A film by David Kennard 82 minutes, documentary, color, 2014. In English & French w/ English subtitles (optional English SDH).
From the start – a hot air balloon ride to celebrate a winemaker’s birthday – you see people smiling while working together to get a balloon upright and ready for a journey. This film, encapsulating the working lives of several winemakers, winery owners and families, is meant to entice you into a world filled with “magic and seduction” that is impossible to resist. Here are a few interesting things I’d like to share with wine 101ers and aficionados:
Champagne is the most northerly wine region in continental Europe, so think cold and wet for some of the growing season. The year we viewed was a very wet one and the winery owners were all concerned with how the vintage would turn out.
The soil is pure white chalk (sea shell remnants) with a thin topsoil. At first glance it looks like a dusting of snow to me.
Big names dominate the industry that you’re probably familiar with: Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon, Mumm, Nicolas Feuillatte and Bollinger.
During the film we tour Bollinger. Royal warrants adorn their walls. They have their own barrel maker and have barrels between 5 and 100 years old.
Every harvest comes from hundreds of years of winemaking.
Champagne was a warzone during the War of 1914; they lost one and a half million men. If you visit there are monuments you may visit erected in their honor.
There are over 1 billion Champagne bottles cellared under each city. When you include the cellars of the winemakers it comes to 600 miles of cellars. I can’t even imagine this, but I can certainly appreciate it!
There are several rules set by the CIVC (Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) dictating things like cellaring, the start and end dates of harvest, how much juice from first press and how high a vine can be from the ground and how long the shoots can be. If a winemaker chooses not to follow the rules he stands to lose his appellation.
Some fields may be sprayed to abate mildew and rot after heavy rains. Then every vine will be hand checked as caterpillars can make holes and rot can get in.
When it’s time for harvest, workers as well as family members take on the task. Champagne flavors are made consistent by blending and “continuous tasting.”
Bottles will be gently turned for one year and aged for another year before sold and eventually getting into the hands of Champagne-thirsty consumers.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com