There is this champagne house, Stéphane Brunet, that we once found by accident and bought a few boxes from. Ever since they have been sending us a seasonal greeting card, with offer of their very good champagne. So happened this year. Now it caused quite an adventure. So here you have it, our story of a champagne hunting mission in Champagne.
So I had the marvelous idea of sending out the offer to a group of people I work with, to see if they would like to order some too. We could then drive over, buy our own champagne and bring theirs on the same go. In less than two days I had an order of over 200 bottles. I had to stop taking in any more at that point. I was wondering whether our car would be able to handle such a load.
On Saturday morning we got going south, towards Champagne. We found ourselves from a road trip on small roads of Belgian countryside and through quiet French highways covered in soft mist. Soon we were swallowed by a forest and as we shot out of it, we were surrounded by vineyards; ranks and ranks of champagne.
We had some time to spare before serious shopping, so we strolled around the vineyards to look at the wintery views over the champagne villages and Épernay, all hugged by low hanging clouds. Some workers were still there, cutting the wines for winter. From there, the birth place of champagne, we headed for Épernay, to see where the actual money is made.
The town was preparing for an event and the Avenue du Champagne was under hassle. The big champagne houses were putting up stages and light installations for the evening and the Light Festival. A pity we did not have time to stay around to watch it. We had some champagne to buy.
We drove to the Brunet house and were called in for a tasting. The bottle of Brut was just as good as we had remembered. So, we laid out our order. 250 bottles, more or less. All of a sudden the face of the seller turned serious. They were out of stock, almost. They would be out of stock completely once we left the property.
We managed to get about half of what we came to look for. But none of the Tradition Bruts. We were facing a major issue. A group of 20 were expecting their boxes and bottles, which we did not have. There were two ways out of the situation. Either go back with the tail between our legs and return the money they had payed, or put some effort into the game and find Brut from other houses.
We searched for a roadside hotel close by and stayed over night, with minds set on a mission. We muttered something about our situation to the hotel receptionist. His face lit up immediately, he was slightly shaking as he snapped the phone and started calling. Soon we had two addresses of small, family-run champagne houses! What a wonderful help he was for us!
In the morning we leaped to our car and headed for the first address. Waffle had just gotten his nose blocked so a lot of responsibility for tasting the good stuff lay on my shoulders.
We headed to a village in a more northern part of the province. That is an area where they produce champagne with more Pinot Meunier, compared to Épernay region where it is more easy to find bottles of Pinot Noir. That was good; we would be able to offer people another type of taste entirely.
We arrived at the first farm of the day. It was a small producer with a good selection of different grape combinations and ages. We sat there and tasted a couple as the farmers told the stories of their trade. Turned out, they were one of the providers of Veuve Clicquot. We were clearly onto something.
After tasting, talking and bargaining we left with almost half of the Brut we needed, in two different types of champagne. Well done, we thought to ourselves. It was time to head back to more southern regions in search of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
There are a number of small villages around Aÿ and that was where we were heading. It took some driving around to find a house that would be open on a Sunday. Especially when the day before had been a day of celebration for the champagne producers.
A few futile doorbell ringings later we managed to catch an old lady and her daughter-in-law. They were surprised to have visitors on a Sunday, but as we explained ourselves they let us in and we got into tasting again. We met a very gentle and soft sparkling bottle form their cellar with still enough fruitiness to it. This was the Lejeune Del’hozanne -domain. We bought their remaining stock dry, making them very happy.
Still one stop was needed to fill our whole load. A bit further to the east we found the last open door and behind it a very enjoyable sparkles. The owner of the place had clearly been enjoying the light festival to the fullest and was still feeling it, speaking French we could hardly understand.
That was the end of it. Our car was packed with 40 or sow boxes of champagne. We still needed to get that dragged to my office and sort it out so that everybody who ordered would get an equal selection. It was a long evening and a lot of calculating(errors), but we did it.
For me this was en extremely enjoyable project. I got to make my colleagues happy and in the process I got to support some small vineyards. And of course taste some very fine wines and meet those produces, whose stories I never grow tired to.