Champagne’s annual growers’ super tasting event – Le Printemps (Springtime) des Champagne – occurs in April. What has now become a hugely successful internationally attended show-and-tell event of 25-plus groups began in 2009 with a single group of young and vigorous producers, Terres & Vins de Champagne, organised by Raphael Bérèche. They invited buyers, writers, photographers and guests to meet them in historic Aÿ, at Hotel Castel Jeanson, owned by the Goutorbe family, who also attended in their own right as vignerons and winemakers. Many of us thought, back then, it was worthwhile making a pilgrimage for just that occasion. Les Artisans du Champagne, with their illustrious members including some small family Houses, such as Alfred Gratien, presented their wines the following year.
The aim has always been to show quality and diversity, both from the vins clairs of the prior harvest, that is, the still wines after first fermentation, and newly released finished champagne from many harvests prior. Few people get to try champagne still wines the way they were before the bubbles were harnessed for our pleasure but, during this few days, that foreshadow of pleasure is ours.
Exhibitors hope to develop their markets, achieve fame and glory in the press, and/or create acknowledgement and demand for their products. The best are in high demand already and unavailable to mere mortals without inside knowledge. Attendees comprise buyers, writers and high-profile consumers. Luminaries such as Essi Avellan MW from Finland and Charles Curtis MW from New York, European champagne ambassadors and globally recognised dames and chevaliers rub shoulders with champagneophiles from throughout the world. The Chinese contingent especially grows with each passing year.
But how to convey the Spring in the air, the sensory tasting overload, the joy and the weariness, unforgettable delight in the masterclass magnificent with 10, 20 and 30 year old magnums of old-vine Blanc de Blancs from Didier Gimonnet, the wonder of Mailly’s old treasures, and the reinforcement of sheer class from the new releases of Charles Heidsieck? The beautiful town entices many champagne friends at once and camaraderie fills the air day and night, week long.
Read the full story in ISSUE NO. 1 of VINE & BUBBLE Magazine.
WORDS | Kaaren Palmer
PHOTOGRAPHY | Ann Oliver