The Great Gastro Adventure (three countries, two foodies one mission)

( It seems hard to believe that I started on a whim just before last years food and wine tour to France. Sitting in the co pilot seat with my iPad on my lap I’m looking forward to sharing with you the next great Gastro Adventure. A two week tour to the heart of the Tuscan wine country via
Champagne, the Bernese Oberland and Lake Como. Our return taking us via the stunning Val d’Aosta and my Achilles heel Burgundy.

Our journey started with a bleary eyed slog to Dover. Heading the Twittersphere advice of both P and O and Dover Port authority to allow extra time for check in due to additional security.
As the Pride of Canterbury slipped her mornings and we edged out into the Straits of Dover we took up pole position on the top deck, soaking up the warmth of the sun’s rays as we saw the iconic cliffs of Dover shrink onto the horizon.
In less time than it it takes me to drive the 20 miles or so to London we were embarking onto the Calais quayside and out into the French countryside.
Our first destination was Courban in the Côte d’Or via the Route du Cremant. The area around Chatillon-sur-Seine is known as the Chatillonnais. It’s renowned for making the sparking wines made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir called Cremant du Burgogne.
The thing I love about these adventures is the serendipitous finds that come from the least likely of places. Day one of this trip was no exception. As we neared our first destination I saw a sign proclaiming “Champagne vigneron”. My analytical brain starting processing this information. Was this a random Cremant producer pushing the limits of the AOC or did the Champagne AOC really extend this far south!
By the time I’d come to the conclusion it could well be the later we were already 2km down the road when we passed another Champagne house by the road side. Curiosity well and truly got this cat and I lept out of the car like a fan who had his last Pokemon in sight!

I approached the cellar door of   Champagne Louise Brison with an air of trepidation, I was really hoping that they would be open. I wandered into the tasting room and saw a wall adorned with award winning accolades from such prestigious sources as Decanter, Vinalies Internationales Concors des Oenologues de France and the International Wine Challenge.

My heart started beating faster with the anticipation that I had stumbled across by chance an award winning champagne house at the very southern tip of the Champagne AOC.
The office door swung open and we were met by the charming Julie Gallecier, their Sales Assistant.

What struck me as we were driving through this area is that unlike the Epernay and Reims areas to the north west where the terroir is dominated by viticulture in the Aube area it’s farming that dominates with small pockets of viticulture.

What makes this area different is also the terroir, Burgundian in character (Clay/limestone) and suited to the staples of Burgundy; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It doesn’t suit the other grape varietal used in Champagne the Pinot Menier.

A family concern, the estate of 13 hectares is named after his maternal grandmother, who have farmed the area for generations it was the courage and determination of the current owner Monsieur Earl Brulez, who loved champagne that led to the creation of Louise Brison. Unlike generations before him who sold their precious grapes to the cooperatif for the guarantee of financial security but the anonymity of the cooperatif; instead he choose the high stakes of going it alone to produce his own individual style vintage champagne. If that wasn’t setting the bar high enough he further set out three golden rules to which he wanted to produce his first champagne.

1. Reasoned and Reasonable – affordable vintage champagnes that had purpose.

2. Respectful of the Harmony – although not certified biodynamic, the wines are produced to biodynamic standards to preserve the microbiology of the soil. By avoiding chemical fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides and maintaining these organic conditions the vines are free to draw minerals from the subsoil and to improve their metabolism and production of organic compounds.

3. Revelation of the Aromas – this house only produces vintage champagnes with huge ageing potential. It’s no accident that each vintage is cellared for a min of 6 years to allow all their flavours and aromas to develop. This gives their champagnes refinement, roundness and character. It also means that half a dozen bottles of say the 2009 vintage purchased now but opened each year for the next six years are likely to taste different each year. This will also effect the suitability of the champagne to be either any aperitif or accompany a certain food style.

This schematic nicely illustrates how these champagnes change character over their life.
imageAnd so to the tasting….

Louise Brison, 2010 Brut Vintage. A 50/50 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend. A nose of citrus especially grapefruit and toasty brioche from the oak ageing. By their standards this is a young vintage but had a surprisingly long finish; in its current form would be an ideal aperitif but showed great promise of good food pairing in future.

Louise Brison, 2009 Brut Vintage. Has received 6 accolades.
Gault Millieu, 2015 Effervescents du Monde, Silver Medal/ 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards, Silver Medal/les Vinalies 2016 Grand Prix d’Excellence

Notes of spice, violets, quince, pineapple and oak on the nose. Similar on palate with a  little oak. This champagne has great ageing potential.

Louise Brison, 2008 Vintage, Blanc de Blanc. This has won 2 medals, a gold medal in Chardonnay of the world, and a gold medal in best French wine in USA.

A nose of wet stones yielding an overall minerality with a hint of oak after spending 9 months in barrel. On the palate there are both salty and citrus notes, a perfect partner to fruit de mer.

Champagne Rose  L’impertinente. A 100% Pinot macerated Rose, 2010. An deep pink colour with a dark orange hue. Notes of wild strawberries, red fruits on the nose, with oak toastiness. On the palette the red fruit theme continues with further hints of morello cherry. The finish is long and fat. Whilst this would be an ideal aperitif, suit white meats and work sublimely with a strawberry Charlotte it surprisingly partners BBQ meats.

We thanked Julie for the degustation, made a few purchases and then headed off to Courban. Before we left, Julie suggested we take the slightly longer route via the champagne villages of Noe les Malettes and Fontette. Between these two villages is a panoramic view across the vineyards called Plateau de Blu.


Plateau de Blu. A stunning view of the champagne vineyards.

As we pulled up into the car park of the Chateau du Courban we reflected on the fact that we hadn’t made it to the Route du Cremant but had discovered instead one of the hidden jewels of champagne.


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