Champagne. The French Provence lined in vineyards and bubbling with opulence and deliciousness. When invited by Champagne and Chateuax and Champagne house Canard-Duchêne to join them to swig champers for two days my answer was unquestionably – oui.
Greeted in Ashford I boarded a coach with a lovely bunch from around the country ready to begin.
Onto the shuttle, under the channel and out the other side, 4 hours and 2 glasses of champagne later we arrived in the town of Reims, one of the 3 main cities within the Champagne Provence the other two being Troyes and Epernay.
Lunch consisted of three rather creamy and delicious courses all washed down with Canard Duchêne Cuvée Léonie . Light, fruity and incredibly quaff-able.
Never one to make decisions when faced with a menu, I shared a starter with my partner in crime on the trip. Half ham hock terrine with creamed mustard and salad followed by half a plate deliciously smooth and creamy Fois Gras with Melba toast and piles of rock salt and fragrant herbs for sprinkling.
Shared starters followed by a rare steak in peppercorn sauce with a rather large dish of dauphinoise doused in copious amounts of cheese and cream and just to ensure I was well and truly unable to move, a traditional dessert from the region of powdery and sweet rose biscuits with ice cream, a ground hazelnut crumble and layered pastel pink sponge.
Reims has so much to see including some rather beautiful shops, with not much time to browse and the inability to walk after lunch I did not get to see enough. A good excuse for a repeat visit.
We made our way to the house of Canard-Duchêne in Loudes, just a short drive from Reims where we were taken around the grounds, the vines and through the cellars. Grapes and bottles as far as the eye can see – a true wine and bubbles lover heaven.
That afternoon I was awarded a diploma. Without question, the easiest and most enjoyable I have ever received – A diploma in Sabrage.
Sabrage: The technique of opening a champagne bottle with a sabre. The traditional method of opening champagne is still used today by Canard-Duchêne fro special occasions and ceremonies and puts the traditional ‘twist and pop’ to completely shame.
With a sweep of a rather large and shiny sword, the cork and bottle neck were airborne. Frothing champagne was caught in awaiting glasses and quickly drunk. And there you have it. A certificate for my outstanding achievement.
Consumption of the sword-sliced bottles followed before canapés and a four course tasting dinner paired with chosen champagnes.
Scallops in a rich mushroom sauce with grilled fennel served with Grand Cuvée Le Victorieux
Pan fried Iberico pork chop served with Grand Cuvée de Beauté
Layered brie and truffles served with Grand Cuvée la Rose
Poached pear in a pastry parcel accompanied by pear sorbet served with Authentic Demi-Sec
After a G&T back in Reims eyes got rather heavy and bed beckoned. The next morning we returned to Canard-Duchêne in Loudes for a tour of the production house, lots of rather clever equipment and LOTS of champagne. With yet more champagne tasting we relaxed after lunch before the journey home.
Lots learnt, a diploma gained and more bubbly than fairy liquid filled jacuzzi made a very enjoyable two days in Champagne.
My Personal Favourites:
- Canard Duchêne Cuvée Léonie
- Canard Duchêne Grand Cuvée de la Rose
- Canard Duchêne Authentic Green