The bubbles are settling.
Not that I ever want them to fully settle, but they are not quite so effervescent as they were a couple of weeks ago.
I am home now, and looking through all the photos of the Fabulous Ladies Champagne Tour and I feel like I am back there!
It was loads of fun, exceeded all my expectations and only further added to my belief that champagne is a little bit magic!
There were so many highlights, but the big surprise for me was having lunch in Mme Bollinger’s house – I knew Bollinger were hosting us for lunch, but I had no idea until I arrived that we would be eating at Mme Bollinger’s actual dining room table! I was quite overcome with emotion -the champagne never tasted so good!
But firstly, Paris!
The much anticipated meeting of our group for drinks and canapés revealed in about 10 minutes that this was going to be fun group of ladies to tour with. When you get a sense of excitement and anticipation enveloping the room as soon as people walk in, you know that you are in for a good time.
Earlier in the day, enormous crowds on the Champs Elysées ‘forced’ Jane and I into the relative calm of the Maison of Guerlain at 68 Champs Elysées. This beautiful perfumery has the most outstanding collection of perfume bottles on glorious display, and has a selection of bottles and scents which are only available to purchase at that particular location. Princesses (real ones) make appointments to have their signature perfume blended – a process which takes weeks of specialist consultation. After chatting with the very engaging staff about our little trip to Champagne with a group of Australian Ladies and the similarities with wine tasting and perfume appreciation, we were able to unbelievably organise a private visit for our group the following day. What a treat! Even if I will never be a Princess who can have her signature scent developed, at least I feel like I experienced (and was able to share the experience of) the feeling of being one for just a moment! Clearly the magic isn’t only in champagne, there is a little bit in Paris, too!
After that little bit of excitement and a bite to eat, on Monday afternoon we headed of to the hallowed grounds of Champagne in our convoy of blackened out windows, chauffeur driven vans – feeling all the world like the Fabulous Ladies we were.
As the vans pulled into the gates of our first stop – The Chateau de Rilly, the reality of the trip sunk in. A real chateau! Not to mention a warm welcome from Vincent Brochet who had arrived a few minutes earlier to place a chilled bottle of his award winning champagne into each of our rooms.
If this wasn’t enough to get us excited, our dinner at Domaine des Crayères Brasserie le Jardin certainly got our appetites going. I can safely say that I have never had a meal so perfectly matched to the champagnes we were drinking. I guess that is what happens when the man who was voted world’s best sommelier, Philippe Jamesse, was in charge of the matches. Sadly, and ironically, Philippe was in Australia at time, so we were unable to meet him in person, but he managed to leave a huge impression on the group, even in his absence.
What followed from this first night was 4 days of non-stop visits, tastings and gourmet meals.
Our first day of visits saw us visiting some larger more well know houses like Veuve Cliquot, Jacquard and Canard Duchene. Day two we concentrated on smaller growers – Vilmart, Veuve Fourny and Franck Bonnville, to show the group the differences with smaller family run affairs. Day three was all about education where we had a blind tasting as the Comité Champagne (formally CIVC) to test what we had learned over the previous days, and then a visit to the prestige house of Pol Roger. A bit of educative fun finished off the day, when we went to the home of Caroline Brun (from Champagne Roger Brun) for a master class, that soon had the feeling of a big party, complete with sabrage and dancing on tables (at the host’s request!).
And then Friday. Global Champagne Day. Were we started at Bollinger and finished in the World Heritage listed cellars of Ruinart. I don’t like to say I have a favourite champagne, it is like asking a mother to name her favourite child, but I will admit to Bollinger being my spiritual champagne home. It just never disappoints. There is so much living history in the grounds of that house, and to think that we were welcomed in to Mme Bollinger’s private residence…. words are still failing me!
Somewhere in between all this visits, we managed quite a few gourmet meals with champagne matches each time. The bottles seemed to get bigger as the week progressed, and I can happily say that magnums were the size of choice by the end of the trip.
The fairytale setting of Chateau d’Etoges was a great way to finish up. Apart from being the former playground of French kings and aristocracy (Louis the Sun King was rumoured to be particularly fond of the fountains), to add to it’s charm the breakfast juice bar is like no other. Lined up unashamedly amongst the pitchers of apple juice and orange juice was a silver champagne bucket with flutes beside and chilled champagne just begging you to start your day in the Champagne Way.
So after one last glass of champagne, and a whole new collective appreciation of what exactly goes into those bubbles, we headed back to Paris – the luggage compartments just a little bit more crowded than at the start and our belts a little bit tighter!
To that inaugral group of Fabulous Ladies who trusted in me to deliver an unforgettable trip – thank you! Thank you for being such a great group. Thank you for your patience and support. And thank you for sharing this journey with me!