I arrived to the boat, aptly named ‘Le Paris’ a little before 7pm on a beautiful sunny early summer evening as the Les Échevins de Bouzy, the small group of 11 producers from this historic village, were finishing setting up the tasting.
With the Eiffel Tower leaning over us, the yellow and red sashed members of the group (red for producers and yellow for longtime supporters of the Champagne of Bouzy) formed an arc and introduced the evenings events.
Seven champagne tasting stations were set-up on the upper deck, an oyster bar and dozens of smiling faces. We wasted no time in presenting ourselves at the first station hosted by the very charming Laurette and Philippe Secondé of Champagne Edmond Barnaut. Their zero dosage (no added sugar) bone dry, ‘Brut Nature, Pureté du Terroir’ champagne couldn’t have bee more perfect placed next to the oyster bar!
The real privilege of the evening was to be able examine up close these champagnes from such acclaimed smaller grower producers, that together represent one small village within the larger jigsaw we call Champagne. The seven wines above deck were to be followed on the lower dining deck with four more, plus the red pinot noir still wine known as Bouzy Rouge.
The vineyards of Bouzy are located on the south eastern chalky slopes of the Montagne de Reims and so capture a great deal of sunshine which produce much riper predominantly pinot noir fruit. The combination of the climate and soils tend to make the champagnes more vinous with an overt lively and fruity freshness.
Power and elegance
The winemaker completes the constitution of terroir, evidently working with nature to produce wines that are elegant but also exude power and refinement. On an evening when we get to taste so much, literally side by side, I must admit to expecting to experience some highs and lows. However, I can honestly say there were no lows. The standard across the board was really high. All the champagnes tasted are presented here in the booklet that we were given on the evening and I urge the reader to seek them out.
Paris by Night
There is a hallucinatory moment in the movie Casablanca when Rick casts his mind back to the heady champagne loaded days of Paris. I can think of other experiences in art, film and literature such as Hemingway, Picasso, Brassai, and so on. This night actually passed through like one of those apparitions that is never quite real but gets lodged into the memory; a jewell that unites the place, the pleasure and the time with the subconscious.
I am sad not to have recorded more film footage with all of the producers but there are four short interview pieces and an introduction that also feature my friend and colleague Susan Adda, who lives in Bouzy. They provide a little insight into the producers as much as the Champagnes.
The Bouzy Rouge still red wine was tasted as well with the meal later on in the evening but you can also see our film clip from the Bouzy Rouge tasting in Reims during Champagne week in April.
The boat cruised up the Seine from the Eiffel Tower giving us exceptional views along the Seine. We dined until about 2:30 a.m. and I cannot recall quite how much champagne I consumed. The Champagne of Benoit Lahaye served downstairs left me with a feeling of deep regret as I did not drink enough of this exceptional wine whilst I had the chance. Somewhat criminally, the remainder of the bottle was removed to make way for the next in the procession.
I joked at around 2am that I had planned to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie in the morning before catching the Eurostar back to London. Due to the late hour and level of consumption, the chances of an early start were remote. Incredibly I awoke in my hotel at 8:30am and found myself with a clear head and ample time to take in the exhibition. What a fabulous trip!
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