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On Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd September I was lucky enough to attend a champagne trip organised by our suppliers Champagne and Chateaux courtesy of Canard Duchene, and what an experience it was!

The trip started early Monday morning with a coach journey from Victoria station to the channel Tunnel. This mostly entailed people catching up on some sleep, however the champagne soon started flowing and didn’t stop for two days.

Once we arrived in France we travelled to Le Jardin in Reims where we were treated to a lovely three course lunch. This started with foie gras followed by cod with truffles in a cream sauce and then a fruit sorbet ‘soup’ to finish. This was, of course, all served alongside some lovely chilled glasses of Canard-Duchene, Curve Leonie.

After lunch we travelled to the hotel where we had just enough time to freshen up ready for our trip to Canard Duchene in Ludes. Once there we had a guided tour of the vineyards and cellars where we learnt about the process of the harvesting and the making of the champagne. Here are a few facts which may interest you:

- - all the grapes in Champagne have to be handpicked to guarantee the best quality champagne
-the minimum legal fermentation time set in the Champagne region is 15 months however Canard Duchene at least doubles this process time to guarantee the best flavours for their champagne
-bottles used to be hand turned once a day to move the sediment in the champagne down to the neck of the bottle… they now use machinery for this which speeds up the process somewhat!
-each individual vine produces approximately 1 bottle of champagne
-due to the amazing weather in Champagne in 2015 Canard Duchene are hoping that this batch may become a Vintage, however they cannot say for sure right now!

After the tour we enjoyed a 4 course dinner hosted by Alexis Petit-Gats who is the Managing Director at Canard Duchene. He was a fantastic host and explained the process of each champagne pairing with each course. To start, we enjoyed a skewed prawn and scallop dish with a fruity salsa which was paired with Grande Cuvee dew Lys (Blanc de Noirs). Next was the main course which consisted of duck with poached pear and cheese filled filo parcel. This was my favourite dish throughout the two days with the duck being cooked to complete perfection! This was partnered with Charles VII La Grande Cuvee (Blanc de Noirs) which had a richer flavour. We then moved onto a cheese course which was paired with Grande Cuvee de la Rose and Grandes CuvéesCharles VII, AuthenticVintage 2008. To finish we enjoyed a red crumble éclair with Charles VII Smooth Rose.

After dinner we made our way to Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Reims which was five minute walk from our hotel. The cathedral was built in the 13th century in memory of Clovis and holds over 2,300 sculptures including the infamous “Ange au Sourire”, which translates to “smiling angel”.

Luckily after all the champagne the day before, we didn’t have too much of an early start on Tuesday and made our way back to Canard Duchene for around 11am. Once we arrived, we were taken around the production line, from the making all the way to the labelling and boxing of the bottles.

After looking around the factory we then went on to try our hand at sabrage. This was great fun with only one guest managing to destroy half his bottle!

Concluding our time in France we were treated to an informal buffet lunch which consisted of antipasti style platters along with lots of delicious cheese and salads and, you guessed it, more champagne! I had a great time and look forward to using my new found champagne knowledge in the future!

by Louisa Rooke, TLC Events Coordinator