Imagine my delight when a business summit included an optional excursion to Reims and Épernay! What a fabulous opportunity!
The train to Reims about a 45 minute ride. If you are able to book your tickets ahead of time you’ll get a better fare. As we were travelling in March the train was not completely full and we did this on a weekday. It was a lovely journey through the gentle rolling countryside.
We headed to Épernay for a champagne pairing lunch at Sacré Bistro. We were served two different natural champagnes. This was my first taste of a natural champagne, and you may be wondering what makes a champagne ‘natural’? It typically means that no chemicals are used in the vineyard or cellar and there is often no filtering, no sulfites or a limited use of sulfites.
We started with the Étienne Calsac L’échappée Belle Blanc de Blancs.
This is a 100% Chardonnay, made with spontaneous fermentation, with no filtration or fining. Spontaneous fermentation allows the fermentation to naturally occur versus adding in yeast. This Champagne spends 20% of time in barrels with the balance being in stainless steel. A nice waft of brioche, with almond on the palate. Delightful, light and crisp. This was paired with a chicken salad.
The second Champagne we tasted was the Maurice Choppin – Les Mis Côtes 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Meunier. This is also a natural wine that has not been filtered, chilled or fined, or added sugar (chaptalization). This family run business since 1712, is located in Vallé de Marné near Reims. They are certified in HEV – High Environmental Value that means that as wine producers they engage in practices that respect the ecosystem.
This wine has the distinct brioche aroma of champagne with a hint of pear on the palate.
This Champagne paired well with the chicken dish with cream sauce as it was dry and crisp with more fruitiness on the palate.
The trend of making natural minimal intervention wines is increasing in France. I found both of these champagnes to be delightfully fresh, dry and crisp, and I would like to taste more naturally produced Champagnes.