30 March, 2002

Little chariot from above

I've been binding the vines. By chance I realised that the professionals move their little bench on wheels all the way uphill, and then they slide easily downhill as they bind the branches of the plants.

Hmmm, this writer has almost without breaks begun downhill. Several years. Spent far too much energy to push myself and the chariot up, up, all the way up. I just felt so incredibly stupid as my mother-in-law as the most natural thing in the world explained me, that you start above. Much easier to slide your way down than to push it up.

So today I began uphill. Each time. Each row. What a party. I still feel stupid, but at least the energy was on my side all day in the fresh air. The rest will be forgotten as I finish the last 650 meters left for the practise.

The little house in the water

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As the rain of the winter fills up the underground storage, the level of the ground water rises. All of a sudden the little house look sort of endangered. We never see any inhabitants wave their arms from the ridge of the roof though. This is sort of an annual event.

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This is the flat meadows around the river Marne. These days most of the trees around the river dip their feet in the river water too. The road between the villages Chouilly and Louvois is because of this built on a dam, and the construction must be satisfactory, since I've never seen it flooded.

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The meadows on the other side of the dam must be a bit higher, since they're still green rather than flooded.

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Pink number two

One of the pink leaders, the rose of the house of Ruinart.

The pink champagne is now the second biggest seller in Champagne after the brut without year

"Everybody can make a pink champagne, the art is to do it well," said Yves Dumont from another pink leader, Laurent-Perrier, the other day to the newspaper l'Union.

To do a pink champagne well means - of course - that the taste must be good. That's obvious. But the colour must be pretty as well, and the style must be in accordance with the assortment of the house.

There are two ways to make a pink champagne.

Rosé d'assemblage
Assemblage means blend, and the blended rosé gets its colour, when you mix the clear wine with red wine. Good summers in Champagne with lots of sun helps maturing the red grapes, results in better red wines (ought to anyway), and thus a more pretty rosé. The colour of the red wine is decisive for the colour of the rosé champagne.

More invest in the right equipment to make red wine - the right kind of vats - in our cooperative also an assembly belt to sort the red grapes. And a sight, that is not common in Champagne: Men, who trample the red grapes to pieces. A practice, that draws as much colour from the grape skins as you can. Normally this is excactly what you don't want when you make champagne. But for a red wine it is different.

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The grapes are manully sorted on an assembly belt.

You make your red wine the ordinary way, your clear still wine in the same ordinary way, whether it is made of white or red grapes, clear it will be. This is after all Champagne. When the still wines are ready, normally in the beginning of the year after the grape harvest, you mix red wine and clear wine - add yeast and sugar - and transfer the lot to your champagne bottles.

Now the second fermentation begins. It typically takes 14 days before the bubbles are made - this period is called the prise de mousse - and then the bottles mature at least 18 months. Vintage champagnes mature at least three years.

Rosé de Saignée
A less common way to make your pink champagne is the saignée-method, where the colour and sometimes fruity character originates the skin of the grapes.

The still wine is made of red grapes - Pinot Noir or Meunier - the skin is left to macerate with the must about 24 hours while under rather intensive serveillance. This is also the way a red wine is tainted. Later you make your wine in the normal way, whatever you use vats or casks. The champagnisation takes place in the same way as for the rosé d'assemblage.

And your pink champagne is ready to party.

Rosé de Saignée from our cooperative.

Rosé without year, 2006: 9.536.845 bottles
Vintage rosé, 2006: 467.974 bottles

More to read: Kinky bubbles

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 March, 2002

Glass approved by the state

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The one and only approved-by-the-state INAO-tasting glass arrives in this humble carton.

We are now the lucky owners of 12 INAO-glasses. An unexpected gain from our recently started class in wine tasting. And it must be a clear advantage for our teacher too, since with this simple gesture he avoids cleaning six times 15 glasses after each soirée.

INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine) is the authority, that controls the French crowd of AOC's (Appellation d'Origine Controlée), the recognized-by-the-state products of outstanding quality. Champagne was the first in 1927, since then many other wines and products have joined in. And the INAO has developped the supposedly optimum tasting glass as well.

The glass is shaped like a tulip. This shape ensures the best possible concentration of aromas and scents. That is, when you stick your nose as far down the glass as you can and sniff thoroughly. You are also able to whirl your wine well - this sets the aromas free - in the glass without spilling. Ok, I'll admit that I am so unexperienced that I still managed to colour my papers with a few drops of the fine red wine. Surely it would have been a lot worse without the intervention of the INAO.

"The finest inexpensive tasting glass in the world." Says wine tasting guru Robert Parker himself about the glass. So in our marriage we care for these 12 new members of our dinner or lunch equipment. Two more boxes to store next to the other boxes, that contains crystal and look-a-likes. We constantly lack extra space, so at the moment the INAO has been granted residence next to the Tupperware of my mother-in-law, kitchen rolls, the matrimonial cutlery in stainless steel and 20 candle ends from the christening of our second child last autumn.

More to read: Twelve blind bottles
More to read: Use our nose right

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.

Binding the branches

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All day long I sit

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on this one

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to bind these ones

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with this tool.

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Finally I cut the ends.

And continue. Next binding. Read about it here.

27 March, 2002

Bubbly grandma

Champagne is a beverage with lesser known potentials. Even with a flu coming up.

Symptoms: Shivers, headache, fatigue, stiff joints and so on. Before you go to bed, try the trick of la grandmère:

Bring in the champagne, heat 15 centiliters in a saucepan. Add two sugar cubes (I know, you don't like your champagne sweat, this is the recipie, sorry). Survey the brew, remove it from the heat when it fizzes. Cool down a bit, drink it, and now you're off to bed.

Explanation: Dr. Henry Puget - he's written a full book with examples from Grandmas own pharmacy - says to the women's mag Femina, that champagne and sugar makes a union, that heightens the production of antimatters of the system. On top of that the champagne contains important minerals like magnesium (works against the fatigue of the muscles) and selenium (against the virus itself) amongst others. The books: "Mes remèdes de grand-mère" by Régine Teyssot and Henry Puget.

Et voilà, as we say in France. Off to the cave.

I don't know if you can prepare your immune defense in advance. Or if it still works should you forget about the sugar cubes and the saucepan. You may want to try anyway. If not the champagne widow Lily Bollinger has a few other ideas about when time is up to consider some bubbly.

Champagne quotes: Lily Bollinger

"I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it. Unless I’m thirsty."
Lily Bollinger, Champagne Bollinger in Aÿ.

Madames legendary answer, when asked when she drinks champagne.

26 March, 2002

Twelve blind bottles

The first night of wine tasting is devoted to blindtaste some of the different grape varieties, that grow in the vineyards around France. Our teacher hides six bottles of white wines in orange champagne coolers. Later the same evening he hides six bottles of red. Only if you are able to recognize a wine from the visible bit of the bottle, you may be able to guess the identity of the wine.

Parameters and characteristic aromas
Each grape variety has its characteristics. If you are able to smell and taste and then name some of these aromas, you may also rather easily be able to guess the identity of the bottle. As a further help you employ the following parameters:

  • Acidity
  • Tannins
  • Grease
  • Alcohol

    To determine these parameters will help you to place the wine geographically - Northern France, Southern France, Mediterranean climate, maritime influences and so on - which brings further hints about the possible identity. A wine with a lot of alcohol is probably from the sunny South, whereas more acidity is more likely to originate from the cooler North.

    The method
    The white wines are poured into the glasses two at a time. In this way they keep at least quite cool. The method now is to notice and describe:

  • the looks (la robe)
  • the smell (le nez)
  • the taste (la bouche)

    We taste the wine twice. Spit it out in the elegant bucket, made for this purpose. If you drink too much wine, you will destroy your ability to taste too fast, and after all we still have another 10 wines to go. A few times the teacher askes us to go back and taste a wine we already tried in order to compare, for instance glass four with glass two. When you in this way crisscross your way through the glasses, you may some times notice new aromas in glasses, where you did not notice them at first. I generally find it rather difficult to name aromas. It is much more difficult when they are combined as they are in a wine than when you smell them isolated from a little bottle.

    The notions that come along with the field of wine tasting are also not that easy. You must know what lies in a notion before you can begin to quantify the wine. A fat wine for instance. What excactly does the word fat mean in connection with a wine? I cannot quite gauge how many silly questions I am allowed to pose in this group of people, so I stay quiet tonight. Cannot keep the teacher busy all the time, can I? So...

    Whirl the fat wine around
    To determine how fat the wine is, you whirl it around in your palate, not too long, not too short, you swallow and then - da da - you have an impression. I decide to check a few books and articles, and then ask if the big mystery has not moved closer to final solution.

    Other parameters such as tannins, alcohol and acidity are a bit easier to understand and place. Even they too are rather complicated to place on a scale from one to five as we are supposed to do to determine the grape variety. Lack of experience. So I have suggested to Alain to dig a bit deeper into our cave and see if he can find something else than the usual suspect, our own red Coteaux Champenois to test my palate now and then.

    During the tasting we are introduced too:

  • Riesling (grapefruit, ananas, honeysuckle, oil)
  • Muscat-Viognier (abricot, peach, violet, liquorice)
  • Sauvignon (box, mint, flint, pebber)
  • Marsanne-Rousanne (anise, thyme, violet, iris, green coffee, butter)
  • Chardonnay (hazelnut, butter, ambergris, acacia)
  • Chenin Blanc (quince, honey, apple, rhubarb, chestnut)

    All white wines have tastes of citrus fruits and white fruits.

  • Cabernet Franc (green pebber, violet, liquorice, raspberries)
  • Gamay (banana, sweets, plum, peony)
  • Syrah (pebber, leather, blackberries, liquorice, violet)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (blackcurrant, blackberries, leather, pine, rose, pebber)
  • Pinot Noir (cherries, blackcurrant, strawberries, smoke, musk, vine)
  • Grenache (strawberries, brandy of fruits, fruit stones, garrigue (sunny, spicy and stony slopes of the Midi, caramel)

    We stay far away from vintages and characteristics of the years at the moment. The themes next time - in two months - will be Bordeaux and sparkling wines.

    You may also read: Use your nose right

    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.

  • 25 March, 2002

    Use your nose right

    We have begun a course in wine tasting. Sounds real posh, doesn't it? But actually what it is all about is to wake up a sense, that lives a rather quiet and often much more hidden life than for instance the vision and sense of hearing.

    To smell, to taste, to recognize the elements in the periodical system of taste, also when they are combined, is excactly what wine tasting is all about. To remember what you drink, to be able to store your impressions in the inner shelves for later comparisons is one of the objectives. Certainly, a more reachable one once you controle your nose.

    Our teacher explains, how the scents are stored in a photographical way in the brain. When we are about to decide a fragrance, the first and intuitive impression will often be correct. If they brain has to go looking, searching on the inner hard disc, the search gets more complicated and with it naming the right scent. But both of them are the available methods to smell and name a wine: The intuitive and the methodical.

    Table of top wines
    All placed around a big table, where the top is a construction of tops from boxes of top wines, we are ready to receive 10 small glass bottles. This is our first quest: To find and name what is inside.

    The level of our difficulties varies: We get roses - I mistake these for violets, even my garden is full of roses, some of them with beautiful scents as well - melon, apple, pear and a few more difficult ones. Great wines can have aromas like flowers
    and fruits, but also animal and mineral examples pop up such as fur, melted butter, flint and chalk.

    Simplicity is a good sign
    This team is not really beginners - well, except me - here are winegrower couples from the region, who has definitely tasted the liquid treasures of France before. Diligently as well. Amongst us, there is also another teacher, who does wine tastings, a researcher in chemistry and a buyer of grapes and his wife.

    Our teacher is really top. He writes books, does talks and tastings for privates and professionnals and is amongst others former French champion in wine tasting for amateurs.

    He is so good, that he manages to express himself in a rather simple langugage. No difficult words to express his views. Only the necessaray technical words to communiate in a precise way. A good sign. He knows what he talks about, and has worked with his material. KISS, as they said in journalism school once upon a time: "Keep it simple, stupid".

    Walk in your garden
    You train your ability to recognice aromas best if you use your nose, our teacher explains. Use 10 minutes each week to expose yourself to scents, he suggests. Go for a walk in your garden, cook, visit the market. Give the nose something to work with.

    The 10 exercises this evening was to recognize apple, honey, box, rose, grape fruit, vanilla, hazelnut, melon, thyme and pear. I smelled my way to seven right out of the 10.

    23 March, 2002

    Welcome in "la Winery"

    Médoc-tourists with special interest in wines can visit the new winery, that opened in January. It is placed in Arsac-en-Médoc, 25 kilometers outside Bordeaux, along the local Route Touristique.

    It is Philippe Raoux, who so far has sold wines per mail and net, who is the man behind La Winery. It boasts a shop that covers 1000 square meters, restaurant, rooms for seminars, a park of 26 hectares, where you can picnic while enjoying sculptures and - why not - drink a glass of wine, that matches your just defined oenological profile.

    The shop offers 2.000 different wines, that ranges from 3 to 1.000 euros per bottle. You can buy a blindtasting for 15 euros, that defines your wineprofile and provides you with a personal guide for the cellar, that matches your taste. Smart way to further your sales, but also an interesting help for the bewildered but interested buyer, I guess.

    So congratulations Médoc. I wonder when some of the money in Champagne will be used for a similar window to promote the fantastic wines of this region? We could baptise it a Champagnoir, and place it in the Montagne de Reims. View at the vineyards towards an evening-lit Reims preferred.

    The project in Médoc cost the owner 12 million euros. 100.000 annual visitors are expected. Read more about it (French).

    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.

    22 March, 2002

    Grandma of the herbicides

    Our new plot is not organic, even you could think so when you see it. The idea is exciting, but not possible when you work part time.

    An organic winegrower told us about his problems to remain organic.

    His mother, who is retired, does not like weeds. She uses any opportunity to sneek into the vines to get rid of any kind of unwanted growth with some herbicides.

    I know her type very well. I think it is impossible for elderly ladies, who has experienced the immense revolution of tractors and herbicides in the vines but also in agriculture in general to do just nothing. Accept the green. Leben und leben lassen, as they say in Vienna.

    Once I drove my mother-in-law to the market. I talked a lot about the pretty sight of red poppies in the edge of the ditch along the road. Monet just couldn't have painted it nicer. "They didn't spray enough herbicides," was her only comment.

    And apparently she has at least one kindred spirit in Montagne de Reims.

    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 March, 2002

    They want to "free the grapes"

    Two famous gentlemen of Champagne with a mission. They want to free the grapes, they recently said to the local paper, l'Union.

    The duo is Ghislain de Montgolfier, manager of the house of Bollinger, and Jean-Marie-Marie Barillère, Moët Hennessy, who have been chosen to be in charge of the association of champagne houses - l'Union des Maisons de Champagne - as chairman and deputy chairman.

    Discussions about grapes
    In Champagne the small winegrowers - like ourselves - own 90 percent of the vines. The champagnehouses own the last 10 percent. The houses however make and sell 70 percent of the champagnes. An arithmetical problem that comes out right, because many small growers sell some or all of their production to the houses.

    It also implicates that the champagne houses don't controle a very big amount of the raw material they need. They depend on the winegrowers to produce good grapes. And this is where the quote of "setting the grapes free" begins to make sense:

    "It is necessary to free the grapes. We ought to help the winegrowers to deliver enough grapes. Together we must find solutions, that will create value."

    That is, the chairmen of the champagne houses want to secure their own deliveries. Which of course must be one of their most important jobs. Which wheel they want to turn in the delicate machineri of champagne production, is not revealed.

    Insatiable market
    Clearly in a time where the global market seems almost insatiable, a future fight about grapes and about the best grapes, may turn out hot. How can you expand if you cannot get hold of enough grapes? You cannot use grapes that have not been grown in Champagne. Which is why the grape prices now move close to or even pass five euros per kilo. A level, that before has led to crises in Champagne.

    Personally we have felt the interest for our grapes in the new plot, we got last autumn - "Who buys them? Do you want to sell them to us?" - even Loisy-en-Brie is certainly not a wellknown name in Champagne. Grapes for champagne are still grapes for champagne, and even our grapes are not classified as Grand cru or Premier cru, they are what they should be, and what any champagne house needs.

    The old boss of the champagne houses, Yves Bénard, left the organisation, as he earlier this year was named as new leader of the INAO department of alcoholic beverages.

    19 March, 2002

    Snowy monday

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    Snowflakes transform into drops of water against the wires of the vineyards at Verzy.

    The snow may not excactly have poured down... and most of the flakes disappeared straight away.

    But snow is still snow, and the heavenly bed covers were certainly shaken over Verzy and surroundings all monday. At the moment the météo talks about snow the next two days.

    So far we have had no frost, which besides would be very unfortunate. The buds of the vines have started their development towards the first leaf of the year. The buds of the Chardonnay-vines, that are always first to develop, have begun to push away the brownish scales, that cover and protect during the winter, aside. Our last-developped Meunier-plants are still in winter position. May they remain so another while.

    The snow of this monday is the first snow, I see this year. Strange weather indeed.

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    Plot with snow below Verzy.

    In English

    Copyright: Ophavsretten til tekst og billeder på bobler.blogspot.com tilhører Solveig Tange. Mine artikler, billeder eller dele af dem må ikke gengives andre steder, uden at jeg fremstår som forfatteren. Du er velkommen til at linke, sålænge du ikke åbner i eget framesæt.

    17 March, 2002

    Meunier cries last

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    Our Meunier-buds have not really taken off yet.

    Our two plots are ready for the new year. Rather fantastic. The two young guys have attached like hell last week and have finished it all.

    Now we can quietly wait for the vines to wake up - it is indicated by les pleurs. Sap, that flows down the branches wherever you cut.

    So far, it is only the old wounds that cry in Loisy-en-Brie. You can see the sap flow where the branches were cut some weeks ago but not what was cut five minutes ago. That is the first sign. In Vertus les pleurs is fully on now, says one of the young guys. We have heard the same in Verzy, without believing it completely. Vertus does accommodate mainly Chardonnay-plants, that typically start before our Meunier. (Compare dates here.) However, I should be surprised if not the growth of the vines are set to take off now?

    Cleaning the vineyard
    Alain has been in the vineyards to remove diseased plants. It is another round of esca, that continues to diminish the rows. Unfortunately. It is a problem, known everywhere in Champagne, France and at least some parts of Europe. An offensive spreading, because of the warmer weather. Unfortunately, because the disease kills the plant and is very contagious.

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    Loisy-en-Brie under grey skies.

    Some repairs of wires and exchanges of posts are left, and then we can relax a bit again, I hope. Alain expects an early ébourgeonnage - the proces, where surplus buds are removed, the size of the production really is controled to the smallest detail in Champagne. Of course it is dangerous to remove buds as long as there is still a risk of frost. But later on it will be much more or even almost too difficult to remove the surplus. Therefore it will be done even with the risk of frost, that is even bigger this year, because everything is so advanced.

    By the way, the weather is rather peculiar. At the moment we have quite cold winds, that mix with the general picture of bulbous plants blooming, warming sunshine and even the first light, green leaves on some bushes. So it remains completely advisable to keep the head cool and the throat warm. The coming night we even may get frost, warns the weather girls.

    In English

    Copyright: Ophavsretten til tekst og billeder på bobler.blogspot.com tilhører Solveig Tange. Mine artikler, billeder eller dele af dem må ikke gengives andre steder, uden at jeg fremstår som forfatteren. Du er velkommen til at linke, sålænge du ikke åbner i eget framesæt.

    16 March, 2002

    Kinky bubbles

    The tendency is no longer clear. It is very very pink. For many potential customers rosé champagne is still news, the pleasant colour, the different taste. Often more vigorous and thus preferred by some. Well, and then rosé champagne just happens to be a bit more kinky than the white one.

    The pink bubbles bring a slightly decadent touch. Personally I believe that the significanse of this cannot be exaggerated. I presume that Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin moved around in the same train of thoughts, when they asked Karim Rachid to design this. Just too much, but I still do find it hard to dislike his love-seats.

    It is quite a few years ago I tried pink champagne for the first time. I was a bit suspicious after drinking a lot of acid lambrusco in the eighties, but I still could not resist especially the colour and whole idea of this pink fizz. Later I have come to appreciate the taste more. Especially since I realized that it goes much better with food than with nothing. In France you normally eat something with champagne anyway.

    Good quality red wine is what brings the wonderful colour and taste of a pink champagne. If the red wine does not have a good colour, the champagne too will be too pale or even brownish. You need good grapes, and you must nurse them well in the vats. Like if your main product was red wine and not champagne. And it has become more common to see investments in vats for red wine, which is part of the efforts to produce good pink.

    And it is on the move up. In 30 years the sales has increased from 2,5 percent in 1977 to between nine and ten percent of the total in 2006. The trend seems unstoppable. And the big champagne houses look carefully to find the good red wine, they need, to be able to feed the hungry market with more good rosé champagne.

    The biggest markets are Great Britain, the USA and Japan.

    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.

    14 March, 2002


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    The soft hills between the villages of Soulières og Etrechy. Could more vines be planted in the next 10 years?

    Yesterday was D-day in Champagne. Delimitation-day. Many has been waiting impatiently to know, who will be allowed to plant vines and make champagne with these grapes.

    The INAO - the officials that passes the green "go for it" light further on - has acknowledged the 40 communes that has been mentioned. Two current communes will not stay in the appellation. Germaine in the middle of the big forest area of Montagne de Reims and Orbais-l'Abbaye, according to the Reims-paper l'Union. Communes that already participate in the delimitation may also be granted more land.

    Even more interesting than the name of the communes is to name the plots of land, that the experts like. When this will be known, the real fighting will start: Why did my neighbour make it and I did not? This is where it will be decided for good who can exchange sugar beets with champagne grapes. This is where fortunes will be made out of almost nothing.

    A public hearing will take place in April.

    Champagne wants to be UNESCO-heritage

    Champagne has announced its candidacy for the list of world heritage of UNESCO. Said the organisation of the champagne business, the CIVC, at its general assembly last week. During more than one year a series of experts have collected information for a dossier, that supports the candidacy.

    The famous sites of the list includes 830 sites in 138 of the worlds countries, amongst them the Versailles at Paris, the Cambodian temple Angkor Vat and Hamlet's castle in Denmark, Kronborg. More in my entry of last year.

    According to our local newspaper, l'Union, the first rival of Champagne is Burgundy. Now, I don't know if it is a matter of competition to join the UNESCO-list - I hope not - it may be of some help that Burgundy has a university that performs research in the field of culture and vineyards (PDF-file in French).

    CIVC follows, of course, but what a pity, that it is not the university in Reims who works in this field. Instead I hope that the experts of the CIVC will be succesfull in their efforts to turn the candidacy into a full membership.

    The cultural heritage of Champagne does deserve both recognition and acknowledgement. I just cross my fingers, that an achieved membership would lead to new enthusiasm and inventiveness in the region rather than to sanctify what is already quite conservative into complete petrification. That would be just about the last thing this already very traditional and old-fashioned society needs.

    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.

    13 March, 2002

    Quietness before the bubbles

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    Alain compares Chardonnay from Vertus, one wine has gone through a malolactic fermentation, the other one has not.

    The new wine is ready. Vintage 2006. Even the year will only be visible on very few vintage champagne bottles, when ready to sell in a few years.

    So far the first fermentation is through. It has taken place after the harvest and the pressing of the grapes, and now the quiet or still wine is ready in vats or even casks here and there.

    The wine has gone through a number of processes - some times chaptalisation and/or malolactic fermentation to remove some of the natural acidity and always a number of filtrations to remove impurities in the wine. The result is a number of different base wines. They are the building stones, a champagne is made of. (More thoroughly description of the processes here).

    Uniting the base wines
    The building of the champagne is a proces called assemblage. The idea of it is to mix a number of base wines and add yeast and sugar, transfer everything to the champagne bottle and let it all ferment once more. This is when the bubbles are made. The proces is called the prise de mousse.

    Before though you taste your different base wines to get to know them and understand how they may be combined to reach the wanted result after the second fermentation and maturation. Big houses have people emplyed with education and talent for this job. Smaller places can hire experts or manage with their own experience.

    The idea is that the same type of champagne must taste the same year after year. Since years are not the same, different base wines will be mixed to arrive at the wanted result. Little winegrowers typically has less base wines to mix, and therefore their champagnes will vary more with the individual years.

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    Michel taps the Chardonnay wine that has gone through the malolactic fermentation directly from the steel vat.

    Wines of the cousin
    The other day we visited a cousin of Alain's. She is so far away on a branch of the family tree, that I am not sure of the correct designation of the relation. In Danish it definitely doesn't exist. But in Champagne your near family is much bigger, so we are related with this cousin and her husband, who grow vines in Vertus in the Côte des Blancs.

    We were invited to taste their bases wines - vins clairs - a number of Chardonnay-wines of different vintages and with and without the malolactic fermentation, that begins automatically when the temperature in the vat passes a certain number of degrees. During the malolactic fermentation bacteria transform malic acid to lactic acid, which results in a less marked but also remarkable less acid base wine.

    The risk is to loose too many of the more exciting tastes of the wine. The high acidity also makes it possible for a champagne to mature nicely, and it contributes to its natural freshness. Therefore it is an act of balance to dose the usage of the malocatic fermentation correctly.

    It was evident, how the white wine without the malolactic fermentation attacked the palate straight forward, whereas the other was much less acid and also sort of less interesting. The corresponding base wine from 2005 had clearly developped a greater balance during the time it had spend in the vat, which 2006 undoubtly will do as well.

    Redwine for rosé
    The couple grow a bit of Pinot Noir-grapes too, that are used to produce a red wine of a surprising pretty and deep red colour. They use it for pink champagne.

    To make a pink champagne you add red wine to your general assemblage of base wines. If the red wine has enough colour, your result will be rosé champagne. If the red wine is not great, your rosé will be too pale or even worse get a brownish colour.

    In Champagne, very far north when it comes to vines, it can be difficult to mature the red grapes enough to reach a pretty red wine. But 2006 was a great year for Pinot Noir, and this one certainly proved that you can achieve a splendid result if you nurse your red wine as it should be. In Champagne the energy is normally put into the champagne, that also demands a lot of work.

    However, a champagne is a product that must please all senses, the eyes as well, so if you want to sell rosé, you've got to make a decent coloured red wine. This is how you can create a rosé champagne of a colour so pretty, that your customers will accept to pay you more for your extra work to make it.

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    The cave of the family, where the champagnisation takes place, and where the bottles later mature until they are ready to be sold. At the moment the family sells bottles from 2004.

    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.

    12 March, 2002

    Half the truth

    One of my dreams is to sell our two different rosé champagnes in half bottles. Mainly to make it easier for you to opt for champagne when you want something special, also where you are more set for only one glass rather than a full bottle.

    Believe it or not, sometimes it is difficult to empty a bottle of 75 cl, and you don't open one unless you are pretty sure to finish.

    So I got slightly annoyed as Alain told me that half a bottle does not mean half the price. Since the bottle is more expensive to produce and labelling and handling of it is the same.

    I still believe in a market, which is supported by some numbers from l'Union from late January this year. The newspaper writes, that the house of Duval Leroy sold seven percent more of these half bottles last year, and that half bottles all in all represent more than four percent of the total sales of this brand.

    The extra costs for half bottles are somewhere between two and five percent according to l'Union. As for the grapes, you pay only half, since the half bottle contains only 37,5 cl, or half of the ordinary 75 cl, called la Champenoise.

    The cellar master of Perrier-Jouët, Hervé Deschamps, says to l'Union, that champagnes in half bottles mature much faster, and must be drunk before the bigger bottles.

    Half bottles of champagne are popular in Japan and Switzerland.

    Binding in sunshine

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    I bind our cordons in Loisy-en-Brie.

    A weekend with the vines is over. I have attached almost 100 meters of vines in one afternoon. Alain has removed some of the left, little pieces of wood, that he dislikes so much. And changed more posts and wires, mainly in the new plot of ours. The first driving of the tractor has been rather destructive for the fences, that were already in a poor condition.

    Since the vines are pruned cordon-style, there is one old and long branch to attach and a young, one-year-old branch with five buds at the end of the old one. The old branch is binded with as many little pieces of metal thread as it takes to hold it well, generally two or maybe three. One binding is normally enough to keep the young one in place.

    Thus the vine will be tied closely to the fence, and it will stay like this until it is pruned again next winter.

    The binder
    Basically attaching is to bind branches to the fence. Instead of some string tied up with knots, we use metal thread wrapped up with some kind of degradable material. A small tool, specially for this purpose - the lieuse - twists the two ends around each other, and a sort of scissors - like a three-in-one for the nails - cuts the ends when the binding is made. Et voilà.

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    The lieuse as it looks when open and closed.

    Well, the only thing is, that no task ih the vine is just et voilà for me.

    So far, nobody has been capable of explaining how they actually combine and move their hands and fingers with the string and lieuse. I ask, of course. I ask everybody, who goes in the fields to attach... A profesionnal binding is quick work. Mine are not. I'd like to know the trick.

    I bind and I bind and I bind, and one out of two - at least - are not twisted correctly, and holds nothing. Some I have to redo 10 times - no kidding - before they are good enough. Not excactly something that makes you move fast forward.

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    My need for bindings are variable. But some times I do have a bit of luck and get it right in one go.

    We have all been beginners, and there is always just one way to learn: Do it. So that's what I am up to. And after some experimenting, I understood that I have a better chance of succeeding when I pull the string backwards and then upwards instead of just backwards. It also helps to twist the ends around each other a couple of times before winding them.

    But I still have not made it all the way to an accurate method. Something that works each time. That's for later more experienced times, I guess. I keep on trying.

    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.