Thursday, 14 February 2008

Love Is In The Air ....

.... and the South of France!

We celebrated with a cake, chocolates and champagne. It is a hard life, this love thing.I also gave Richard a present - an oeufrier. I know it is not very romantic, but he LOVES gadgets! And this one makes you up to seven boiled eggs automatically, to your chosen degree of yolkyness.And it worked!
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Nic's age group, down here, see St Valentine's Day as a day for those you love - which means primarily their parents.

Nic made us this wonderful card and in the evening concocted a fruit cocktail, a special pudding and gave us a pretty jar she had painted to make into a vase. Thank-you so much! We love you lots !!
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LeeLee is proudly showing off her present from her boyfriend - a lovely white/yellow gold ring with a diamond in the centre. They take all this 'Valentine's Day' thing very seriously down here it seems!
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Anyone who knows us, knows we LOVE champagne. In particular, champagne made with a high percentage of pinot meunier grapes.

There are three types of grape that are used, either singly or in some combination, to make champagne. The meunier grape only grows successfully on one particular slope near Epernay and therefore only very small amounts are produced compared with the other two grape varieties.

The few families who own these fields can name their price for their grapes, and do! The big producers try to 'book ahead' to buy their produce but most families also keep a certain amount for themselves - and produce a small quantity of champagne (with a high percentage of this grape) for their own consumption and for selling from their homes.

Very few champagnes you buy commercially contain much, if any, of this third grape. The cost is just too high.

For my thirtieth birthday (all those years ago!) Richard surprised me with a holiday in the Champagne region, and tours and tastings all around the area.

We went to some of the big producers to see their underground caves - the best was Mercier because you sat on a train for the tour. LeeLee, as a three year old, loved it!

And we also went to quite a few little producers where you just turn up at their house, get invited into their garage - and see their whole production line in a space designed for two family cars!

Whilst 'tasting' at Mercier, we mentioned to the young girl serving us that we found their champagnes too thin and 'blanc', and described the flavour we preferred which was so hard to find.

Looking over her shoulder carefully, she quietly mentioned that we might want to go and see her parents. They lived in Hautviller, owned pinot meunier fields, and made a small run of champagne each year.

We turned up at their front door, were welcomed in as long lost friends - and LOVED their bubbly! Such a high percentage of meunier grapes would not be commercially viable (the equivalent of gold dust!) but for them - it was 'keeping their hand in', producing their own champagne in their garage.

For a long time we went back each year to stock up on a few cases - and they would boast to all their friends in the village that they had one overseas customer! Every year they posted us details of that years harvest and what bottles would be available - if we happened to be driving past their house.

For this St Valentine's Day, Richard found a new champagne with exactly the flavour we love, the 'right' bubbles and not very expensive.

It is a Clos des Chaulins (Premier Cru), from Champagne Medot at Pargny-les-Reims. When we looked it up on the Internet, we found that it had a higher than normal percentage of meunier grapes - it goes to show that our tastbuds have not changed in all these years!

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