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GLOBE-TROTTER’S GUIDE TO SUMMER IN CHAMPAGNE

Nothing lends a sense of occasion like the pop of a champagne cork. To celebrate the arrival of summer, Globe-Trotter is teaming up with Searcys on a seasonal pop-up centred around the ‘art of travel’ at the brand’s glamorous St Pancras Champagne Bar. With this in mind, we asked Searcys’ beverage ambassador and account director Joël Claustre for an insider’s guide to the Champagne region for some sparkling travel inspiration

GLOBE-TROTTER’S GUIDE TO SUMMER IN CHAMPAGNE
Champagne: centuries in the making

‘Champagne is all about provenance. They’ve been making it the same way for the past 300 years. Ultimately, it’s an art! The legal requirement is a year-and-a-half but every bottle of Champagne takes an average of three years to make. When you’re making something that takes that long to produce, it tells you how much detail goes into it.’

The ultimate luxury

‘Champagne is quite costly to make; 1 hectare of vine is averaging 1.5 million euro in Champagne is extremely high but I think because it was always a drink enjoyed by the nobility, people wanted to aspire to that, so that’s why it remains a luxury item. Britain is the second biggest market for Champagne – we drink more here than in America, the demand is enormous. It does get quite complicated when you start talking about ‘brut’, ‘demi-sec’, ‘blanc de noirs’, what is a vintage, what isn’t… We run a Champagne School at Searcys with masterclasses and private classes to educate people and indulge their passion for Champagne.’

Globe-Trotter - Journal - GLOBE-TROTTER’S GUIDE TO SUMMER IN CHAMPAGNE
The gateway to Europe

‘Champagne is a huge region, but what’s great is that it’s not very far from London. St Pancras is the gateway to Europe. You can take the Eurostar to Paris, change train station via a 6-7 minute walk and in just 40 minutes you’re in Reims. The Montagne de Reims (and the city of Reims) is the capital of Champagne. Most of the big houses such as Mumm, Perrier-Jouët and Veuve Clicquot have a base there, and it’s known for pinot noir grapes and for producing the fullest-bodied Champagnes. The second city is Épernay, which is a bit smaller and quite charming and where you’ll find Côte des Blancs vineyards, which produce chardonnay-based bubbly.

Champagne can be divided into five regions: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blanc, Côte des Bar and Côte de Sézanne – with Reims and Épernay being the two main cities. You can easily see both over a long weekend. In turn, there are lots of villages situated around them and each village and city has its own distinctive identity and charm.’

Best of both worlds 

‘Similarly, every house has its own style and people have their individual preferences. As a buyer, I have to be able to understand and enjoy these different styles.’

‘Champagne is different to places like Burgundy as most of the big houses probably only own around 10-15% of the grapes. They’re buying from growers all over the region. The end result is a blend of different grapes. There are two sides to the Champagne region; you have these big houses who own 50% of the production, then you have small growers which are still family-owned grower-farmers which probably make up around 50% of the Champagne region. These small growers don’t export, they tend to sell in France and French people buy those more than the big houses, so they absolutely have a market. In the past couple of years we’ve introduced small growers at Searcys such as Champagne Veuve Fourny and Champagne Paul Déthune – that’s quite an interesting part of what we do.’

When to go

‘The best time to visit is probably now; late spring-summer. The farmers are working in the fields, but it’s not stressful. The harvest starts from around mid September. But even in the winter the region is stunning because you have the frost on the hills and the vineyards.’

‘Champagne has always been quite a gastronomic region and it’s home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants and five-star hotels. The food is quite light compared to the south-west of France, which is really heavy. And, of course, every restaurant you go to has a fantastic list of Champagne.’

Searcys Art of Travel Summer pop-up in collaboration with Globe-Trotter launches on 15 July

For more information, see searcys.co.uk