Back at ‘the ranch’, the wine is stored in huge tanks until it is blended and bottled and put into crates. The bottles are capped with a beer-bottle type lid. They are slowly turned by machine to collect the ‘debris’ until they are upside down.
The non-standard bottles which they use for superior grade champagne have to be turned by hand.
Removing the ‘waste’ is done by a peripatetic firm. They freeze the neck so that the unwanted lees are ‘blown out’ and after adding liqueur to produce brut or demi-sec the bottles are capped with traditional champagne corks.
Labelling is done by a strange looking machine that puts on the ‘hat’ and ‘etiquette’. However, they must also add a top to each bottle to prove that tax has been paid before they can sell it. Apparently, if you are stopped by the customs or police and you have ‘untaxed wine’ in your car you are liable for a heavy fine and so is the producer who sold – or gave it to you.
The champagne that we were offered for a tasting was a different matter.
It remined me of the champagne we drank at a gite years ago. The owner explained that provided we consumed it on the premises we could buy it for 8 euros a bottle but if we wanted to take it away it would have to be properly labelled and would cost 11 euros.
We bought a couple of cases and Daniel’s sister-in-law kindly offered us another bottle as a present. He loaded up his boot with more cases as he runs a (perfectly legal) depot du vin, which is where we normally buy our champagne.
The journey home was most enjoyable despite meeting the rush hour traffic from Reims.
Autumn colours were beginning to appear on the trees and were enhanced by the sunshine in a pale blue cloudless sky.
Daniel kindly pulled off the motorway so that we could say hello to Woinic and take a photo. The giant boar already looks a bit rusty and isn’t exactly attractive but we were not alone in paying a visit.
P.S. According to today’s paper (30th September) the growers are delighted with this years’s harvest. The quantity may not be exceptional but the quality compares well with the best vintages of the past. They will be able to check the flavours when they taste the first results in a few weeks time.