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Jiles Halling's Blog

Jiles spent 10 years living and working in Champagne working for Moet et Chandon.

During that time, Jiles built up a vast amout of knowledge about all things bubbly, making lots of contacts in the region, and getting to know the people who've lived there for centuries while crafting their products with love and passion.

After moving back to the UK in late 2004, Jiles decided to bring this unique knowledge and contribution to the wider world.  The hidden secrets, the best champagnes and the insider knowledge that is not usually available through the normal channels, is now here for you.  Since March 2010, Jiles is once again based in Champagne, living in the small grand cru village of Verzy.

In this you'll find everything you ever wanted to know about champagne, the drink, the people, the region and the food.  Please enjoy your visit and please join in the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comments section or liking us on Facebook.


LansonTanker225We’re about half way through the harvest in Champagne.

Down in the Aube things are drawing to a close and in La Côte des Blancs too some people have already finished and most others will be done in another couple of days. La Vallée de La Marne vineyards have several days picking in front of them yet, whilst on La Montagne de Reims, picking has only just started in some villages.

There will be plenty of time to bring you up to speed on the picking, pressing and fermenting in future blog posts, so today I wanted to bring you some of the less obvious sights and sounds of harvest time in Champagne.

No Time To Waste

Lovely-ripe-grapes225It rained most of last night. Early this morning the sky was still very threatening and the grapes were still moist from the overnight downpour.

The harvesters were out in the vineyards of course, just like yesterday and the day before, but this morning they all had their water-proof coats on.

Why does that matter? There are two reasons:

Picking-in-Chouilly-1st-October-2013Picking is well under way in most parts of the region now and despite a gloomy start to the year, both in the meteorological sense and in people’s expectations for this year’s harvest, I am hearing some pretty positive comments from vignerons as they gather in the grapes.

Perhaps they are influenced by the lovely warm and sunny weather that we are still enjoying in Champagne, even though I am told that over the past couple of days it’s been raining in Paris, just 100 miles away from Champagne.

Something that’s a permanent feature of the harvest these days is the huge number of migrant workers - over 100,000 people - that descend on Champagne looking for work during this frantic period, and they are almost sure to find it. So much so that’s it not easy to find a French voice in the vines. This always throws me. I walk up to the pickers and ask politely in my best French if they mind me watching and filming and often they don’t understand a word I’m saying. Still, they get the gist of what I want and are happy to let me go ahead. I wonder if I’d get the same response if it were chucking it down with rain?Chardonnay-in-Chouilly-1st-October-2013

In the short video at the foot of this post you’ll see what was going on in Chouilly on 1st October in a plot that belongs to Mumm-Perrier Jouët

If you’re thinking that there are very few leaves on the vines, you’d be right. In fact just before the picking gets under way as many leaves as possible are blasted off the vines by compressed air. The machine that does this is an effeuilleuse (or de-leafer). It makes a big difference to the speed of the picking because particularly with the green Chardonnay grapes, it’s often very hard to see the bunches hidden behind thick clumps of foliage. Time is money when you’re picking and even more so when you are paying the pickers and conversely, time saved is money saved.

For a video of an effeuilleuse in action click here but be warned – it’s noisy!

Chouilly-signChouilly is not only a Grand Cru village but it is also one of the largest ‘cru’ in Champagne with some 500 hectares planted, almost exclusively with Chardonnay and about 200 vine growers. It sits right on the 49th parallel north and is home to Nicolas Feuillatte, the leading cooperative in Champagne.

Amongst the many excellent, smaller 'grower champagne' makers, Vazart Coquart, Michel Genet and Legras & Haas immediately spring to mind as being well worth your time to seek out and taste.

Chouilly was one of the villages affected by hail in July, so I’m sure that the ‘Geese’ as the local inhabitants are called, will be relieved at what looks like a very satisfactory harvest.

You’ll be able to see more videos and read more comments from the vignerons themselves as the grapes continue to come in over the next couple of weeks, so do come back soon