Monday, August 19, 2013

The Small Producers

Small producer Herve Gallais shows us his vines.
One of the unexpected joys of our visit to Champagne was discovering the "small producers". The Champagne region has 32,000 hectares and 19,000 producers: that's a lot of people with only a hectare or two to put under vine. The price of a hectare of land in this region is between €1m and €1.9m (the more expensive are the 'grand cru' and 'première cru' areas which are said to produce the best fruit). The big producers would love to buy out the small producers, but the small guys aren't selling. They'll sell their grapes, yes, and do -- otherwise the big houses couldn't make the quantities of champagne that they do. But the small guys like to keep producing their own wonderful champagne -- some for themselves, some they sell on to lucky purchasers. The quality we found was astounding! And at a fraction the cost of the big houses, since there's no marketing spend.

The Champagne region marked in red on a map of France
Join me on a photo tour of a visit to Herve Gallais, who runs a small vineyard and champagne winery with his family in the village of Boursault.

In the village of Boursault
Chateau Boursault: Madame Cliquot's old hunting lodge

Herve explains the grape varieties.
Chardonnay -- champagne on the vine. 
Herve explains how to tell which grape is which...I didn't really get it. It's subtle.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Hold that thought.
Looking out across the beautiful Marne Valley.
It's not easy having a chateau in the family.
The place is presently under slow renovation.
Not quite sure what Herve is illustrating here.
I think he's saying "we press gently..."
This is the stainless steel vat in which the first fermentation takes place.
In his own small cave Herve shows us the yeast and sugar lees in a bottle.
Learning to do the remuage.
The tasting facilities may not have been swanky, but the champagne was
delicious and plentiful, and the view divine. Plus a very reasonable price list.
A case is on its way to me!
Happy Champagne visitors: guide Sydney with us.

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