Tuesday, 21 August 2012
bubbly and homeward bound
Back to the UK today, via the Ferry from Calais. We decided to take a somewhat meandering route from Épernay, rather than just hitting the A26. I'd already adjusted the seats in the back of the car, which gave us some extra space for - er - Épernay produce.
We did actually visit a couple of the champagne houses, Mercier and Castellane. They both do good tours of their caves but the feeling is quite different in each of them. Mercier is multilingual with a video show and laser guided train around the 18 km of underground tunnels where the champagne is stored. There's also a focus on the early marketing of Mercier through to the huge barrel hauled by 24 oxen from Épernay to Paris for the World Exposition. We were told that Mercier is the most consumed champagne in France.
The nearby Castellane tour is French language only and the visit through the caves and factory is on foot. It shows the whole process, from initial fermentation of the grapes, right through to the labelling and packaging of the finished product.
The two adjacent visits together build a complementary picture of the creation of champagne and also of the sheer scale of the underground caves where the bottles are stored at a consistent 10 degrees C, some 30 metres below the ground.
There's dozens of champagne houses in Épernay and many of the hillsides are covered in the vines of the three main grape types of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
So what could we do other than use some of the newly formed space in the back of the car to convey some of the local produce?