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From our Champagne correspondent
Harvesting in the Champagne region started officially on Monday, and will last two or three weeks depending on the location of the vine among the 34,000 hectares that make up the appellation in the four regions of the Marne, the Aisne, the Aube and the Haute Marne. It is really possible to feel a good atmosphere in the small villages and to see the landscape turned to a camping area to welcome people from different parts of France, gypsies and even people from Belgium to pick those grapes to produce this delicious golden beverage that people like so much.
Today is the start of the harvest for the domaine CLOUET in Bouzy and it will last on average nine days. There is always a good atmosphere in the vines with the team of twenty gypsies he is used to working with. Their tradition is to cook a hedgehog, the dirtiest animal on earth, to celebrate the start of the harvest: Jean François already tried it once to please them and he told me it was really disgusting!
Back in France until October 10, I had the occasion to visit Jean François last week and interviewed him about his beginnings in this business.
Jean-François’ passion started in his early 20s when he passed his diploma at the Lycée Viticole de la Champagne, where he learnt how to take care of the vine. As champagne was for him a free hand, he decided to start to earn a living by travelling around the world to experience new cultures, discover new landscapes and by selling champagne. Champagne was in fact a way to combine travels and sales. It is actually thanks to his visit by chance to Bubble Brothers that we started to do business together.
At the age of 25, he took over the family business with the help of his father and his mother, and devoted his time to the work created by the 8 hectares of vines that he owns and whose wine he sells. As we say in French, he acts as a “recoltant-manipulant” which means that he produces his own champagne from the picking to the bottling, but he also buys either grapes or still wines from cooperatives to improve his volume. Thanks to this trade, which is highly used in the field of champagne, he increased his production from 40 000 bottles in 1998 to 300 000 bottles. He now focuses his sales abroad and exports 98% of his production to Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, England, Spain and Belgium and has started business in the New World, for example in the US, Australia, Japan and South Korea. Just 2% of his production is reserved for upper-class frequented places such as famous restaurants in Rheims or wine merchants.
For people visiting the Champagne region, I highly recommend them to visit the Clouet Estate with his cellar dating from 1751,
his old press and his brand new room for tanks and bottling chain. He will warmly welcome you and take you for a visit.