When I say champagne you say Bollinger, Canard-Duchêne, Kruger, Perrier, Mercier, Moët & Chandon, Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck, Pommery, or Taittinger. But did you know there are over 2,000 champagne producers? We visited a few in the Champagne region to find the right bubbles for Supergîtes.
Some of the larger houses offer a grand tour through the factory and a ‘free’ drink afterwards. But don’t be mislead: by paying for the tour (€10 to 15 euros) you already paid generously for that drop of champagne. Other smaller houses offer free tasting but expect you to buy afterwards.
It’s basically not easy to buy at a smaller house. The smaller producers are all family owned for decades and a bit reserved (or reluctant as you wish) to offer a tasting and hoping you will buy a car load of champagne. Probably most tourists do drink and drive and leave the poor wine farmer an empty bottle AND empty pockets. That’s so not us. 🙂
A proper Champagne tour starts at Epernay at the Avenue de Champagne. This lane of grandeur with splendid mini-chateaus shows the wealth of bottling. We only strolled down and back to the car. These companies make enough money already. It is better and more fun to drive down to the heart of the Côte des Blancs, Oger, Mesnil and Vertus, 20km south of Epernay, where they make champagne out of pure Chardonnay.
This is where the real challenge begins. All three towns have around 500 inhabitants who are dedicated to make the best champagne on earth. Almost every front door and court yard has the official emblem of the ‘viticulteur’ (winegrower). Some are open and show some hospitality. Some are closed and look abandoned. You can drive up the court yard and ring a bell. It feels a bit arbitrary whether they let you in or not. But don’t be discouraged by this post. It’s fun to find a place. And bring a sandwich or two because after some visits you are no longer allowed to drive on an empty stomach.
We visited only two for we already knew where we wanted to buy our stock. We tried the well known Jean Milan. It’s a good champagne but a bit ordinary. The taste is like you can expect from a large house like Milan; basic, proper, a bit dull. That’s not what we are looking for. So back to the car and on to Mesnil sur Oger for the real taste of Champagne, a Grand Cru by Jacky Moussy-Mary.
Jacky is a keen little lady with a good appetite for a laugh. She’s a big fan of her champagne and her son in law, a famous Belgian cyclist. She’s does not stop talking of her two babies. In her kitchen you get to taste the Grand Cru and maybe even of a Millésime, a non blended Champagne. With Jacky you simply can not leave without a six pack. But God, she’s worth it. This champagne has all the bubbles of any other famous brand but with a delicacy that turn these bubbles into little pearls. With the bright blue label there’s nothing ordinary about this one.
So for the love of Jacky, buy her bottles and live happily after.
Mr & Mme Jacky MOUSSY-MARY
37 Avenue de la Republique
Mesnil sur Oger, France
It’s half way this street on the right side of the road.