Saturday, August 27, 2011
Bound For France: Champagne!
Translation: I am very thirsty. That will be remedied soon enough, when I get the opportunity to drink plenty of Champagne, while savoring some exquisite French cuisine.
Tonite, I board a plane headed to Paris, where I will then travel about eighty miles to the city of Reims, in the heart of the Champagne region. This will be my first visit to France and I am excited to experience this region. Food, wine, history, beauty, new people, and so much more. Nibbling on a fresh croissant at a small cafe, touring the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims, strolling through a food market, visiting a Champagne cave, sipping Champagne in a vineyard. So many experiences of which to look forward.
I'll be journeying to this region as part of a journalist trip, sponsored by the Center for Wine Origins, with about seven other wine writers from across the country. We will be staying in Reims, traveling around the Champagne region. Our tentative itinerary includes visits to eight Champagne houses, including Penet-Chardonnet, Philipponnat, Mailly Grand Cru, Bruno Paillard, Nicolas Feuillatte, Pierre Gimonnet, Jacquesson and Collard-Picard.
The harvest in Champagne officially began on August 19, one of the earliest harvests since 1822, so we will be in the middle of it during our trip. In 2010, the Champagne region produced about 320 million bottles, and the French purchased about 58% of that production, roughly 185 million bottles. Thus, the French drink a significant amount of Champagne, far more than any other country. As for the export markets, the United Kingdom is in first place, purchasing about 35 million bottles, and the U.S. is in second place, purchasing about 17 million bottles. Germany and Belgium are tied for third place, each purchasing about 9 million bottles.
The food! Croissants, foie gras, mussels, escargot (did you know their is a snail museum in Champagne?), and so much more. I am sure many of our meals will be paired with Champagne, which will be quite interesting and educational. I hope to return with a better understanding of pairing suggestions. In many respects, Champagne is supposed to be a versatile wine, pairing well with a variety of foods, so that will be put to the test during my trip.
There should be some free time allotted to us on some of the days of our visit, so I will be able to explore some of the area on my own, trying to get by on my meager French. It will be a splendid adventure, exploring a country I have never visited before. I have been doing my research on the area, as well as seeking recommendations, so I have some ideas of the places I want to visit while I am there.
So, as I will be in France until returning home next Friday, my blog posts might be scant this week. But I hope to return with many new stories and adventures to relate.