31 December, 2000

News December 2005

  • 01.12.2005: A new book on champagne has been published. It is about the martial past of this region, and how the wine - despite the bullets - still survived. A few examples:

  • 30 kilometres from here - outside todays Chalons-en-Champagne - Attilla the hun met his Waterloo at the Catalaunic Fields.
  • From the hill Mont-Aimé on the plains on the other side of Vertus in the Côte des Blancs - we see it from the yard of my mother-in-law - Russian Czar Nicholas II made his huge forces parade following the defeat of Napoleon.
  • Women, children and pensioners continued a limited production of grapes during World War I. Most of the men were in the trenches. Some of the more famous ones - Chemin des Dames and Bar-le-Duc - are not far from here.
  • World War II ended in Rheims, as German generals signed their surrender in what is now the Musée de la Reddition.

    I have not yet bought the book by American journalists, Don and Petie Kladstrup,: "Champagne: How War and Hard Times Gave Rise to the World's Most Glamorous Wine". But I will.

  • 05.12.2005: 1.000 bottles of Veuve Clicquot must have made the party cheerful as the 20 year old heiress of one of the biggest private fortunes in the world, Greek Athina Roussel Onassis, married her Brasilian champion rider Alvaro Affonso de Miranda, in Sao Paulo.

  • 08.12.2005: Remy Cointreau will concentrate on its two grande marques Piper Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck, both amongst the most wellknown brands of champagne. Because of this the group wants to sell its lesser known champagnes. In fact they are so unknown, that they are not even mentioned in the companys website. Up for sale is also the brand Bols.

  • 14.12.2005: The success of champagne seems to continue in 2005. The number of bottles sold is expected to rise 1,5 percent. The value of the bottles sold is expected to rise between three and four percent. Or to put it in another way, big and small champagnehouses and winegrowers have managed to sell more expensive bottles in 2005 than the year before. The numbers originates from the chairman of the Association of Champagnehouses (l'Union des Maisons de Champagne), Yves Bénard.

  • 16.12.2005: Even the Italians make their own sparkling Spumante as well as Prosecco, it does not prevent them from buying champagne too. Italy is now the thirdbiggest exportmarket following Great Britain and the United States. In the first nine months of 2005 about five million bottles of champagne made the way to Italy, which according to the Italian office of the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) represent a growth of 14,9 percent. It will be interesting to see how much growth the period of the most important sales of the year - Christmas and News Year - will contribute with.

  • 28.12.2005: A group of French winegrowers has joined forces against the alcoholpolicy of the government. The name is "Les 4 Vérités sur le Vin" (the four truths about wine). The vintners want to see the blood alcohol level currently at 0,5 per mille raised according to Decanter.com. In a leaflet they argue that statistics show, that three glasses of wine does not interfer with your ability to drive a car. The group says, that in Great Britain there is only half as many deaths on the roads as in France even the UK-limit is at 0,8 per mille. According to the French authorities the number of deaths on the roads have declined 20 percent since the law came into force in 2002. Meanwhile the sales of wine in restaurants has taken a dramatic dip, even the customers today are allowed to bring what is left in their bottles back home. The American doggy bag way, however I have never seen anybody actually do it. The statistics do not separate between different types of alcohol when it comes to accidents.

  • 31.12.2005: Nicky Hilton - sister of Paris - celebrates New Years Eve with style and a bottle of Cristal (prestige blend of Roederer) in the size of Nebuchadnezzar. The content of this huge bottle is the equivalent of 20 ordinary bottles og 0,75 litres. It costs 100.000 dollar. But then you are mentioned here and there and everywhere in gossip mags around the world. Already from size Jeroboam - four ordinary bottles (three litres) - the cork is said to be rather difficult to remove. But when you buy a Nebuchadnezzar you probably get a helping hand or two, at least to tip the bottle.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

  • 30 November, 2000

    Fallen leaves

    Almost naked vineyards in the plots of Veuve Clicquot at Verzy.

    In the second half of November the cold of winter has arrived very suddenly. The leaves of the vines have fallen accordingly.

    Just one week ago the yellow vineleaves - now in the last movement of their autumnal symphony of colours - still managed to cling to the confusion of branches of the vines. The cold of this last week however has made most of them fall. And after a few days on the ground the leaves look so withered as if they had spend weeks between the rows and not just days.

    Early pruning
    Only now you should start pruning your vine, that is, if you absolutely cannot wait. The best pruning - so the experts say - is done in the month of March. But if you have to deal with a lot of hectares - or only have the weekends to deal with the job - you may have to start early, no matter what is the best.

    But then, of course there is a limit even for early birds. We have seen a few of them pruning already before the leaves were gone. The blue columns of smoke from les brouettes - special wheelbarrows made of old oil barrels - reveal what is going on. A sight like this just about makes the few black hairs left turn instantly white. It can damage a vine severely to prune it even before the sap has dropped meaning that the plant is not yet dormant.

    The problem is, that the wound, that you cannot help adding to the plant when you prune it, will heal very badly this time of the year. This will leave the vine just about defenceless towards the frost of the winter.

    Withered leaves on the floor.

    Early pruning or not
    The norm says 180 hours of work to prune our 2/3 hectares, which makes it a hobby, that you need to plan quite detailedly in order to fit in all the work in the available weekends for just about all vinter.

    This is the reason why we know several people who chooses to preprune their vines. A task, that is performed right now. Prepruning simply means that you cut off the top of the vines with a chain saw. This is not a job for delicate soals like me. The pruning itself is a job where detail is king and where you look carefully into what you do. The prepruning means walking up and down the rows with your saw while cutting off branches more or less in the same heigth but with no regards to any specific needs of certain plants. Doing it however saves a lot of work at pruning time.

    However, we have opted not to preprune. According to the theory of Alain it is better for the general health of the plant to leave it. This is because you very easily cut too much at the wrong places, for example too many buds from a branch that you later may need.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    29 November, 2000

    Doctor vine

    We burn infected brushwood on site to avoid further spreading of the disease.

    Like many other winegrowers we are troubled by disease in the vineyards too.

    This autumn we have removed about 200 infected plants, which is a great deal more than last year. Actually it is so many that we will have to replant in spring. Normally you do not replant before you change all plants in a plot, but of course if you have to take too many plant out of production you may have to change some even it is not due time.

    In the end it is a trade-off. As long as you can easily meet your quota of grapes there is no point replanting. However you have to be a bit on top of the situation as it develops since a plant only reaches its full potential in four years.

    Infection spread at harvest time
    The spreading of the disease is caused by people. Each year during the grape harvest, when many persons work fast, they spread infection too, when they touch first an infected plant and next a sound one. The only thing you can do to avoid this is to remove the infected plants before harvest time.

    The task is a bit more important for us than before, since we this year have more plants with disease than last year. Probably because we two years ago - first year with baby - never made it to the vineyards to remove infected plants. With a negative effect the following grape harvest it seems.

    The big scissors cut just about everything but the roots.

    Last year we removed infected plants too, and since we have done it again this year, we hope to see the problem dammed in. But we will only know next year on the number of plants with little leaves and poor grapes.

    Our situation anyway is not that extraordinary, says the guy, that does the tractor
    works in our plots. He performs the same kind of tasks for other winegrowers, where the situation is similar to ours. Driving through especially the Côte des Blancs we can see many plots with the same sad appearances of infected vines.

    Two operations
    The diseased plants are removed in two seperate operations.

    The first one we can manage ourselves in one weekend. Alain cuts off all the branches at the infected plants and as much of the root as is possible with the big scissors. And I carry the brushwood through the rows to burn it at the side of the road.

    Later in the winter also the root, that is as much of it as you can, must be removed. You need the pull of a tractor to do this as a vine has roots that are several meters deep. Of course you will have to remove as much as you can.

    A stub is all that is left from this infected vine.

    Cooler days have come to us. But the weather is not yet cold enough to make the big flocks of starlings migrate further south.

    We hear the flapping of thousands of pairs of wings, as a huge flock change plot. They pass 20-30 metres over our heads. Do not stand under such a flock, the locals say, but what can you do in the vineyards when thousands of birds collectively choose to move. After all they cover quite a considerable amount of square metres. Alain however is happy that the bird directly over him only only has pee to provide

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    28 November, 2000

    Last trip with the scissors

    Fully ripe Pinot Meunier, and there is plenty of them.

    The mild sun of October has been good for the grapes. What was still green and absolutely not eatable during the grapeharvest six weeks ago, has since early November developped a very pleasant balance between acidity and sugar.

    The colour too is great. Many of our Pinot Meunier-grapes are turning black now. A colour they rarely reach more than spotwise at the time of the grapeharvest. These late grapes are also much smaller, both the berry itself and the amount of berries on each grape.

    However, nobody cares. This late picking of grapes is just for the fun. We cannot sell these grapes anywhere.

    Pretty useless grapes
    This year our quota of grapes ware 13.000 kilos per hectare, which we had no problems to deliver. What we have been able to pick since the grapeharvest therefore is not used for anything this year.

    It can be almost heartbreaking to leave such pretty healthy grapes till they rot. Or as bad, during the grapeharvest to pick pretty grapes just to throw them on the floor, where they will eventually rot too. However, that is how you deal with a surplus of grapes.

    Grapeharvest twice in 2003
    Only in the very special years where there is not enough grapes at the time of the grapeharvest, you may have to pick grapes again later. In practice this only happens in years, where the springfrost has killed a lot of buds, or if the vineyard has been extraordinary plagued by disease.

    Back in 2003 it was necessary to harvest the late ripened grapes as it was one of those years - one out of ten - with one bad night of severe and late frost.

    A late grapeharvest is done by the family and friends and friends of friends normally during one or two days of a weekend. You do not hire real grape pickers. It is too expensive and anyway not necessary since the second yield is much smaller than the first one.

    All complaints fell silent
    Back in 2003 there was a lot of complaining in the months after new year about the blocked stocks. Vinegrowers are farmers too, and they were unsatisfied about the decision that they were to keep a certain percentage of the yield of the year as a reserve (the reserve of the harvest in 2005 is 1.500 kilos per hectare). Stocks cost money, blocked reserves too, they occuoy room andvats and you do not get any money back on blocked grapes as long as they stay as stocks. So how would these vinegrowers ever get their money back?

    As widespread springfrost during one single night destroyed between 40 and 50 percent of the potential grapes in Champagne, this complaining died out completely, probably forever.

    The blocked stocks added together with the results of the two grapeharvests of the year made almost the same as the normal amount of grapes in a normal year. Without reserves it thus would not have been possible to produce as many bottles of champagne as the customors normally demand.

    Last trip with the scissors in Loisy-en-Brie.

    Now when we work in the vineyard, I will cut some kilos of late grapes but only for our own use. There is a number of recipies à la vigneronne. This means a lot of grapes in the dish.

    The poor vinegrowers in the Champagne of the old days ate anything they could find in their fields that was eatable, so of course grapes of the second harvest was popular too, in salads, cakes and main courses. Personally I like our little intensely tasting Pinot Meunier with small grains and easy eatable skin in a clafoutis, which is a cake with a lot of eggs and fruit.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    26 November, 2000

    Fine og Marc de Champagne

    Fine de Champagne og Marc de Champagne.

    Mindre kendte end kolleger fra Bourgogne eller den italienske grappa, men trods alt to alen af et stykke.

    De to lokale spirituosa bliver destilleret af forskellige ting fra druerne: vin, bærme, presseresterne, frugtkød og/eller kerner. Finens udgangspunkt er normalt vin og Marc'ens er druerester.

    Man kan snuppe sig et lille glas Fine i stedet for en cognac, armagnac eller hvad man nu ellers kan finde på at parre en kop kaffe med efter en god middag.

    Her i huset drikker vi meget lidt spiritus, og hvis det endelig er, så er det oftere en god skotsk whisky, der ryger på bordet. Men jeg har nu altid en flaske Fine stående til hvis det nu skal være.

    Hvorfor hører man sjældent om Marc eller Fine du Champagne, når nu Marc du Bourgogne og grappa har opnået pæn popularitet? Mit gæt er, at den mousserende vin løber med den primære interesse. Til dem, der vil på jagt, hedder en af de store producenter i Champagne Goyard, hvis Fine holder 40% og Marc'en 60%.

    Et enkelt destilleri har dog fundet vej ind i Montagne de Reims' dybe skov, og dets whisky støder jeg faktisk af og til ind i i Danmark. Men jeg har nu nok i at smage whisky fra Skotland eller cognac, hvis det endelig skal være, og holder mig ellers til Finen fra Champagne, når der skal procenter på bordet eller i gryden.

    14 November, 2000

    Eustache Deschamps in Paris

    Showtime in Paris.

    At its busiest moments the Maison du Danemark has quite a few guests both friday and saturday. Along the walls each of the 16 tables presenting different wines each have both guests to serve and talk to, and in the middle of the room and in the peripheria of the tables, more are queing up to be served.

    The Danish Embassys presentation of Danish winemakers in Paris each day attracts around 200 guests, who cover a range from highly specialized winejournalists to sommeliers and restaurant-owners to Danish foreign correspondents, wineclubs and people with a general interest. You will find anything from the uttermost expertise to ditto lack of the most general knowledge. Common however is a big interest in learning more.

    We use - like most of the others - a simple decoration: Table, white tablecloth, a couple of chairs and a map to be able to point out our area - Cote de Blancs and the smalltown Vertus - and leaflets that present the cooperative and its wines. Amongst the other winemakers some have brought their fields into the room with a little collection of dry branches, leftovers from the winter pruning of the plants. Some have brought a piece of their field, a rather big and pretty piece of slate. And then others presents samples of local specialities to eat with the wine. The cheese and sausage is presented on blue and white Royal Copenhagen porcelain. A true holy trinity of French and Danish culture.

    We pour drinks from the entire range of Eustache Deschamps: The normal Brut, a couple of Blanc de Blancs-champagnes made of pure white grapes to the rosé champagnes, one is the colour of salmon and the other a pretty and dark pink. In general a lot of people appreciate the new Millésimé Blanc de Blancs champagne with made of grapes from 1999 - Le Vertueux - others think it tastes too much white wine and prefer the normal Brut, a blend of red and white grapes. Also the visitors pay quite some interest in the Rosé Saignée with its extraordinary deep colour, which originates from leaving the skin of red grapes in the juice for some days.

    Pictures from the exhibition: BK wine
    List of participants: Maison du Danemark

    05 November, 2000

    Autumn cleaning

    Diseased wine cut to bits and pieces.

    Blue columns of smoke meander towards the sky from the now mainly yellow leaves on the wine plants. Many make advantage of the mild weather with grey skies and more than ten degrees Celsius of warmth to clean the rows and parcels of wine. Old and diseased plants must be taken away, before the crops will become too bad or the disease spread to the neighbouring plants.

    A wine plant typically lasts 50 years, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. What matters is whether it produces good and healthy grapes. Only when the amount of fruits start to lower a lot, you start thinking about removing the plant and put another, since it is expensive and demanding work. If the entire field is to retire, you can use the heavy machinery, tractors and other machines that can pull and drag the up to 15 meters long roots into the light. But if only a few plants are to be changed, you must use your big scissors and spade instead and do you best to get at least some of the roots out of the soil. Which normally means no more than down to one meter or less.

    The other part of the cleaning job is to help diseased plants further towards the final death. In our 200 meter long rows in average 5-6 plants in each row carries the disease esca, that in few years kills the plant from within, while it produces less and less grapes. On top of that the disease easily spreads. Especially during the harvest, where touching one diseased plant and then a healthy one is enough to spread the disease further. The only thing you can do is to team up with your biggest pair of scissors, cut the plant completely and finish by destroying the eyes in the stem, where the new leaves would normally start next spring. This treatment will lead to the final death.

    Sad, diseased leftovers.

    The sad leftovers - several meters long branches with yellowish leaves and wet grapes - I carry through the row to pile everything up in a corner below. Not excactly easy, since each plant participate to the party with several kiloes of branches, leaves and rotten grapes, that preferably must be carried in a way, where they dont touch any other plant to prevent further spreading of the disease. All I can do is to either lift everything with my arms over my head with the juice from the rotten grapes drip-drip-dripping down my hear or to carry everytning in front of me with the juice drip-drip-dripping down the sleaves of my shirt.

    Three hours work end with quite a mountain of cut branches. Enough for one tractor to take everything back to the farm, where it will have to dry in a corner before it will finally be burnt. Only when there is no risk of spreading any disease the branches will be burnt straight away in the fields.

    På dansk

    31 October, 2000

    News October 2005

  • 15.-16.19.2005: The winegrowers from the Saint-Thierry area northwest of Rheims - this year the inhabitants of the village of Montigny-sur-Vesle - have completed their eighth celebration of the vineharvest. During that weekend tourists can old skilled trades such as the dégorgement à la volée (the temporary capsule is tipped and switched with the final cork) come alive. Harvestparties however are on the decline. Nobody has the time to receive tourists during the real vineharvest. On top of that you need a minimum of participants for a good party, and nowadays the vinepickers quite often accomodate themselves, which means that they are not even present at the farm for a party.

  • 17.10.2005: The latest numbers from the French agriculture statistics, Agreste, confirms what we alreay know. The vineharvest in Champagne was smaller this year than the year of records, 2004. The numbers for AOC-wines in Champagne in 2005:

    2005181.000 hl506.000 hl1.928.000 hl
    2004190.000 hl553.000 hl2.069.000 hl
    Decline - 5%- 8%- 7%

  • 18.10.2005: The 35-year old Italian, Nicola Roni, has been named as the best cellarman in the world in a competition, organized by the house of Laurent-Perrier and held in the home town of same Laurent-Perrier, Tours-sur-Marne. Signor Roni won in front of 5.000 collegues. The Italian reveals to our local newspaper, l'Union, that he especially likes tasting champagnes - fine with us - and that he likes to combine the bubbles with white truffles from Alba and seafood.

  • 19.10.2005: The income of the French luxury group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) grew 12 percent in the first nine months this year compared with the same period last year, writes Just-drink.com. The division of wine- and strong alcohol of LMVH develops fast at the moment. Especially the champagne brands are doing well in the European and Japanese markets, whereas cognac is developing in the US and China.

  • 19.-22.10.2005: The world's biggest exhibition of equipment for sparkling wines - the Viteff in Épernay - has just been completed. We noted stoppers in other materials than cork. Certainly not an ordinary sight on a bottle of champagne. During the time of the exhibition a few awards were granted. There was one for the inventor of biodegradable string to use when tying up the vine in early spring. And another for physicist Gérard Liger-Belair for describing the process of the train de bulles, which is the rather poetic notion of the column of rising bubbles in the glass.

    356 stands from France and abroad, all in all 25.000 m2. 16.000 visitors from 22 countries.

    New times, new tops for the champagne.

  • 26.10.2005: French luxury group LMVH and a partner want to buy the house of Lanson, writes the Paris-based business newspaper, La Tribune. LMVH has not wanted to comment, but the paper quotes sources, apparently close to the negotiators. The price is guessed to be around 500 million euros. Four other possible buyers are said to be on the list of interesting buyers of the former Marne & Champagne. The current main shareholder of Lanson, the family Mora, says in a press release, that it has received 15 offers from France as well as abroad.

  • 28.10.2005: The income of American-owned Taittinger grew 1,8 percent in the first nine months of 2005, writes Just-drinks.com. However the surplus is not due to the merits of the champagnedivision. On the contrary Taittinger this year lost 2,3 million euros where it made 9,5 million euros in the same period last year. The champagne activities of Taittinger are still up for sale.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

  • 30 October, 2000

    Oak barrels on the rise

    Oak barrels at the Viteff-exhibition in Épernay.

    In Champagne it is becoming still more popular to raise wines in oak barrels rather than in the industrial steelvats, that have been much in fashion since the sixties.

    Absolute topnames such as Krug and Bollinger have always been known for making their base wines in barrels, but now a younger and more well-educated generation of winemakers follow their footsteps.

    More work with barrels
    Emmanuel Fourny from Vertus explains to the British daily The Independent, that he produces a small third of his base wines in barrels. This part takes as much time as the two thirds that is made in big steelvats.

    The Fourny-champagne from barrel base wines is mainly sold in the US, Japan and Great Britain. And the British market is one of the explanations why you would turn backwards and work in a more old-fashioned and time-consuming way.

    Important British taste
    Great Britain has always been the biggest export market for the champagne, and very often it has been British taste that has pushed the development of the wine. Just remember how the British were first to enjoy the less sweet champagne - the brut - that is now standard for everyone today.

    This is of course why the producers in Champagne will always watch significant changes in the British taste closely. So, if the British want oak and the more subtle aromas this brings to the still wine - notes of vanilla, coco and brioche - let them have it.

    From the big, profesionnal Viteff-exhibition, that took place in Épernay between October 19th and 22th the producers of the Vicard-barrels confirm the tendency. Selling oak barrels to champagne producers is on the rise.

    På vores kooperativ lagrer reservevinen på egefad.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    29 October, 2000

    Yellow leaves

    Mumm's mill at Verzenay in Montagne de Reims.

    During the last six weeks we have followed the changing of colours of the vineleaves from green, passing through orange and red and finally transforming into the terminal yellow, that is now very prominent.

    Yellow is the last colour before the vinter. When the plots are completely dressed in yellow - and that will not be long now - it is only a matter of time, before the vines strip off to expose a brown confusion of branches.

    This is where the annual cycle of the vine will be over. The sap will leave the young stems and sink downwards to spend the winter in the knobbed main stem in a state of concentration in order to protect the vine against frost.

    Soon we will think about removing the agrafes - the clamps of plastic that has kept the next-to-uppermost and double steel-wire together since spring. This will also be the time to unhook the same double thread and put it on the ground. The big task of the winter - the pruning - moves closer.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    Black Sun in Champagne

    Flocks of starlings gorge in champagne-grapes at Avize.

    The starlings have landed in Champagne.

    At this time of the year we usually see them when we drive along the highway between Épernay and Avize in the area that is called Côte de Blancs. It is the same huge groups of starlings that we in the end of the summer see forming flocks and forage along the Danish Wadden Sea. Now in the middle of October they have reached Northern France.

    The flocks must be counted in hundred thousands maybe millions. They seem to enjoy resting in the big and rather flat piece of land, that starts south of Épernay and continues to the other side of le Mesnil, all is covered with vineyards. However there is always more birds at Avize.

    Again and again the starlings spin around. They settle, they take off en masse and fly a bit onwards, whilst swirling around in movable patterns as in a kaleidoscope. And as Danes may know it from the phenomenon "Black Sun" in the marshlands at Tønder in Southern Jutland in late summer and early spring. Just before the migration.

    The birds like the grapes. My mother-in-law remembers how she used to cover the vineyards with wire netting, but this action is no longer necessary. The grapeharvest now generally takes place in the end of September, so nowadays the grapes are gone as the starlings arrive. However they do not mind a treat of the grapes that were not mature during the grapeharvest and may still be rather acid. And for the sake of variation they are only happy to party with the winter wheat seeds of unlucky farmers.

    From the landscape windows at the wine educationcentre in Avize you have the most wonderful view of the ballet of birdwings. In this spot they will also tell you, that passers-by take interest in the phenomenon as well. Several drivers have had accidents when following the birds with their eyes rather than the road.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    Hazy hours, sleepy days

    Sea of vine in misty haze. Outside Verzenay.

    A bluish haze has replaced the clear Indian Summer of the happy days of the vendange. The vineyards and the villages in our part of the Montagne de Reims lies as an ethereal and misty vision the major part of the day.

    Gone are the colomns of tractors and vans with their grapeboxes on the way to the presses. Gone are the temporary gipsy camps. Gone the extra hands hired to pick the grapes. The quiet times is up, and well in tune with the weather.

    Many of the locals find the weather dull. They prefer to see the sun every day, and at the moment it seems to have very little time to spend in our company. Should there be any at all, it is likely to be for a short while only and in the very late afternoon.

    It is the third time, I experience this quiet pretty weather, and I love it. Not a wind moves, and the temperatures reach up to 20 degrees Celsius in the end of the afternoon. The overall range of colours stay in the soft end of the blue, grey and green. But not for long now.

    Autumn leaves on Pinot Noir in Verzy.

    Since it is right now that the wine performs the last supreme effort before winter. The green leaves is moving into the fantastic colour palette of the autumn. It is in these weeks, that the colour of the leaves changes from green and into fantastic combinations of yellow, orange and red.

    When the first frost is here, the symphony of colours will end. The leaves can fall in one single day, which is the end of the green cycle of the wine. Then the hibernation period begins. The sleepy atmosphere everywhere however is only apparent. The winemakers continue their work indoors.

    The must of the grapes has now fermentated into the first still wine or wines in the cuveries at both small and big producers. From each plot and each variety of wine (cépage) there is a still wine to make. In our family we have three different plots, planted with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, thus supplying us with six different wines or crus, that can be blended in different ways and proportions to create different styles of champagne.

    The young still wine is still kept in tanks like these.

    Around the month of December the wine will be tasted and the future blending of it decided. Champagne - unlike other wines - is blended, and the final blend can consist of many different still wines.

    When the final blend has been done - some time during next year - it will be transferred to bottles in the proces called tirage. That is when the second fermentation will start, and this is the period, where the bubbles develop.

    In English

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    The world wants bubbles

    The owners of the Domaine Collin produce Blanquette de Limoux - the oldest sparkling wine in France - the AOC is based in the department of Aude close to the Pyrenees.

    The global market cannot get enough bubbly, it seems. During the last 10 years the world market for sparkling wines has grown 4,5 percent each year. Quite opposed to the market for still wines, that has more or less stalled with a growth of only two percent in the last 10 years.

    Onivins, the body of wine of the French authorities, explains the popularity partly with the fact that sparkling wines are so festive.

    Europe is the so far unmatched producer of sparklers. France is first with 510.000 bottles, Germany follows second with 410.000 bottles of Sekt, and Italy and Spain each produce about half the amount of Germany with 230.000 bottles of Spumante and 215.000 bottles of Cava.

    Champagne sold 300.000 million bottles in 2004 which equals a growth of 2,4 percent. Not bad when you compare to the otherwise crises-stricken rest of the French winebusiness. However cheaper sparklers such as the Blanquette de Limoux with a growth of eight percent in France and 10 percent for exports does perform even better. Crémant de Limoux has had a growth of 30 percent and crémant d'Alsace a growth of 21 percent. The Blanquette and the Crémant from Limoux sell well in the States and Great Britain wheras Crémant from Alsace is popular in Germany.

    The Germans like to drink sparkling wine, most of the consumption however - 81 percent - is covered by the local fizz, Sekt. 17,3 million bottles of Sekt is exported. The biggest producer Schloss Wachenheim has a marketshare of 22,5 percent. The secondbiggest producers are Rotkäppchen-Mum and Henkell-Söhnlein. The consumption of sparkling wine in Germány has currently stalled after a decrease in 2003 of 2,5 percent.

    Only a small part (16 million bottles) of the Italian production of sparkling wine (230 million bottles) are made according to the traditional method**, where the second fermentation takes place in the final bottle. Producers Berlucchi (4,6 million bottles) and Ferrari (4,5 million bottles) produce the major part of traditional fizz. The homemarket is - like France and Germany - big, since almost three out of four Italians (74 percent) drink sparkling wine. 50 million bottles are exported, mainly to Germany, the States, Great Britain, Australia and Russia.

    The major part (95 percent) of the sparkling wine from Spain - Cava - comes from the Penedes-area in Catalonia. The 215 million bottles sold in 2004 represent a growth of five percent. Freixenet - wellknown Spanish sparkler - produces more than one third of the Spanish fizz (36,5 percent) and Cordoniu with 38,4 percent is well beyond another third.

    Several areas in Australia produce sparkling wines following the traditional method**. This applies to Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills and Tasmania. Australia today is the fifth producer of wine worldwide and the fourth exporter.

    The numbers are from a special edition of the professional magazine "Champagne Viticole" out due to the annual exhibition of anything related to the champagne and sparkling wine business. It takes place in Épernay between October 19th and 22nd.

    ** "Traditional method" or "methode champenoise" means that the second fermentation takes place in the bottle like a bottle of champagne. Another and cheaper method is to let the wine ferment the second time in big tanks and later transfer the fizz to the final bottle.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    21 October, 2000

    Sunday trip

    The Pinot Meunier is so mature, you can eat it.

    Sunday, the seventh day of the harvest, we have returned to our first location, two villages further away from the farm and Soulieres to pick blue Pinot Meunier-grapes. Vi started with them on the first day but had to continue with the green Chardonnay-grapes, because the cooperative at that time was finished crusching the blue ones. You dont mix them up, and since we are in the peripherique of the Blanc de Blancs area with mainly green grapes, we had to follow the others and pick the green grapes before, even they were less mature.

    In the meantime our Meunier has been too mature some of them; so from early morning we get instructions to only take the big and pretty grapes and either leave the rest or put in on the floor. The cold weather adds a pretty frosted touch to the deep blue colour of the grapes to enjoy and to try to forget about the only six degrees Celsiuswe start out in. Only after the mass has started in nearby Loisy-en-Brie - we hare the bells as we work - the sun gets the power that makes it possible to work in a t-shirt only.

    Short after lunch I am saved by the bell and visitors from Paris. The energi is low, down to the level of throughly exhausted, so half a day of less work is very welcome. Once again we visit the coop with numerous other familydelegations with dogs, little children, grandmothers and so on. Today the workers at the coop has more time. The parking lot that was full of tractors and white vans last wednesday is now empty most of the time, and the workers have time to explain what they are doing. The asfalt and more or less anythuing else is very sticky due to grapejuice freshly made. It also smells grape juice everywhere.

    We are offered samples of the new juice in little glasses to taste, and I can tell you, that it tastes very good, sweet and a bit acid. It seems to be one of few years where both quality and quantity will reach the top.

    So far we have harvested all in all 46.000 kilo grapes - the quota says 12.000 kilo per hectar for champagne, 2000 kilo per hectar for reserve, 2000 kilo per hecar for vin ordinaire, that can be sold to other champagnehouses and finally 800 kilos per hectar for wine for own use. So now that smart guy with the calculator can if he does dome additions and multiplications prove that we will be finished during tomorrow.

    På dansk

    Harvest finished

    To the marvellous harvest of 2004.

    ”Oh la la la laaaa”, is what we hear from Nathalies side of the row one time after another. On the eighth and last day of the grapeharvest we are supposed to fill nine time twelve boxes of 50 kilos each with Chardonnay. It takes time. It is only five days ago we were here in “Vieilles Grandmeres” for the last time, but now the green grapes are so overmature, that they are rotting. I am grateful for my green latex-gloves even if one finger is almost gone with the scissors we use. 75 percent of the grapes are red with rot – a tragic sight – and David and Alex are less busy emptying baskets simply because there are less good grapes.

    We are sure to finish today, leader Gerard says 8 days is the maximum you can work hard like this and according to another veteran – Jocelyne – you must not think of it as the last day. Then it gets too difficult to feel motivated.

    In the afternoon we change fields to ”Belles Feuilles” that still is worthy of its pretty name. Here the grapes hang heavily, and the sun forces the thermometer up on the other side of 20 degrees Celsius. Could you possibly end the harvest in a nicer way? We are to pick Pinot Meunier for the wine Gerard as winegrower is entitled to get from the cooperative. And since the grapes are so pretty, many and we have got most of the afternoon just for them, Gerard gets demanding and wants only the biggest and blackest of the blue grapes.

    After finishing the necessary quota follows the big grapekilling. It is impossible to pick everything – whatever governments may demand – so instead we cut grapes that taste sweet as candy to leave them on the ground to rot. It is simply not possible to eat the surplus of grapes of 15.000 kilos per hectar. A little bit of them however can be used in the following war of grapes, that follows the official end at five o’clock. Grapejuice is incredibly sticky, but sticky you already are after a full days work.

    Sounding the horn and yelling “terminé” each time we pass teams that are not yet through this the last day of the grapeharvest ends with a party. 14 bottles of champagne we empty in the mild octobernight, that stays warm until hours after midnight. Just the way Muriel likes it, not too cold and with a lot of grapes. The grapes of 2004 are delivered, and seem to be rather good.

    På dansk

    Goodbye for now

    The two chefs - Annie & Annick - in the service of extra kilos.

    10 o’clock in the morning, the team is ready to go home – the harvest is over for this year – and it is a bit sad to say so long. We have lived like one big family for the last week. It has been fun, hard and different, and now wit is back to everyday life for everybody.

    Also Annick who with Gerards wife Annie has been cooking again and again, preparing three dishes for both lunch and dinner and filled the basket with coffee and cake for the breaks for the last week. We have eaten well – everything from rabbit over Boef Bourgignon to Choucroute, kilos of Clafoutis-cake with cherries or apple, prunepies and puddings and pan cakes en masse – during the grapeharvest it is not unusual to gain 2-3 kilos even though you work hard fysically. And there is a reason for that. The two ladies have for nine days again and again asked their dinner- or lunchguests to have some more of their heavy food, and eventually some will stay.

    Gerard must get used to work alone in the farm again. Muriel, Jean-Michel, Michael, Philipe, Jovelyne, Jean, Laurent and Nathalie all take the train back to Le Havre, while Laetizia, Alexandre and Xavier stay one more day. The men have another days work cleaning the boxes before these are stored in the attic for the next year.

    In the late afternoon we go back to Verzy. The excitement has gone or maybe more correctly have been turned into good experience and most of the seasonal workers here has now left the scene. A few places along the road – for instance Louvois, Avize and Mesnil-sur-Oger – they still harvest. Bended backs along the rows, boxes full of grapes at the road, heavy tractors on the way to the press and the smell of fresh grapejuice in the villages tell, that the big week of Champagne has not yet come completely to the end.

    På dansk

    18 October, 2000

    The new wine

    In seven days this grapejuice will have turned into wine.

    The harvest of grapes is now completely done. Also here in Verzy we don't see more jeeps with grapes smashed on the front and wineleaves at the windowcleaners. No more grapejuice under our shoes, which is quite nice, since it dilutes the tar on the streets. And no more glances through open gates to the facilities of the neighbours such as presses, tanks, high pressure water machines, tractors and not to forget caves. God only knows how many kilometers of caves we live on top of here.

    For us the rest of the process from grape to ready, drinkable bottle with golden paper, bubbles and the whole thing takes place at the cooperative in Vertus. With 220 other owners we have through the 10 days of the harvest delivered about 120 tons grapes for the presses each day.

    One pressing - a marc - takes four hours. The grapes are pressed twice through that period. The first one - la cuvée - results in 4100 litres of grapejuice. The second - la taille - give another 1000 litres. This year extraordinary many grapes of extraordinary good quality have been delivered at the coop, that now has ended up with the luxurious problem of having extraordinary amounts of wine. That means that this year the juice from the taille will probably not be used in the final products.

    When the pressing is finished the juice is led into tall tanks, where it stays for the next 12-24 hours. As the time passes, sediments will sink to the bottom of the tank. From there they can be pumped out, before the rest of the juice will be led into what in the good old days would have been big, wooden, barrels.

    But the good old days in Champagne like in many other places are not what they once were. Forget romantism and imagine instead 24 big steel tanks of 30.000 litres each where the temperature can be kept contantly at 18 degrees Celsius. This is where the grapejuice with some yieldst added will fermentate to wine. Seven days later mission completed. Now some of the wine is ready to be picked up by big champagnehouses, that buy the wine of the coop to blend it with their own.

    The rest of the wine stays in the tanks to calm down. Probably not before December the leader of the cooperative, who is also the oenologist, Laurent, will with the owners taste the new wine and get an idea about its future destiny. A champagne must always taste the same, if it is not the case from nature, you must help it in the right direction, which is done by blending different pressings and years. Only the Millésimé-wines - the best years - are not blended. And so far it seems that 2004 will be one of them. We will know more in December.

    På dansk

    A helping hand from mr Frost

    Only frost can make these grapes disappear fast.

    The wine is just about to skip its skirts and put the leaves on the floor. In the next weeks we shall see, who has followed the rules from the Ministry (of Agriculture) strictly and harvested everything, and who instead now hopes for help from mister Frost. The leaves come down as the weather cools, but the grapes stay unless the frost kills them before.

    This year there were so many grapes on the plants, that only half of them could be used for champgne. The Ministry also decides how many kiloes of grapes you must deliver to the press per hectar. That quota were for us fullfilled after 8 days of work for 12 people, so to cut the rest would take if not another eight days still considerable extra time. A lot of money, so... the grade of strict obedience vary here and there.

    On the slopes around Verzy all grapes from the plants following the roads have been nicely cut. The oldest of them probably in the first harvest days, since they now look rather humble as they lie completely dry under the plants. Others have been cut later, so with their sweet-sour smell and faded black-purple colour they are now only entering the terminal deathfase. Further away from the big road and likely controls kiloes of grapes still cling to the branches.

    A similar sight you find in those of our rows that never saw the scissors during the harvest. Too many grapes, too little time, too few people. But since the plant may gave a smaller crop next year if it has not at all been harvested, we spend yet another sunday afternoon putting grapes to the ground. That will ease the pruning too, a job that keeps thousands of people here occupied during the winter, since the branches that are cut off normally are burned. That however is not possible if you still find kiloes of juicy grapes on the branches.

    We therefor pray for a bit of good strong frost - no less than 3-4 degrees Celsius below zero - to finish the last grapes by freezing them until they explode. So now we on top of the changing of colours, amount of leaves also follow the temperature each morning. So far with our temperatures of more than 10 degrees Celsius mister Frost has to come a long way to be of any help here.

    På dansk

    02 October, 2000

    A good team

    Towards the end the team is well worked together.

    After the sixth day of the grapeharvest the two white Cintroëns on top of the 10 pickers contain further five basket full of grapes. They are meant for Michael.

    The harvest has traditions of its own, and la Baptême is one of them. Generally debutants will have their trousers wet, as the work lacks towards the end. This year it seems to be grapes rather than water. Even Michael is not the only new member of the team this year, he is by far the one who talks more, makes more jokes and throws more grapes at others than anybody else. Today revenge stretches its long arm after him. So he is finally hunted down on the land across the farm, until he finally surrenders and accepts to have 30 kilos of grapes and another seven-eight kilos carefully jumped into juice down his neck.

    Amongst the 11 extra people working here Muriel is the veteran. During 10 years she has come now, and she is also the person, that links everybody else together. Brother-in-lawe, cousins, collegues and so on. Most of them come to work here during their holiday - from jobs such as baker, butcher, worker in a factory. Others are unemployed, and probably dont do other work during the year. Common for everybody is that they enjoy the special atmosphere of school camp and home that you create, when you work, eat and sleep together with other.

    You dont get rich from the officiel tarif for the wages. When people like here also get lodging, they will make around 3000 kroner for one weeks work, so few probably come only for that.

    It is difficult to get the works needed. The need is big in Champagne, hvor all grapes are harvest manually, and a good picker of grapes can take 500 kilos in a day in an area, that this year has produced 30.000 kilo grapes per hectar. Gipsies from Southern France come here to make the hole family work in the winefields. In the outskirts of each village, you see their caravans and mobile homes, in the early morning, when it is still not daylight, they group at the rows with even very small children that work too. Also people from Eastern Europe are attracted by the work - some in more legal ways than others - which is a reason why la gendarmerie are busy in the roads these days.

    The people here all come from Normandy - year after year for many of them - this is work everybody can do - and it creates a certain feeling of belonging not to say of being familiar with each other for at least this one week in the year. I feel the same - I cannot use my knowledge to much at the moment, but I can harvest grapes without any other problems than the fysical. And then I count on understanding a few more of the jokes next year.

    På dansk

    01 October, 2000

    Belles Feuilles

    The prettiest Chardonnay are from "Belles Feuilles"

    The fifth day is through, and every grape in “Belles Feuilles” has been harvested and driven to Vertus. “Belles Feuilles” means pretty leaves, and it is the name of one of the three areas, we will harvest. That takes places otday, fridag, in pretty sunshine, 20 degrees Celsius and mild wind.

    The plants don’t let the rather demanding name down, because this is where we find the probably most beautiful Chardonnay-grapes, we will see this year. The skin is green turning slightly yellow with little black dots. Perfectly mature and without any kind of problems. On top of that add, that there has never been more grapes here according to uncle Michel who harvest the rows next to ours and in his sixty years something life haz seen quite a few grapes.

    These “Belles Feuilles” he has planted himself back in 1968 with Alains father and grandfather, so they are carry a bit of familyhistory. Before they had many problems for instance with taking the necessary nutriments from the soil. Alain explains how it has been necessary to dig little holes at each plants root to put iron and water, that the plants were not able to take out of the ground themselves. The wineplants are more or less their how weight worth in gold, and is caressed and taken care of like little children.

    Today these plants deliver the most perfectly matured and healthy green grapes from this farm. The amount of grapes however is less than that from the other areas “Vieilles Grandmeres” and “les Crochettes”, so even the most tiny grape is harvested, and nothing is left at the foot any longer. All in all we manage to harvest 6000 kilos, a bit less than the other days. The muscles are now less sore, the tiredness is getting worse… Anyway, todays resultat is not at all bad, says foreman Gerard, who however doesn’t want to ruin the good working habits of the team with too much positive talking. After all there is still work for probably another 2,5 days.

    På dansk

    26 September, 2000

    The grapes are sheltered

    Our grapes have now been harvested, and all ladies and gentlemen that have been handling them are back in their normal lifes. The impressions from the vendange of our remote corner of the Côte de Blancs are:

  • The grapes have been very impressive. Hardly any rot or other disease, and that goes for both the white Chardonnay and the red Pinot Meunier. However, we have heard rumours that there will be a lack of reds this year, due to severe attacks of the disease mildew and botrytis in other areas of Champagne.

  • On top of that the grapes have been exceptionally big. Around 15 percent on top of the normal weight, which all the workers in the vineyard have felt. The fatigue the last day was just bigger than normal because all grapes, baskets and boxes were more heavy than normal.

  • The weather in September has been magnificent. An Indian Summer in the first half of the month matured the grapes very fast. Unfortunately it also made the botrytis spread very fast and so much (according to the CIVC-measurements) that we got a bit nervous whether our startdate was too late. However it turned out there was no need to worry, since the temperatures just a few day before D-day almost halved from one day to the next which stopped the development of the fungus. Our Pinot Meunier were in general fine, though not as exceptionnal as the Chardonnay.

  • The weather for the vendange was close to perfect. A bit cool in the early morning with temperatures that climbed into the single digits but dry. A few hours later however the sunshine was warm enough to heat up the rows pleasantly. Only the last couple of days the afternoons were getting a bit too warm with temperatures passing 20 degrees Celsius. After all picking the grapes is a pretty physical job.

  • During the seven days we have picked close to 50.000 kilo white Chardonnay and red Pinot Meunier spaced on three different plots in the villages Soulières and Loisy-en-Brie and send them to the press at the cooperative Eustache Deschamps in Vertus. This means that every worker has send close to five tons of grapes into their baskets during the seven days of the vendange.

  • At the cooperative the staff has worked almost around the clock in order to follow the supplies. Only four hours of sleep they have had during the 10 days of the vendange. Several of the members have delivered their quota of grapes more than double as fast as normal, since the big grapes of the year has made it so easy to fill up the baskets and boxes. The cooperative however has had problems to cope.

  • We weighed the biggest grapes that we found to around 600 g for a Chardonnay-grape and around 560 for a Pinot Meunier-grape. They all ended up most deliciously in a clafoutis. We will all remember 2005 as the year of the extremely big grapes and the lacking boxes. They seemed stuck in lines at the coop pretty regular for the above mentioned reasons.

    And this is what they looked like: Pinot Meunier

    and Chardonnay. Really nice and hardly any disease at all.

    The 10 pickers work with either bended backs or knees.

    They work in teams of two, one on each side of a row.

    The grapes are put in a basket, that is emptied in big 50 kg boxes, driven through the rows on caterpillars.

    The vendange of 2005 has featured 15 procent more lifts than normal because of the big grapes.

    The truck of Gérard contains about one fifth of a days work, that is two pallets or around 1200 kg of grapes.

    Queing up at the coop where more than 200 members deliver their production.

    The grapes are weighed and registered.

    8000 kg of grapes ready for the press: A marc.

    The grapes are transported on pallets and poured into the press manually.

    Chardonnay is distributed in one of the five presses.

    The cover of the press clicks. The proces lasts four hours.

    New must from the grapes. The big vessel is for la cuvée (what comes out of the first part of the pressing which is around 4100 litres), the small vessel is for la taille (what comes out of the second part of the pressing which is around 1000 litres). Only la cuvée is used for champagne.

    In the basement under the presses the must is tapped from the vessels connected with the presses to tall tanks covered with tiles.

    The must stays in the tiled tanks in 24 hours. During this period the biggest impurities will sink to the bottom.

    After this first cleaning the must is pumped into big steeltanks where it fermentates the first time. After seven days the must has been transformed to still wine. However there is quite some time and work to go before it becomes champagne.

    Skål, santé... and see you around in 2006.

    På dansk

  • 25 September, 2000

    News september 2005

  • 05.09.2005:
    Maybe the hard control of the yield of the wine matters less, than what is normally universally accepted practise. In Champagne the wine is pruned a lot in order to keep the yield low, which gives the grapes left much better quality. So it is said anyway. Now the American biologist Mark Matthews has shown how the yield from Cabernet Sauvignon with 36 buds left in stead of 18 actually ended up even tastier. According to Wine Spectator the American now plans trials with Pinot Noir. This could be interesting in Champagne, where Pinot Noir is one of the grapes, that is grown. The others are Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

  • 06.09.2005: The house Gobillard, which belongs in the village Dizy just outside Épernay, has lost 3.000 bottles of champagne. They were stolen last week from an exhibition room, and now both bottles and thiefs are long gone, writes the local paper l'Union.

  • 08.09.2005: Unknown vandals have destroyed 475 wineplants of the variety Xarello, which belongs to the big Spanish producer of sparkling wine, Freixenet. The attack happened on September 2nd close to the city Subirats in the catalan Penedes region. The plants have been cut and placed in a pattern shaping the derogatory word "cacics", which designates bosses on a regional level in catalan. Both wineproducers and trade unions have clearly denounced the sabotage, and there seems to be no clue who may be behind. But it follows long term disagreements between winegrowers and winemakers about minimum prices of grapes, writes the British newspaper the Independent.

  • 08.09.2005: It may be a humble name on the etiquette, but the British chain of supermarkets, Tescos, own champagne could stand competition from the big names. This was clear when the judges in the annual London-based International Wine Challenge awards chose Tescos Premier Cru as the best non vintage champagne. It is the first time in the 22 year long history of the contest, that supermarketbubbles passes more established names as Taittinger, Mumm and Lanson. The Tesco bubbles, that beat 282 other champagnes, originates from a cooperative in the village Avize in the heart of the Côte des Blancs-area south of Épernay. Read more about the winner champagne here and here. In the category for sparkling wines a wine from Cornwall - Camel Valley Brut - took the gold. It is the magazine Wine International, that arranges the contest, claiming it is the biggest blindtaste in the world.

  • 09.09.2005:
    From this month Mumm will be distributed by Orlando Wyndham in Australis, probably as a result of Pernod Ricards recent buy of Allied Domecq, which left both companies with the same owner. Mumm is the third biggest producer of champagne when it comes to quantity. The company is based in Reims, where it was founded in 1827 by the brothers Mumm, who came from a rich, German family of winemerchants. The flagship is the brut Cordon Rouge, that is named after the red ribbon of the order, the French Legion of Honour. This champagne was introduced for the first time in 1875.

  • 16.09.2005:
    EU and the USA have after 20 years of negotiations made a deal about the right for the usage of 17 European winenames such as champagne, claret, portvin, sherry and chianti. Big American groups such as Korbel and Constellation sell American wines within America under these names, and this continues with the new deal. However they cannot introduce new products under these names. The EU on the other hand must accept this plus the introduction of American wines with alcohol percentages both less than nine and bigger than 15. Something that is currently not allowed in Europe. Both parties can enjoy that a threathening trade war and court case in the world trade organisation now is cancelled. EU continues fighting for the right that names such as Parmaham and Roquefort-cheese should be reserved for products with this excact geographic origin.

  • 19.09.2005: Champagneproducenr Bruno Paillard has been interviewed about the deal by the French newsagency AFP. He calls the deal between the USA and EU for "absurd": "From a moral point of view it is an absurdity", he says. According to Decanter the French wineexporters on the other hand have said ok. The deal secures export to the States for 1,6 billons euro (12 bio. Danish crowns).

  • 20.09.2005: Tv-star Jennifer Aniston just saw talkshowstar Oprah Winfrey. First interview since the divorse from moviestar Brad Pitt went to Oprah in a completely new studio. Aniston brought a bottle, so she with Oprah could bring toast for the new studio, her new life and much more. What champagne they actually sipped has not been mentioned. I also never found the answer to whether former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, current pope Benedikt XVI, celebrated his election with sekt or real champagne. I suppose the girls went for a rosé.

  • 21.09.2005:
    Nothing is too small, if you pay just a little bit of interest for your environment. Or rather to big. The biggest grapes has been cut not far from here, that is in the village Mailly Champagne. The giant was a Pinot Noir grape of no less than 820 grammes, writes l'Union. Our biggest grapes weighed 560 grammes.

  • 21.09.2005:
    Allow me to remain in the smalltalk department. Our neighbour, madame Denaux, has also been mentioned in the paper, and she reveals herself to be much more of a live wire than I could imagine from seeing her in the street. This year was her 50th jubilee picking grapes. Now 50 times vendange is something to me, and as Odette puts it, it is much easier now, where she is 83 and round-shouldered and much more a level with the grapes. I almost feel like knocking on her door to offer a bottle for the jubilee. Only problem is that it is difficult to compete with champagne, and she probably has plenty of the latter since the winepicking takes place within the family.

    På dansk

    Copyrigt: The copyright for text and pictures at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. My articles, pictures aor parts of them may be reproduced elsewhere only when I appear as the author. Please link to my site if you want to, as long as you do not open in your own frame set.

  • 16 September, 2000

    Political wish that Taittinger remains French

    According to the financial newspaper Les Echos the French government currently work in order to secure a French buyer for Champagne Taittinger.

    This information appears in the aftermath of a summer, where American Pepsicos possible buy of Danone led to such much debate and political fuss, that legislation may be the solution in order to prevent such "hostile takeovers". Quite interesting French media consequently uses these two terms together.

    Belgian behind the scenes
    The Belgian financier Albert Frere waits behind the scenes with a lot of millions of euros cash in order to take over the prestigious company. But on a political level some apparently work with other plans.

    Thus members of the Taittinger-family have met government officials and also the current owner of Taittinger, American Starwood Capital, has met the French bank Credit Agricole du Nord Est to find a solution around the bank. All this according to the French financial newspapers edition yesterday, where however no sources for the information were mentioned.

    Read more at Les Echos.

    På dansk

    13 September, 2000

    Morning fog advances disease

    Fog advances disease. Verzenay in Montagne de Reims.

    The harvest of the grapes have begun. The generel reports on the quality of the berries are good: Big grapes, that have what it takes: High weight, big berries and a good mix of sugar and acidity. But also worried voices interferes in the cheres, and it is not just a matter of farmers complaining.

    The weather that since July has provided us with such graciousness and supplied the wine with a perfect mix of water and warmth has turned autumnal. It is still mild under a grey September sky, and the most picturesque morning fog wraps the wine, the forrest and the villages in its airy quilts the major part of the morning. And the air is heavy with moisture.

    Unfortunately that is very favourable conditions for several of the diseases you certainly do not want to see your grapes catching just three days before the harvest.

    Growth of Botrytis
    Especially the Botrytis (pourriture grise) has very good development conditions at the moment. Mainly the red Pinot Noir and Meunier-grapes in the Marne area has caught the disease, but with such optimum conditions for the fungus as currently everybody must be aware.

    CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) writes in its latest evaluation of the current state - it came yesterday - that one out of five grapes is hit. From following the former messages - the first one came August 22nd and the latest September 12th - we have seen, how the frequency at the moment develops very fast.

    This probably means that we on Saturday will start with the red Pinot Muenier to avoid more botrytis than what is already there. If the conditions were different we would have been more likely to start with the white Chardonnay-grapes, whose level of sugar at the moment provides a potential of alcohol of more than 10 %. The Meunier-grapes are halv a percentage below, but with the increased risk of disease they will still most probably go first.

    For those who have caught the major part they may have had to start harvesting before the settled date. How bad things will be, depends purely on the weather. That is how much fog, warmth and moist air the next days will bring.

    Warm weather for wine
    A farmer is a farmer when you talk about the weather. And a winegrower is not much different. You may have done a great job in your parcels all through the year. Pruned well, tied up well, lifted the wires at the perfect time and spread chemicals and cut the leaves in the top and on the sides. The last ace will still always belong to the weather.

    Since the wine started to grow in the early spring, the conditions has been very good. The weather may have seen incredibly changing not to say moody when experienced by an urban dweller. Sometimes heat wave with tremendous thunder showers. March offered first a lot of snow and later early heat. April was two degrees Celsius below the normal average. May was cold. It was not many days the light summerdresses left their hangers. And then in the second half of June the heatwave arrived with 40 degrees Celsius in the sun. Since then the weather has shifted between warmth and rain.

    But do not let yourself be cheated by the unstable impression. In July the temperatures still passed an average of 19,1 degresse Celsius which is half a degree more than usual. And the wine has had a great summer.

    Pinot Noir dressed for fall at Verzenay.

    Enough heat at the times - to wake up in March, to develop leaves in April, to flower in June and to mature in August - and on top of that enough water to form the big grapes of this year. With an average weights of 170 grammes most certainly in the high range of what could be expected.

    So now we just cross our fingers that the botrytis will seek other parcels than ours the last few days to go.

    På dansk

    11 September, 2000

    Camp Champagne

    Gipsycamp outside Chigny-les-Roses in Montagne de Reims.

    The many and scattered camps is back in Champagne. Anywhere outside the villages where there is no wine, you will find gipsy groups with their caravans, tents and clothes lines. They have come to harvest the grapes, and now they just wait to sign up with someone.

    The harvest of the grapes start in the Côte des Blancs tomorrow, September 12th. As we today rested after a sundaylunch with the family we could see the gipsies arrive, a caravan of caravans through the mainstreet of the village. They are here on tolerated residence during these few weeks.

    Temporary jobmarket
    Some of the gipsy teams already know where they can stay. That goes for those who already have made a deal with a winegrower last year. A deal, that they keep.

    Others just come along. During tomorrow, monday, they will ask here and there until they find jobs during the harvest. Maybe at one of those vignerons who has either been stood up or just waits until the last minute to hire people. It is these people you will also meet in the roads when their move their long line of caravans from one place to the other in search of work. When they eventually can sign up for something, the employer must provide a room for the caravans with access to water, electricity and toilets.

    The local newspaper l'Union works as meeting place for others. On special pages only concerning the harvest of the grapes, the paper lists places to show up and phone numbers to call, so that those who look for jobs can hook up with those who need people. In the paper you can also find the rates for the different jobs. And this is where you find the explanation of why so much of the necessary labour comes from outside the region. The wages are too bad.

    Rate per hour or kilo
    As picker of grapes and paid per hour I rank in the absolute bottom of everything. The aching muscles that I expect to have gained in no more than one week, is paid with 8,08 euro per hour (appr. 60 Danish crowns). My brother in law, who with a partner empties the 50 kilo boxes of grapes into the press, receives 9,12 euro per hour and on top of that a not yet settled bonus. With a working day of 12-13 hours he will have moved quite some kilos at the end of the day, since each marc - pressing - contains up to 8.000 kilo of grapes. My husband, who guides the work and monitors the content of the boxes - that is sound berries and no leaves - peaks with 10,23 euro, and on top of that he is definitely the one to have less pains in the body. That is just the way it is. There is always more money in the complete view of transactions rather than detail and speed, and that goes for much more than just the vendange.

    Food and lodging is part of my wages as well. More accurately it adds up to 14,54 euros each day deducted from the amount I make in the fields. Since we work eight hours every day, there is not even 400 Danish crowns left after a full day in the fields. Before taxes that is. But the mealsystem is great: We get so much country style food from early morning and all the way to the last piece of cake just before bedtime and champagne with the meals of course.

    The other way of payment is a single price per kilo. People that are paid after these rules normally take care of their own food and lodging. The gipsyfamilies are normally hired in this way. This year the grapes are in general very big, which makes it a lot easier and faster to reach a kilo. Thus payment per kilo - a la tâche - could be more the more interesting way of payment this year.

    Whether a winegrower picks one or the other is sometimes more a question of necessity than anything else. If he cannot provide the minimum requirements, decided by the authorities, such as a certain number of showers for a certain number of people, he may hire some pickers with lodging and others without. This does not necessary mean that those hired a la tâche will actually have access to a shower. But I suppose, in this case it is regarded as own choice rather than lacking equipment of the employer.

    Our winepickers is mainly family and old contacts.

    An army of seasonal workers
    Kilorate or timerate: One thing is sure. The vendange in Champagne has started in the first villages. There is about one month to pick the yields of the year.

    It is a job done by around 120.000 seasonal workers. Some of them are gipsies, others are from Eastern Europe and in the last group, living in France, you will find locals, some from other areas and finally a group of foreign students. From the last group Chinese students have shown quite some interest in low-status jobs similar to the picking of the grapes. However, if there actually are Chinese in the rows, I do not know.

    Many French are now rather aware, that you do not hire Chinese people for jobs, you do not want to see copied in China later on. But of course you may have to choose between one evil or the other, since the number of thefts is said to rise as the gipsies arrive.

    Closed Tabac
    I cannot say how much is rumour and how much is true. But I can see that some people most certainly act on the changes even if it means less income. The woman who runs the local tabac for instance only sells cigarettes from an almost barricaded shop during the grape harvest, and only to people she already knows. So I have had to go to the next village to get supplies since I did not know about her special practice.

    Anway somebody has got to go for the grapes, the Champagne gold, and that provides the gipsies a way of making money. The other solution would be that the winegrowers would raise the salary to a level, where the locals would be interested in the more physical aspects of the wine.

    When I watch the number of temporary camps and the amount of garbage on the edge of the ditches, however it does not seem necessary to change anything for a while. I suppose that everybody must be okay with what they have got...

    På dansk

    08 September, 2000

    Rolling, rolling from September 17th

    The harvest of the grapes has started. Château de Boursault behind is the only château in Champagne. You find it just outside the village Cramant i the Côte des Blancs.

    It is just before the vendange starts. The first village in the Côte des Blancs will start on monday (September 12th), and here in Montagne de Reims the harvest of the grapes kicks off from September 15t). With both Chardonnay, that mature early, and Pinot Meunier, that mature later, we need to make a choice that favours both types, so we start on an untraditional saturday (September 17th).

    This means, that the normally quite sleepy winevillages in the area now start to wake up for the only week during the year that bursts of activity. The preparations are ongoing everywhere.

    Cleaning of the year
    Our neighbour on one side has been busy cleaning the vendangeoir of the neighbour on the other side to make it ready to accommodate the people, that will come to pick grapes and carry and drive them to the press. And I wonder if not aunt Monique and Annie are busy with broom and bucket in Soulières as well.

    A small truck delivered supplies such as food, drinks and toiletpaper for the neighbour this morning, and just an hour ago the greengrocer guy from Brittany passed by with his van.

    Harvest à la ancienne means a lot of life and fun in the farms. The normal population grows multiple times, because the winepickers live there during the harvest. Part of their salary is board and lodging, which makes the daily shopping and cooking a rather extensive job during the harvest. However it is eased somewhat with a good sense of logistics. For instance, why not get your Charlotte-potatoes delivered in 25 kilo-bags instead of dragging them to the car yourself after a visit in Carrefour or Leclerc.

    Plannning and logistics
    In Soulières our chef, Annie, studies her old dog-eared note book. The idea of keeping track of proportions and recipies comes from sister-in-law Martine. Today the little book has developped into a bit of a goldmine of information about the vendange for the last 20 years as experienced from the kitchen.

    The cheese Maroilles with green salad is typical for the vendange.

    He - or she - who has tried to cook for many knows that you do not estimate the necessary amounts in quite the same way as you do for a family of four. Then on the other hand during this week you need to keep fysically hard working bellies happy, both when it comes to quantity and variation.

    This is why good planning and well-run logistics probably cannot be overstated. So the breton is very welcome, and the freezers emptied as much as possible to leave some space for the deliveries from supermarkets and wholesales.

    In our place we prepare everything ourselves, but there are others that get the food from catering-companies, go to restaurants or simply hire people who can take care of their lodging and meals themselves.

    The travelling people
    This year our winepickers are recruited from Normandy, and on top of that there are some local people as well that already work in farming, others are just interested in the vendange.

    Others engage teams that manage themselves. Some of them from Eastern Europe, others are gipsies or with a translation of the French term: "The travelling people". And the first of them have already arrived, since this morning an old gipsy woman with a dark brown face as wrinkled as an apple from last year sounded the bell at our gate to sell kitchen towels.

    "N'ai pas peur", she said once the gate was open. I do not know if I looked frightened - or why I should. Maybe it is just her regular conjuration of people like me. I did not buy any of her ugly and cheap looking things but I regretted it almost straight away. I do not envy the gipsies their wandering, marginal life. Freedom or whatever you'd call it to make it sound nicer.

    Chardonnay with evening sun, Verzy September 3rd.

    Tight control
    With the food, drinks and lodging ready and the workers on their way, only the grapes now have to finish their maturation. And then of course the final quantity to pick be settled.

    On a big meeting in Épernay in the end of last week the winegrowers suggested to take 13.000 kilos per hectare, hence a small part - 1.600 kilos - for blocked reserves. Now the authorities must decide the final number.

    It is not the winegrower himself but a body under the French ministry of agriculture that has the final say about the amount of grapes that can finally be turned first into wine and then into champagne. A fact that may cause twitching in the competition genes of some Danes and maybe even make them ask if this tight control explains why a bottle of champagne is that expensive?

    Of course there is not doubt that the limitations help to keep the supplies of champagne down, which must affect the prices. On the other hand it helps securing the quality of the final product as well. The thinning of the grapes during the summer - the so-called green harvest - raises the quality of the remaining grapes. Says theory anyway.

    The latest reports from the fields as follows:

  • the yield of the year is between 14.000 amd 18.000 kilos per hectare.
  • the grapes are between 160 and 170 grams and
  • there are in average 11 grapes per square metre.

    Nothing left to say but: Please go ahead and pick!

    På dansk