18 December, 2002

Happy New Year to the girls

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I am delighted to see, that George has skipped the Nespress as Christmas and New Year's approaching. I presume, that he's got champagne in his flute and not just Korbel (American sparkling wine).

17 December, 2002

Runaway corks at yuletide

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Virgin and therefor still completely harmless corks. Carefull though once they're in the bottles.

A runaway cork from a bottle of champagne can cause severe damage in the your eyes. Say - and warn - American eye doctors.

Non skilled hands and warm bottles cause the trouble. The latter is a well known problem, the same may go for the skillness of hands. Do cool your bottle properly - in the fridge the evening before or at least in the early morning - and when opening twist the bottle, not the cork, carefully and without shaking. Last, be careful not to point at anyone, when you open. This ought to get you through the opening safely.

Now, I have never heard of anyone, who got their eyes damaged by a cork from champagne. Maybe the phenomenon is more regular when paired with American sparkling wines, that still call themselves champagne. A very long fight between producers from Champagne and collegues from the US.

More advice from the American eye doctors here. You could choose play it safe and just use the sabre. But, then again, I guess that just opens for new trouble, doesn't it?

16 December, 2002

Two rows are ready

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Sun sets around 4 o'clock PM, and in Loisy-en-Brie, late afternoon, we enjoy this pretty scenery.

It is just as wonderful as it looks. Though cold. Freezing cold, in fact.

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So we don't work more than a couple of hours. We are too cold, it got too late. With temperatures around zero but with a freezing cold wind from the east.

The wind arrives from the flat plains, that stretch from the slopes, covered with vines, the flat lands reach as far as the eye and even beyond. And the cold air really gets the time to grow very very cold when it finally catches up with us on the slope. Even the most hidden-away bone in our bodies are frozen after a couple of hours outside.

You don't move that much when you prune. If you are fast, you spend a couple of minutes at each plant, the slowly - this is where you find me and this year also Alain who is still not up at normal speed - use double or even more. (Read more about pruning.)

Fire in the brouette
There is only one way to stay warm on a day like this. I just asked uncle Michel for his best advice after spending a generation in the vines.

No clothes are good enough to keep this wind away from your bones, he says. Fire in the brouette, the special kind of wheel barrow, constructed of old oil barrels, is the only thing you can do to help yourself stay warm, he says.

The brouette may not look much, but a nice little fire, nourished by the stems, you cut, is the only way to keep your fingers and feet going om a winter's day in the vines.

But the brouette is unfortunately not at home. Alain's cousin had his brouette stolen in January, and borrowed ours, that thus spends the weekend at the Belles Feuilles-plot, rather than the "Vieilles Grandmeres, where we work this weekend. He has promised to deliver it back before January, where we'll need it even more.

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Status is now two rows pruned and finished. The plants are very visibly better than last January, where we pruned them for the first time. We see new branches and stems, that are stronger, and almost every plant has a least one, some even several stems as strong and thick as my thumb.

It is fantastic to see. It is fantastic to experience so fast, how the right treatment, the right pruning shows very positive results for the growth of the plants.

Now only 40 rows to go.

14 December, 2002

Champagne Granny gazpacho

2 Granny Smith apples
3 limes
25 cl champagne
5 cl cane sugar

  • Squeeze the limes.

  • Wash the apples, remove pips and core, keep the peel and cut in pieces.

  • Mix apples, limejuice and sugar in a kitchen machine in three-four minutes, and add the chilled champagne and let it mix in for another minute.

  • Serve in small glasses.
  • 13 December, 2002

    Rothschild headquarters in Reims

    The champagne brand in the making of the family Rothschild will eventually live in Reims.

    Half a year ago the family joint forces with "La Goutte d'Or", based in Vertus, to develop and upgrade the champagne of this cooperative to a new, better and more expensive brand.

    A true champagne house does not live in the countryside, but in a dignified villa with mansion-like windows, beautiful balconies of wrought iron and mansard roof. A future domicile like this has been bought for the occasion. In suitable surroundings, in Reims called the golden triangle, which has nothing to do with opium. In Reims this means, that the houses of Krug, Henriot and Roederer all are just around the corner.

    The name of this new brand is not yet known. Champagne Alfred Rothschild is another brand and belongs to another champagne house, Boizel Chanoine Champagne.

    It shall be interesting to follow how the Rothschilds will be constructing the golden image, that walks hand in hand with most houses. Who knows, maybe the master plan is as simple as producing truly great champagne? For a start they have hired the former chef de cave of the house of Ruinart, Jean-Philippe Moulin.

    12 December, 2002

    Champagne quotes: Churchill

    "Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!"
    Sir Winston Churchill, British PM in World War II.

    The British prime minister (1940-45, 1951-55) was well known to be a champagne lover. His favourite brand, Pol Roger from Épernay, still honours him. The top line of the houses is named after the faithfull customer. ((English Wiki).

    04 December, 2002

    Drained of Dom

    Champagnelovers, that shop for Christmas in England, should not bet on being able to get hold on one of the bottles of topchampagne Dom Perignon. Last week they were offered at a very cheap price in a British supermarket chain.

    The newsstory was not even ready to end up around fish and chips, before a consumer article revealed, that the chances of a customer actually buying one of these bottles was just about smaller than not excisting.

    A retail price at 30 pounds - 50 pounds to save per bottle - sounded a bit too good to be true. It was. In fact the offer only included 1000 bottles to be sold in 70 of the biggest stores.

    The chain according to the website This is money obtained its stock from other suppliers, and not direcly by the Dom Perignon supplier. The people behind topchampagnes normally don't like to see their bottles on offer in supermarket.

    When this happened for another top end brand, Bollinger, last year, the company threatened the supermarket with a court case.

    03 December, 2002

    A sip of Charles above the skies

    Above the skies somwhere between Paris and New York we recently had the opportunity to test the Air France selection of champagnes. Jacquart for economy class and Charles Heidsieck for first class.

    The Jacquart was ok, the Charles Heidsieck was - as always when I've tried it - truely nice. The houses describes it, on its rather tiresome website as full, warm and vivid with fine, elegant bubbles.

    Charles Heidsieck did win its 22nd and 23rd distinctions of the year in this years International Wine Challenge competition for the vintage Champagne Charlie 1981 and for the version of the year of the non-vintage brut.

    So, where do you find Charles Heidsieck in Denmark? Well, that's a good question. Surfing the net, I only find it in the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Amager. 10 points for Gunnar Madsen in Holmbladsgade, who sells Charles Heidsieck, and big surprise, that no one else seems to sell this truly great champagne.

    02 December, 2002

    We prune again

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    Solveig seated on the small chariot, ready to prune vines under the Decembersun. Not that bad.

    This weekend our pruning of vineyards began. Under the sun. I am happy to realise, that I still enjoy to prune the vines. Very good, since we will spend most of our weekends until March doing this very important job.

    This year we decided to preprune. All branches above the upper thread has been cut off, which makes it a bit faster to prune. You simply spend less energy pulling and dragging out branches, that have grown between threads.

    Less miserable
    We work in two plots. Both planted with Meunier-vines. Half a hectare is in a splendid condition, with a better yield this vendange than average this year, well below the allowed quota. The other half a hectare we have dealt with for a year now. We took it in a miserable state, and it supplied us with only one third of the allowed quota at the grapeharvest.

    Now we are very happy to see, that it seems to have worked to prune the sad hectare very toughly last winter. The plants seem stronger this year, almost all plants I dealt with all had healthy branches and at least one as thick as my thumb, where I last year hardly saw any at all. This shows how much the plants needed good pruning. It will be very exciting to see, if they will provide us more grapes at the next vendange.

    Pruning of vines in Champagne follow very detailed rules, I have written about my training in this here. These are pictures from the work this weekend:

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    Alain sharpens the knives. We use the good old manual stuff rather than electrical ones.

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    Alain prunes. First he decides which branches are the good ones, then he prunes them in the correct length, and finally removes everything else.

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    To prune vines right is all about the right number of these ones in the end: These are the buds of this year, and this is where the grapes for the next vendange will develop.