Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Champagne Break

We have just returned from a break in the Champagne region of France. We linked up with Geoffs cousin Colin his wife Anne & daughter Alysia who are visiting from Australia.
We stayed at Les Barbotines B & B on the Paul Clouet champagne estate.
It is a super place in the heart of the Montagne de Reims, with just five beautifully decorated  rooms in an old winemaker house.  We stayed in the yellow room, really comfy, light & spacious.
The breakfast was the best I have every had, staying anywhere (I am not one for cooked breakfast) beautifully laid table filled with jams, fruit, various breads, cakes, croissants and so much more, with a daily variation to it.  You sit round a large dining table with the other guests, we met and chatted with some great people.  Including a winemaker from New Zealand, very interesting.  www.tindallvineyard.co.nz  Their wine is available in the UK, the nearest to us is a wine merchant in Canterbury.
This area is littered with champagne houses big and small, you'd think you'd be spoilt for choice of where to go and taste, however its more tricky than you would ever imagine.  I am sure in Reims its easier but out in the small villages its a challenge. 
Lets say to start with its France, they don't like to promote their wares in the way America or Australia would for example, they are more discreet rather than brash and commercial.. so finding somewhere that actually looked opening and welcoming in Bouzy (great name) where we stayed was quite hard.  We did find Herbert Beaufort, and what a find he was.
He has a shop front for selling his wines, he does tastings and tours too, we sat with him round a large table and tried his champagnes whilst he talked passionately about them all, we liked him.  So the next day we returned where he gave us a private tour of his caves.  His champagne is also available at Marks & Spencer.

Herbert Beaufort

The courtyard from our room
We also visited the small picturesque village of Hautvillers on the outskirts of Epernay, where the Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon is buried in the simple village church. Lots of lovely views of the surrounding vines and countryside.  We ate at No.36 a smart  but trendy bistro / restaurant run by brother and sister, naturally with a champagne shop attached.  Here we had lunch and tasted a selection of six champagnes..its a tough life.

Champagne tasting at No.36

Views from Hautvillers


The Brightlings

Also popped into Epernay the first evening for a meal stopping off for some champagne tasting first (naturally) !

We tasted all of these

Anne & I

Geoff & Colin


Chianti (all except one)

I can't believe another month has rushed by, where is the time going?  We were the hosts this month after some juggling and double booking (mention no names Karen) so we combined our dinner party with the wine club.  Luckily the four friends who were coming to dinner have been to previous wine club get togethers so know what a rabble we are...
Any of you who have hosted know that a major house clean is involved prior to guests arrival, not that anyone actually notices after a few glasses..so why did Geoff run his finger along the picture frame ?? ..Cheeky blighter!  ....  anyway, we had two friends staying over so I thought it would be nice during the day to take a stroll into Broadstairs have some lunch then wander back mid- afternoon still leaving myself time to prep the food etc, you know me, keep it easy, lots of antipasto. 
Geoff was at work so not around to help, if he'd have been home the grass would have been cut and the weeds attacked in the garden, you may be wondering why this is relevant...well, it turned out to be REALLY hot on Saturday and I thought it would have been warm enough to have the wine club outside in the garden all evening now that would have been lovely, but no we couldn't go down that route as the garden was an overgrown wilderness (we have also just returned from holiday so no chance to stay on top of the weeds, now trying to justify the state of it)...
Everyone turns up... where do they head...straight out into the garden for drinks !!  It was decided after I tried to explain the mess that in fact we were just going for a 'natural' style garden this summer.
Eventually dragged them inside to start on the wines & food. Ten of us found our seats around the extended table and tucked in, including a selection of cheeses picked up when we were in France.
Chianti : Cherry, cinnamon, leather, plum, raspberry, rose, tobacco

1. Chianti Riserva 2009 13% from Lidl
My goodness was this full of tannin, felt like all the moisture had been sucked out of your mouth, way too dry & tart. We did notice leather, clove & pepper characteristics to this wine.
2. Chianti Riserva 2011 13.5% Sainsbury £6.99 on offer (£9.99)
Lovely and smooth almost velvety, very fruity.  The bottle said Sangiovese & 'other' grapes a bit like 'other' friends (in house joke familiar to some) how can they put other on the label, its as if they don't know & chucked anything into the mix !
3 & 5. Chianti Via Di Cavallo 2013 12.5% Tesco The winner buy a long shot
Smooth with notes of cherry, aromas of spice and leather, very drinkable...we easily polished off the two bottles.
4. Picpoul De Pinet 2013 12.5% Tesco
A white from the Languedoc region of France,  a very drinkable white, tropical fruits along with apple pears and a hint of lemon, a great wine for the summer.
So those on the ball will think 'white from France' not Chianti, well done for spotting it, but our two guests Robin and Karen brought it along not knowing its Chianti, we forgave them as it was so tasty.
Our other guests Terry & Jackie made an error too, well Jackie did, never ever wear anything good/special to the wine club you can guarantee that wine will get spilt over you, by someone else or yourself..although Jackies was a bit of a classic.. so for you Jackie this is how you read a wine bottle label:
1. Pick said bottle up
2. Hold in front of you upright & read front of bottle
3. Turn bottle around still keeping upright and read label on reverse
1. Pick said bottle up
2. Hold in front of you upright & read front of bottle
3. Tip bottle towards you in a downwards direction,
to read back label upside down
4. Yelp as wine pours from bottle onto lap !
5. Help required from those around to mop up
As you know we take notes, some of us are better at it than others, which category does Terry fall into (this is wine club Terry not guest Terry)
The red wine splodge proves he was actually there !
Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening, we did try to keep going as long as possible, some of us making it until after midnight (a challenge as you get older)... one reason, the 'new' neighbours over the back were in their garden until 05:30 the previous day having partied through the night... (Keeping 'spill-it' Jackie awake)... and no, Jackie, being tired is not an excuse to pour wine over yourself !
As someone said it was nice having some 'other' friends included for the evening.
Time to stick a cork in it.
Bye S x