CORKAGE: Amorita Goes Sipping On The Road In France, Starting With Champagne
(ed. note: Amorita and her husband Scott are currently in France celebrating their honeymoon. Our hearty congratulations on their marriage and best hopes for outstanding times abroad)
by Amorita Bastaja | Along the A1 from Paris to Champagne, windmills wave hello in a synchronized dance while patchwork green and yellow hills fly by. We come to Reims, located in the Marne valley and the largest of the three main towns where Champagne is created. Tomorrow, I’ll be off to the other two – Ay and Epernay.
After a quick lunch of Terrine de Campagne washed down with a glass of Bollinger, we’re off to Ruinart, the oldest Champagne house created solely to produce the special wine.
The tour begins with a statue of Dom Ruinart (who was first involved in the wool textile trade) before moving on to easily the most impressive part, the chalk cellars. Here, 20 and 30 meters below the surface, hundreds of thousands of bottles are stored.
The chalk walls retain the moisture in the air. They are wet to the touch and crumble when rubbed. In these caves, secret underground societies flourished during the war. They’ve been home to hospitals and schools and used as a place of refuge.
When we surface back to the sunshine, it’s time to taste. We’re fortunate to run through the lineup, beginning with the Brut…
We sample the Brut Reserve, the Blanc de Blanc, the Rosé and two vintage wines: the Dom Ruinart 1998 and the Rosé 1996. It’s difficult picking a favourite; the wines were vibrant in acidity, and full of citrus lemon, ginger, white flowers, and in the case of the rose, strawberries covered in sugar. The rosé was the most intriguing: the colour was bright salmon pink, and the way in which the sunlight hit the bubbles transformed them into little fireworks ignited up from the stem of my glass.
As we’re finishing up, sleepy from the long flight and the multiple glasses of Champagne, our guide mentions that should there be time between our visit to Ay and Epernay, we must stop in Hautvillers, a little town only five minutes away. Here in the abbey are the final resting places of Dom Perignon and Dom Ruinart. We receive a map with directions and head on our way.
Walking back to the hotel we pass a Cave du Vin and I insist we stop. We quickly strike up a conversation with the shopkeep, William, who’s very passionate. He asks if Canada is a big market for ‘natural wines’, and then tells Scott of some producers coming out of the Loire that he should consider importing.
As for myself, I’m transfixed with the selection; many labels I’ve never seen before. William speaks of these producers with ‘soul’ and he can’t quite articulate in English what he means. He keeps slipping into French and clenching his fists around his stomach and hips. It’s quite endearing, and each time he does so, I’m compelled to add to my shopping cart whatever wine he’s speaking of.
Our final recommendation from William is our dinner location for the evening. A confit of rabbit awaits, as do the vineyards of Epernay tomorrow…
Amorita Bastaja is a manager at Legacy Liquor Store, the largest liquor store in British Columbia (located in the Athlete’s Village), and the Wine Editor of Scout. Her love of imbibing steered her through courses from the International Sommelier Guild and the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, and has taken her to many wine regions, including Washington State, Napa and Sonoma, Piemonte, Veneto, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Provence and all over the Okanagan Valley.