Neither of us are wine experts and quite frankly phrases like ”Terrior“ weren’t part of our basic wine knowledge. Our recent travels to the old world vineyards of France certainly inspired us. To be honest we booked Le shuttle sometime ago and due to busy work lives it was a last minute decision to cover the 1300 miles in a mere 5 days. After arriving in Calais we soon set off on the toll road towards the champagne region with Epernay as our first destination. A fabulous town with amazing architecture, this is where all big boy champagne houses reside. On the Avenue de Champagne you’ll find Mercier, Moët or Moët Hennessy the company now owns 21 houses such as Moët and Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Hennessy and Chateau d’Yquem. We decided to tour Moët which was palatial by far compared to the smaller houses. The Story of Don Perpignan (1638 – 1715) the French Benedictine monk was nothing less than spectacular and the French had recognized him as the Pope of Champagne. He made huge contributions to the production and quality of champagne when most wines in the region were red. Today Dom Perignon rightly sits high in the echelons of global luxury brands and heritage also commonly reference in Ian Flemings James Bond books. That evening we booked into a charming luxurious B&B called “Le clos d’Ay“ (17 Rue Jules Lobet, 51160 Epernay) in the nearby village of Ay. Isabelle and her husband  were the perfect hosts, they took us on a personal tour of their town and then sheparded us to their neighbour local champagne producer Pascal Henin . Pascal was busy in the full swing of the champagne harvest so his wife Delphine welcomed us into the tasting showroom which sits above production. The musty, sweat smell of grapes crushing beneath us was something we will never forget. A boutique smaller house producing some 30,000 bottles from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grape varieties. Their Brut Reserve, Brut Millesime and Brut Prestige were crisp, fragrant and delicate and by far our preference to Moet and Mercier. After Isabelle’s stunning Petit Dejeuner (freshly home made yoghurts, seasonal homemade compotes, champagne cake, butter croissants and stunning fresh coffe) the next morning we left with a short stop off in Dijon. As a young aspiring chef carving out my career I came across a fabulous dish called Blanquette de Lapin. This delicate white ragout of rabbit which was classically finished prior to serving with Tarragon mustard suitably from the famous Edmond Fallot Moutarderie in Dijon.

Our next destination was the small village of Puligny Montrachet deep in the  hills of Burgundy. We had  booked a tasting dinner, bed, breakfast followed by a tour of the vineyard and cellar at La Maison d’Olivier Leflaive. Upon arrival it didn’t disappoint, the warm, generous hospitality followed on from our previous experience in Ay. We were met by Madame Leflaive whom personally showed us to our room which overlooked the small village square. We decided to explore to next village which just happened to be Meursault, as they say ” when in Rome”. Sweeping through the gates of Chateau Meursault the main house sits to the left as is nothing less than stunning. An hour later and 200 euros lighter we drove back through the “Route des Grands Cru” a backroute back to the hotel cutting between the Village and 1er crus. Dinner in the form of a 5 course tasting menu  paired with Leflaive wines was fabulous, that said we were craving for a croquet monsiuer after dinner (a 4 hour affair). After a great nights sleep and a hearty breakfast we were soon off for a vineyard tour with the hotel sommelier whomdoubles up as a great wine guide. The morning tour gave us an incredible insight to the trials and tribulations of Burgundy wine making. We are already planning our next visit vineyard trip to the south of France.