With this trip to France, I had a lot of intention around what I wanted to see, learn, taste, and experience. Before I get into the descriptions of the producers and what I learned from them, I thought I should give a bit of back ground on what I was hoping to gain from these experiences.
My journey with champagne has focused on me trying to learn more about what I think of as the secrets of Champagne. I’m searching for all of those tidbits and morsels that most champagne producers don’t want to share because they, “don’t want to confuse customers”, don’t think its important, or in my opinion, don’t often know themselves. The information I wanted focuses on philosophies, terroir, plot selection, farming practices including biodynamics , potential ripeness at harvest, whether to use oak, blending, dosage levels, use of MCR vs cane sugar, sulfur use and more.
I wanted this information because it helps me get a sense of the vignerons, their wines, where Champagne came from, where its at, and where its going. This knowledge helps me tell their stories at Ambonnay, and if all goes according to plan, much of it will be the incorporated into the book I’m writing. I didn’t go into each appointment with a set list of questions, but rather I wanted to have a conversation with the person. I wanted to get a feel for their personalities, and how that is expressed in their wines. I wanted to see what they would volunteer and what they were excited to discuss. I often played more of an observer role with the occasional question rather than trying to direct them into a preconceived idea of what I want to hear from them. The results were as unique as the wines, each vigneron had their own ideas and personality. There were some common themes, but not as many as I would have expected. Using this trip as a gauge, plus all of my other research, I feel that Champagne is one of the most compelling wine regions in the world right now. There are lots of points of view and ideas about where Champagne should be going. Some are well documented, others are more under the radar. Regardless, my love for Champagne was deepened on this visit because of what I learned as well as all of the contradictions.
Beyond just the visits with the producers, I also spent a good deal of time in the car and on foot seeing the region for myself, the slopes, expositions, soils, feeling the temperatures, creating my own impressions rather than relying solely on others.
Over the next week or so as I write up my thoughts on each of the producers I visited, I’ll share some of my insights about the region and the wines as a whole. Trends I’m seeing, and practices and producers that are exciting to me. I hope you think this is enjoyable and interesting as I do.
P.S. A small note on grammar and Champagne, when discussing the region Le Champagne, the word is capitalized. When writing about the wine, la champagne, the word is lower case.