I love France #27: French wines and vineyards

I LOVE FRANCE!

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My meme post is exceptionally on Tues this week, as it is the last day of “July in Paris”!

Some time ago, I wrote a post on bread and cheese in Paris. Today, following the inspiration of Jeanie at The Marmelade Gypsy, here is a post on wines and vineyards in France. This is absolutely not an exhaustive post on the topic, can even such a thing exist??, but it is about wines and vineyards as I encountered them during my latest trip.

I grew up both in Champagne and Burgundy, so it was great revisiting both regions, and adding a third one famous for its good wines as well.

CHAMPAGNE REGION

In the Champagne region, you drink Champagne at basically any festive opportunity, a birthday for instance, or reconnecting with old friends, just as we did this last spring. Even as a child, younger than 10, I remember frequently drinking a bit of Champagne.

You can visit dozens of Champagne caves in Rheims, but today I’ll take you to the capital city of the Champagne: Epernay

Epernay, capitale du Champagne = capital city of the Champagne

Isn’t it a cute sign, with the two parts of the “bouchon de Champagne” [Champagne cork]?

Here are a few numbers, that will explain why it is called “la capitale du Champagne”:

  1. It is located in the midst of 74131 acres of vineyards
  2. 200 millions of bottles are produced every year
  3. There are about 68 miles of caves in the city. I heard someone calling them “les Champs-Elysées of Epernay.”
  4. There are 35 Champagne producers in the city
  5. The city attracts 400 000 tourists per year


General view of the city, with vineyards in the background,
taken from the top of the tower – see below

Some caves are so long you visit them on a little train.
We chose a smaller cave, only 5.5 miles long:

The Castellane building is classified as historical monument

De Castellane is known as one of the oldest families in France; its origins date back to the tenth century with the Counts of Provence and Arles.
In 1895,  Viscount De Castellane Florens set his house in Epernay. The De Castellane Champagne quickly  became THE champagne for celebrations in Paris during the Belle Epoque.

The guided tour was fascinating, with the explanation of the whole process necessary to make Champagne – a long and difficult process, explaining why the end product is not cheap!

                                                                                 A wine press                                                   Inside the cave

There was also a fascinating museum, and you have a nice view of the city, see the second picture above, from the top of the tower.

Tasting Champagne in a special restaurant in Paris: Le Bel Canto,
where servers are opera singers.
Here, “Papageno” is serving Champagne!!

BURGUNDY

The capital city of the Burgundy region is my beloved city of Dijon. One of its famous plazas is officially called Place François Rude, but locals usually call it “Place du Bareuzai”:

Bronze statue by Jules-Noël Girard (1904)

Yes, you saw it right: the guy is naked. What is he doing?

“Bareuzai” comes from “bas rosé”, meaning rosy pants. After harvesting the grapes, grape pickers would go naked to trample on the grapes to crush them, hence their “rosy legs.” Not sure when they stopped doing this naked, but that was common practice in the Middle Ages.


One of my favorite Burgundy picture, taken on the famous “route des grands crus”,
between Dijon and Beaune.

“La route des grands crus” is a very picturesque road that takes you through all the famous Burgundy names of vineyards – the villages have these names.

And one of the end products:

The “Marc de Bourgogne” is made from pressing the skins, pulp, and seeds that are left over after wine grapes are processed into wine. Aged in oak barrels, the ‘marc de Bourgogne’ develops a smooth and more mellow character than many other, less mature marcs and pomace brandies. In addition, careful attention is applied in blending mature marcs according to their origin and age.

PROVENCE

Provence, in the South of France, has also great wines. There are delicious “rosés” around Aix-en-Provence. What struck me is how flat the vineyards can be here, I guess because they receive a good amount of sun anyway, whereas in Champagne, they are usually located on hillsides.

Zooming out on vineyards – pictures taken in early April,
so the vineyard has still a somewhat wintery look

TELL ME,
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINE REGION IN FRANCE?
WHY?

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1 thought on “I love France #27: French wines and vineyards

  1. Pingback: Paris in July 2012 « Words And Peace

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