The Car Club Escapes to Champagne

The Car Club doing their bit to help with the harvest

After the trials and tribulations of the past two years, it was third time lucky for the Distillers Car Club’s 2021 foray to Champagne. Sadly, our secretary, Nick Car and his wife, Louise, were unable to attend, so Bob Russell and Steve Wilson stepped in to manage the schedule of events for the sixteen participants in their eight cars.

Our base was Les Grains d’Argent in Dizy, where we congregated on a sunny Monday, 20th September to go en masse in a fleet of exotic and mainly British cars, plus one German and one Japanese (guilty as charged M’lud) and headed to Pressario, the first visit of our trip. Pressoria describes itself “in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage vineyard in Aÿ-Champagne”, offering a unique sensory experience around champagnes and featuring, audio-visual, olfactory and taste experiences. This was followed by even more tasting experiences at an Epernay hostelry, Le Sardaigne.

Tuesday comprised a free morning in Reims, where we met at to visit Champagne Barons de Rothschild’ offices. We were hosted by Rachel Dumangin, who explained that this was a relatively new project for the Rothschild family, in which the three winemaking arms of Châteaux Clarke, Lafite & Mouton-Rothschild combined forces in 2007 to produce premium quality champagnes, as befits the name. Their offices have been furnished by the family to give a luxuriously homely feel. Later, we had an opportunity to sample their Brut, Rosé & Blanc de Blanc Champagnes which were absolutely delicious

On Wednesday afternoon, we congregated at the vineyard Les Coquelicots in Congy, hosted by Xavier Brulfert. Xavier told us that this year’s harvest will be disappointing, not only for the poor weather, but also the absence of East European pickers. Normally, Xavier would employ up to thirty on his four-hectare plot, but on our arrival, he was down to five, which jeopardises not only the harvest, but also the winemaking process. Accordingly, the car club rolled up its sleeves for three quarters of an hour picking grapes in sympathy. After which, many of us found it difficult to stand up straight for the next two days! After our labours Xavier treated us to a tour of the plant, explaining the winemaking process and including an opportunity for us to sample his 2017 Blanc de Blanc.

On our last evening together, Bob & Steve organised a special dinner at the Royal Champagne Hotel, which overlooks the Marne valley and its vineyards. A beautiful sunset with Champagne, was followed by a sumptuous meal accompanied by a couple of very nice Burgundies. I was also presented with a magnum of champagne in thanks for all my quiz work during the lockdown. It was not necessary but very gratefully received.

On the Thursday, we went our separate ways after the mandatory lateral flow test, completing the HM Government’s passenger locator form, followed by a PCR test on our return home. Oh, how bureaucrats try to take the shine off a simply wonderful escape to Champagne!

Andy Napier