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What's On In Champagne

What's on in Champagne - feteJust as there is far more to discover in Champagne than just a few internationally-recognised brands, there is far much more to see and do than just champagne tasting.

On the following pages I’ll share with you a few of my favourite places and events. You’ll find out what’s going on in Champagne and when to visit – actually there’s always something going on and anytime is a good time.

I’m constantly discovering new things to see and do and there are always new attractions starting up, so if you’ve had some wonderful experiences in Champagne that are not mentioned here and that you’d like to share with other champagne lovers, then leave a comment in the box below and I’ll add your suggestion to the list.

 

Tasting-glasses300Champagne – just the sound of the world has a sort of magical attraction conjuring up, as it does, images of celebration, luxury and indulgence. It’s not surprising therefore that hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way to the Champagne vineyards every year.

With all these people visiting you might think that it’s hard to get away from the crowds, but believe it or not there are nearly 5,000 champagne makers in total and plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track and discover the people, the places and of course the wines that make Champagne so special. It’s in these little backwaters amongst the small brands who names you may have never heard of that you’ll find the true diversity of champagne that will change your perception of champagne for ever.

Habits de Lumiere225December may not be the time of year that first springs to your mind for a visit to Champagne, but in fact there are several good reasons to do just that.

Apart from the obvious attractions of champagne tasting there’s a Christmas market in Reims which is a really stylish city – at least the centre of it – with lots of bars, restaurants and shops to wonder around and spend time in.

However for me the big attraction is the Habits de Lumières festival in the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay. The closest translation I can think of for this is Dressed In Lights and indeed the many champagne houses up and down the famous avenue are decked in lights creating a sort of Christmas Wonderland for adults in this most elegant of streets.

The festival has been going some 10 years now and under the guidance of a very dynamic local Tourist Office the celebrations are really impressive now.

First off is a spectacular parade up and down the avenue. This year the theme is PEARL and it kicks off at 19.15 on Friday 13th although I’d advise you to get there no later than 18.30

Every time I have been the costumes and the creativity of the actors taking part seems to get better and better and what with the musicians, the light show, the street artists of all types and the general ambiance, it’s a fabulous spectacle crowned with a superb firework display at the end

If that wasn’t enough, most of the champagne houses such as Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët and many others open up to serve champagne and food till the early hours so it really is an event to put in your diary. Plus there are lots of other activities throughout the weekend

You can find more details and see some terrific pictures on the official web site here

FetesJohaniques2013225Reims was really lively last weekend.

The 1st & 2nd June marked the Fêtes Johaniques: a mediaeval pageant to celebrate the city's connections with Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d'Arc to give her her french name.

It's one of the largest historical festivals in France and it was a lot of fun, plus, at long last, the sun was out.

Take a look at the video below and you'll see what it was all about.

 

 

Le-Boulingrin-for-MMICIf you’ve ever been to Reims and not eaten in Le Boulingrin, you’ve missed out on a treat, and now the bistro is closed, but all is not lost as you’ll discover in this article.

Boulingrin is the name given to a small area of the city (a quartier as they would call it here) about 5 minutes’ walk or so out of the centre near where the fruit wholesale market hall stands.

The hall itself is a listed building and is quite a landmark. It was re-opened last September after many years standing empty and a major refurbishment. You can see the improvement from the The-Old-Market-For-MMICbefore and after pictures below.

When you’re next in Reims the market  is well worth a visit to buy wonderful cheeses, cold meats and other indulgences.

 I’ve never really discovered where the name Boulingrin comes from but the story I like best is that it is a corruption of the English ‘bowling green’, a name given to the area back in the first World War by English speaking soldiers billeted here who used the area for recreation.

New-Market-For-MMIC

 

Anyway, I digress. Back to the food and drink.

The bistro Boulingrin was a favourite amongst tourist and locals alike. It was here that many prominent figures in the champagne industry would have their business lunches and no doubt swap notes and work out their strategy.

It wasn’t so much the excellence of the food that accounted for the success of Le Boulingrin, but rather the atmosphere and décor.

It was a typical French bistro: a long brass counter near the entrance, lots of 1920s and 1930s style fittings, some huge paintings and lots of tables packed into little cubicle-type dining areas and it was always lively.

New-Boulingrin-for-MMICUnfortunately it closed a few weeks ago – landlord and restaurant owner unable to agree on the terms of a new lease (groan)- but the good news is that it is opening again in a similar style of building, just 20 metres away across the street (hurrah).

With a bit of luck we’ll hardly notice the difference and you’ll have another, or a first, chance to visit Le Boulingrin.

Tasting grower Champagne - Terriors et TalentsIf you’re in the champagne business and are interested in Grower Champagnes it’s time to start planning your visit to Champagne in April.

If you don’t know already, there is a whole series of events that takes places at that time so that, over three or four consecutive days, you get to taste almost a hundred superb champagnes and many more vins clairs (those are the still wines from last year’s harvest produced by the first fermentation and before they have any bubbles).

This whole April event scene was started by Terres et Vins de Champagne about three years ago now. Terres et Vins de Champagne is a group of a dozen or so enterprising champagne makers who share a common desire to make champagnes that are out of the ordinary. Raphaël Bérèche, Cyril Janisson, Alexandre Taillet are just three names that you may have heard of and the list goes on and on.

Then a second group of exciting vignerons set up another group called Les Artisans de Champagne and then last LesArtisansdeChampagneforMMIC225year a third group called Terroirs et Talents de Champagne was established with much the same aim: to showcase their products to an audience of serious champagne enthusiasts and to show the world that the lesser-known makers can produce wines that will knock your socks off and which, once tasted, you will want to come back to again.

In 2012 there was even a fourth, smaller and more low-key tasting, run by Selosse, to which unfortunately, I didn’t get invited. Still, one lives in hope and there’s always this year.

On the other hand you can register to attend the other events at the web sites mentioned at the end of this article.

The events are primarily for the trade: journalists, sommeliers, wine-merchants, importers and the like but some of the events have a slot set aside for general champagne consumers as well. You’ll find, however, that you can’t buy champagne at the tastings. Selling there and then is not the objective.

I am told by a vigneron I know quite well that he is considering organising yet another tasting event this year at around about the same time. This one will be just for the champagne makers in one particular village. I can’t tell you which one yet in case it doesn’t get off the ground, but I can say that’s it’s a Grand Cru village with some pretty impressive names in it.

Terres-et-Vins-MMIC225So what’s stopping you? If you’re into Grower Champagnes and want to meet some of the best producers there are, face to face, and taste their wares whilst picking their brains and, for good measure, meet like-minded people from around the world, then register now.

If you need somewhere to stay then check out our lovely B & B at www.bedandbreakfastinchampagne.com

But don’t delay; rooms will go fast for this popular period.

Last but not least come back soon to this site or Like my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MyManInChampagne where I will, I hope, shortly be able to reveal the details of the mystery tasting event.

 

Here are the links I mentioned above:

21st and 22nd April: http://www.terroirs-et-talents-de-champagne.fr/

22nd April : http://www.terresetvinsdechampagne.com/

23rd April: http://www.lesartisansduchampagne.com/

I hope to see you there. Let me know if you plan to come.

Stay Bubbly

Jiles

Which wine lover has never dreamed of taking part in the grape harvest? Tough work, but somehow really rewarding and wholesome.

If you can’t actually get a job harvesting there are a few people in Champagne who offer the chance to at least have a go for an hour or so to get a feel of what it’s like and have a lot of fun into the bargain.

What's on in Champagne - Perching BarIf you think you been to all the most memorable champagne bars in the world, think again.

In the forest between the villages of Verzy and Verzenay, down a rather bumpy track, there’s a bar like no other. It’s called The Perching Bar. Why? Well, because it’s perched in the tree-tops with a view over the vineyards and the plain below.

It’s not open every day, just Wednesdays and at weekends, but if you’re looking for a place that’s a bit different to sip your next flute of champagne, this could well be it.

What's on in Champagne - Fetes Henri IV bannerI’m sure you’ve heard of people having an Open-House Day, well, in the village of Ay they have an open-house weekend which is called Les Fêtes Henri IV.  The festival is name after the king of France who granted special privileged status to the village back around 1600 Les Fêtes take place over a weekend in early July but only once every two years and if you’re thinking of coming to Champagne in 2012, you’re in luck.

This year’s festival runs from  6th – 8th  July.

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