10 or more countries.