Monthly Archives: September 2016

Champagne – Where sparkling dreams are made

If you follow me on Instagram (@tipthebottle), you would have seen my many insta-posts of Champagne bottles, me in amongst Champagne vineyards, me drinking Champagne…

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Yes, I went to Champagne. Yes, I absolutely loooooved it!

Tripping to Champagne has been one of the best experiences of my life. With so much history and insight in to the Champagne making process, it has made me more knowledgeable on the sparkly drink, and appreciative of the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that go in to one bottle. Actually, it’s really not blood, sweat and tears that go in to Champagne, it’s three grape varieties (and always these three grape varieties) Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay all sourced from the Champagne region in France. This is what makes Champagne, Champagne.

My learning experience of Champagne all kicked off with a full-day guided tour with France Bubbles Tours.

Our tour guide was Amanda. Amanda was a local from Reims, which is located in the Champagne region. She really demonstrated her knowledge of the region, and was dropping little Champagne truths all throughout the day.

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Tour guide Amanda dropping her Champagne truths

So I thought I’d share some of these little truths with you:

The Region

  • Everyone in the Champagne region will have some sort of involvement with a Champagne house – from growing the grapes, to selling the grapes to Champagne houses.
  • The Champagne region experiences approximately 250 days of rain. That’s a lot of rainy days in one year!
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Each of the houses had a Champagne sign out front. I need one for my place!

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Passing through a Champagne village

The Vineyards

  • Because of the climate, Champagne vines are grown compact and close to the ground. This protects the grapes from the frost, and cold wind.
  • It’s hard for a Champagne house to be organic, as they need to treat and protect the vineyards from disease.
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Champagne that grow close together stays together 🙂

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The Champagne grapes – Not yet to harvesting stage – still growing

  • There’s no irrigation, which means that the vines will compete with each other to get as much as they can from the earth. Because of this, the roots go deep into the ground.
  • The Chalk in the ground provides the vines with much of what they need to flourish.
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The side of the hill shows just how much clay is below the surface

  • Each Champagne house will source from a Cru based on the climate and terroir. The sourcing for each grape variety needs to be from one Cru. What’s a Cru you ask? In Champagne, a Cru is a village. The Champagne quality is linked back to the Cru, which essentially is the quality / terroir of the villages’ vineyards. There are different levels of quality, with the top one being a ‘Grand Cru’. A Grand Cru Champagne is a Champagne that has been sourced entirely from one village that has been classified as a Grand Cru. These grapes have a hefty price tag attached to them, which is why you will see a ‘Grand Cru’ Champagne fetch a high price tag.
  • At some wineries they replant some of their vineyards every 30 years. This keeps the grapes young, which can then be blended with old vines. If a winery replants their vines, they need to wait 1 year before replanting, plant, then wait another 4 years before they can begin harvesting. Good things come to those who wait I guess!
  • There is a limit that the Champagne growers can pick each year. In fact, some wineries try to sell off their grapes (illegally) to other wineries.
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Now that’s a view!!


The Bottles

  • The best years for Champagne in the 2000’s so far have been 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008. While the best wine years have been 1996 and 1998. You’re welcome 🙂
  • The corks that are squeezed in to a Champagne bottle are also from Champagne – Everything about Champagne has to be from Champagne. It’s the rule!

The Champagne Coin

  • It costs €1.6 million to buy just one hectare in Champagne – Where’s my cheque book?
  • The cost to make 1 bottle of Champagne is around €7 per bottle – this explains why this sparkly drink has such a sparkly price tag.


Some extra stats!

  • Champagne represents just 2% of the wine in France. Not all that big when you think about it.
  • To claim that you’ve tasted from every Champagne house, you would need to try 10 Champagnes a day for the next 20 years. I’d happily accept that challenge!
  • Each Champagne house has approximately 10 years of stock, just in case a bad harvest occurs.


That’s probably enough Champagne truths I’ve dropped for now. Stay tuned for more posts on my trip to Champagne!


Until next time winos,




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A trip around France’s wine region in one Paris wine bar – O’Chateau

You may or may not remember me saying, that it was a dream of mine to visit O’Chateau wine bar in Paris. Well ladies and gentleman, that dream came true on my recent trip to France!

O’Chateau was founded by Olivier Magnay in 2004, and has received many awards for being Paris’ best wine bar. If you’re wondering who he is, check out my previous post here.
O’Chateau is nestled in a quiet street off the main drag, not far from the Louvre.

Much truth

On arrival we were welcomed by the friendly staff. We took our seats, and were handed the vin menu containing an expansive list of French wines from across the regions.

A great read 🙂

The real highlight of this bar is the 40 wines on tap, with many MANY more bottles to try. Something quite unique for a wine bar!
Each of the wines are housed in a temperature controlled glass cabinet, with tubes running from each bottle to the outside. To serve, the bartender simply presses a button and extracts the wine in to a glass.

The house of wines!

It’s like an adults version of a self-serve drink machine in a fast food restaurant, only that it’s not self-serve, and you can’t go filling it to the brim!
With the sheer number of wines on tap, O’Chateau welcomes you to do a tasting, have a glass or, if you’re feeling complete adoration ‘love-at-first-sight’ for a wine, you can even buy by the bottle. For me, it was glasses ahoy.

Glasses ahoy!

With the day being a little warmer, I felt like starting with something light and refreshing.

Spoilt for choice!

#1 Wine – Viognier

Region/Area – Languedoc – Côteaux du Languedoc  (located in the South of France)
Wine – Pierre Vaisse Hasard Viognier 2015
This was an interesting wine. More floral than I’ve tasted before for a Viognier variety.
Floral on the nose, with tasting notes of kiwi fruit and elderflower.
It had a medium to high acidity, and was straw in colour.
While it was a pleasant wine to start with, as I got further through the glass it was very much a ‘one-glass-I’ll-try-a-different-type-of-wine’ variety.
Just nice on its own as an aperitif.


On to the next wine!
To help me choose my next wine, the bartender went through the whites list, explaining the regions where each had hailed from. He even slipped me a cheeky tasting to make sure I’d be happy with my choice.

Location, Location, Location

#2 Wine – Chenin Blanc

Region/Area – Loire -Savennières (located in central France)
Wine – Domaine FL – Chamboureau 2010
 This wine was a mineral style of wine, typical of its region – mineral on the nose, with a medium acidity and a slight dryness to it. It was certainly a more pleasing wine to drink than wine number one, and one that you COULD have another glass of.
Mid way through our wine flight through France, we decided to get a cheese board.
What a great decision that was!

Good decisions being made. All these cheeses came from the South of France

While we were eating our way through the delicious French cheeses, we decided to spice things up and change our wine to a rouge (red).

#3 Wine – Grenache

Region/Area – Châteauneuf-du-pape, Rhône  (located in the South of France)
Wine – Domaine Jérôme Gradassi 2014
This was a big red – rich in colour, full bodied, peppery on the nose, and big in flavour.  Notes of French oak, and red current, with a really dry finish. It was a wine that warmed the heart, and made the smile grow bigger.

Happy Days!

#4 Wine – Pinot Noir

Region/Area – Bourgogne (located East-Central France)
Wine – Domaine JJ Confuron Jeunesse 2014
A comforting rouge with strong oak notes, liquorice and spice. A great wine to top off the afternoon.

Taking in the wine

Although, it didn’t stop there…
After being at O’Chateau for almost 3 hours, and having taken a wine flight across France, the bartender brought us over a complimentary fortified. What a delight!

Pretty much my expression at the time.

O’Chateau really is Paris’ best wine bar.

Not only was the service and cheese on point, but the varieties and quality of the wine was impeccable. These guys really do know their wine – which is no surprise, as they’re all sommeliers.
My next dream now is to go back and visit the wine bar again, and take another flight through the French wines I didn’t have the chance to try!


Until next time winos,


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