Greg continued to be a little bummed out as we moved from Saint Pourçain to Sancerre, I on the other hand was glad to be back in the land of wine and happy as Larry. We had a little bit of a shock to temperature when we arrived in Sancerre – brrrrrr!!! Sancerre is a really nice village but very hard to park Knigel who ended up on a bit of a slope.
We wondered about a little aimlessly then headed to Pouilly (of the Fumé fame). We found a brilliant nature reserve so Juno and I ran about like nutters (well only Juno did to be fair) while Greg made us lunch. As an aside we have put on so much weight being away, wine, bread and cheese. I hardly ate bread at home now I’m a one baguette a day type of girl, it’s just silly! I do hope that the altitude in South America will make the weight just drift away.
We then headed to Chavignol, a pretty village (they almost always are!) just outside Sancerre and still in the Sancerre appellation. I had plans to stay on a vineyard, I really want to stay amongst the vines, plus Caroline and Ian (thanks guys!!) told us about a winery that we can “bulk buy” almost Sancerre, i.e. a Sancerre producer that has a vineyard just outside the appellation so it’s just Sauvignon Blanc.
We arrived at the France Passion site, Domain Moreux in Chavignol. As a place to stay, it wasn’t up to much, just a layby by the side of the road. I arranged some wine tasting with M. Moreux, the wine was super lovely, so we collected a couple of bottles of white Sancerre.
We then moved on to Domain Brouchard, as recommended. We purchased 6 litres of the almost-Sancerre for €6 – ridiculous, my Lidl wine isn’t that cheap and it was so lovely. I plan to go back there every time I step foot in France. With hindsight, I wish I’d bought more…….
We are still trying to speak French, but failing quite often. We have both vowed to learn French to a high standard now as we have found the French people to be so friendly and hospitable that we want to be able to communicate properly when we are here.
Unfortunately, as the site for an overnight didn’t fill us with excitement we decided to move on. Sad really as I had wanted to stay in the region for a couple of nights. We headed towards Epernay deciding to stop when we were tired. That stop came at Saint Fargeau, in an aire, surprisingly also favoured by a couple of British ‘homers. I have to admit I was a tad disappointed – a motorhome carpark over a Sancerre winery, still……….
We had a good night’s sleep and then headed north east – champagne is calling………
We headed towards Epernay, the capital of champagne and decided to try France Passion again. Off we headed to Beaunay, a small village within the champagne appellation. Wow, my dream of a vineyard stay was finally realised. The vineyard Bel Air, was simply stunning, plus it had all the things a motorhomer needed plus electricity. Juno was in her element, her love of vineyards clearly coming from her mother!
We arranged some champagne tasting with Michel and all in all had the most wonderful, peaceful, beautiful stay (Can you tell that I loved it?). My Godson has just turned 18, so we decided to purchase our first bottle of champagne for him.
The next day we headed into Epernay. Parking at the aire in the town (not one that I would recommend anyone stayed in – quite horrid!), and walking around. We found Moét et Chandon and enjoyed seeing all the champagne “names” as road names, the aire is on Rue de Dom Perignon.
I had expected Epernay to be prettier to be honest, but it was nice enough. We could have gone into the cellars under the Rue de Champagne, which hosts Moét, Perrier and Mercier amongst others, but you had to pay and Juno wasn’t allowed. I decided that I would see local wine cellars for free and spend the money on champagne (up there for thinking!).
So after a walk around and a drink, we headed for a cellar. Ideally we wanted a cellar nearby as Steph and Paul had recommended an aire to us. The aire was lovely but no cellar tour was available – either fully booked paid ones or the smaller ones were closed on a Monday. Off we went. I found a cellar in Ambonnay that would accommodate us, together with a France Passion site – winner!!
We arrived at the France Passion site in Ambonnay, Champagne Dominique Foureur to be greeted by M. Foureur and his son. The site for Knigel was a little random, given it was on their drive virtually in their house but M. Foureur was such a lovely man, we had electricity and the offer of water straight away, met Obi-Wan their 9 year old beautiful dog and were tasting champagne with his M. Foureur junior within a few minutes.
Their hospitality absolutely could not be faulted. My bad French with M. Foureur senior and junior got us through and we had three wonderful glasses of champagne. Juno was petrified of Obi-Wan, even though he was a big softie.
Later that day, Mme Foureur (who speaks nearly perfect English and German) gave us a tour of their cellars and their champagne production. It was fascinating. The winery produces 80,000 bottles of champagne, the work is done by the family of four. It is quite astonishing, they hand turn the bottles of champagne to move the sediment for months on end, they allow the sediment to be released while containing the gas, it really is an art form. Mme Foureur told us that her family of four consumes around 500 bottles of champagne a year – it is a locals drink that becomes a luxury when consumed around the world. We were given such a warm welcome here and the hospitality was outstanding, thank you Famille Foureur. We will be back whenever we are in the area.
In the evening we went for a tour of the cellars of Thierry Rodez. The winery has been in the generations for a number of years and now is in the hands of Thierry and his wife Jessie. Lucily for us Jessie is Dutch / Canadian so spoke perfect English. We learnt that the pressing of the grapes is only for strong men given the manual press! That small wine producers sell their grapes to the big houses, eg Veuve Clicquot and then just keep a small part to themselves……so we can buy Veuve Clicquot quality at a fraction of the price. It’s amazing, the village of Ambonnay is a Grand Cru village of 1,000 people and 70 champagne houses! Such small producers. I’m not sure I’ll buy a large name again.
We headed back to Knigel and Champagne Dominique Foureur and had a lovely peaceful night’s sleep. We head further north tomorrow, but this has been brilliant. The hospitality shown to us has been touching and heartwarming. It’s even managed to get Greg out of his malaise. Greg and I are now vowing to be part of a grape harvest once our French is up to it.