We are visiting the Champagne maker Canard-Duchene in the Montagne de Reims countryside.
A patchwork of neatly hedged, close to leaf-manicured vines line each side of our road and extends into the distance, clinging to the soil of its appellation. It is quite wondrous.
Canard-Duchene is nearby to the quaint village of Ludes, and the vineyards extend right up to the village streets, and into some back gardens. That’s how valuable these appellations are!
Our France wine tours take guests through the villages of Champagne; the Cotes de Blancs and la Montagne de Reims, offering introduction-only visits to houses, only some open to the public. If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email email@example.com.
This day will be fun. We are to learn about how Canard-Duchene make and age their 14 million bottles of bubbly stocks, and some lucky travellers will perform the old art of sabrage.
That is the medieval act of removing the cork from the champagne neck with a sword. It chops off some glass but you can drink the fizz after thankfully. And Canard-Duchene wine is found in 54 countries internationally.
It was a favourite act of Napoleon Bonaparte to celebrate a battle victory.
Canard-Duchene’s cellars underground are extensive. Inside and beginning at 34 metres into the damp chalk below are large, long, parallel cavernous tunnels (extending to 6 km) carved out over time on four levels since establishment in 1868.
Our first super drink is Canard-Duchene Leone Green NV, green label too, to signify production from organically-grown grapes; a practice on the increase here. Bubbles with a top perfume of crackling yeast, super dry, taut, bright and fresh. Sante.
The team was ever-so-eager to taste Canard-Duchene’s 2008 Vintage. This is recorded as one of the best of the decade with universal great longevity expected.
It is a wet and cold year but for the grapes that made it through gave enormous minerality, zippy freshness and expectations of a long time for the high acids to come into balance. So eight years in bottle here has barely tamed this fruity style, expect more, keep some.
The pinnacle set of wines is Canard-Duchene Charles VII Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs NV; single style wines from red (two pinots) and white (chardonnay) grapes. Charles was the smart French king who worked out how to dispose of the English at the end of the 100 years war (1337-1453).
This is expressive chardonnay; the house has vineyards and buys grapes in the best Cotes des Blancs villages south of the mountain; the fruit personality of this chardonnay is self evident, the flavours come out deliciously. Drink some.
Canard-Duchene require an equivalent of 400 hectares of producing vines from 60 village origins annually to supply their French market which is its largest (70% sold), and also keep Australian drinkers happy.
After a visit to this part of France you will never forget the closely-clipped hedges of grapes and the vista which extends to the horizon; all 33,000 hectares of it.