I’ve been in love with France since my first visit to Paris in the late spring of 2008. I took French classes from grades 6-11 yet my wondering mind never allowed me to fully pay attention to the lessons. From the time I could remember, I was always a day dreamer, especially in school. Rather then listen to the instructions, I’d flip through the book and read the side pages about all the places in France; my young mind imagining the aromas from a boulangerie, the taste of a fresh crepe, the sounds of the language I am not paying attention to. Paris, being my first vision of France, will always hold a key to my heart, but on this 2017 visit to France, I was finally seeing the France beyond the Eiffel Tower. The cobblestoned streets, the rows and rows of vineyards, elaborate and family-held champagne houses, and the rich culinary delights are why Champagne Provence gave me life.
As the almond blossom notes hit you palette, and the crisp aroma dances in your nostrils, you’ll immediately ask yourself, “Why didn’t I buy a wine suitcase before this wine tour?” The richness and firm structure of Canard-Duchêne NV Charles VII Grand Cuvée le Victorieux Brut Champagne now has its way with your palette.
The Canard-Duchêne House of Champagne was founded in 1868. Eight years earlier, a barrel maker- Victor Canard- met and fell in love with wine maker- Léonie Duchêne. It literally was a match made in heaven. Victor was an expert in farming grapes and aging them in barrels; Léonie was an expert wine-taster viniculture (the cultivation of grapevines for winemaking).
It took them only eight years to debut a high class, well-received champagne. Unlike the houses of Möet & Chandon and Laurent-Perrier, Canard-Duchêne never achieved large profit margins in the 19th century, so it was not disliked by the French as a symbol of aristocracy. To this day, a bottle of Canard-Duchêne is opened every 15 seconds in France.
As you are welcomed to the house, your guide will present you with a glass of authentic brut and take you to the sprawling vineyards. It’s a wonderful feeling to sip the champagne while your firmly standing on the same soil the champagne was birthed. After a brief introduction and Q&A about viniculture, the tour continues inside to the underground cellars.
It’s amazing when you see how wine is stored for years and learn every step that goes into making sure what you get in the bottle is crisp, fresh, and exactly the same as a bottle being opened at a wedding on the other side of the world. From turning the bottles on a certain day, a certain way to corking, each intricate step in the process will make you never question why this bottle is $49.99 as opposed to another brut being $9.99 (you can now keep your $9.99 bottle with rat droppings mixed with the grapes at home sir). I highly suggest taking a full tour when you visit any winery. The understanding and respect for the process of winemaking is invaluable.
After your rich lesson in champagne making and seeing thousands of aging bottles of wine, it will be time for lunch. Oh my will the chefs at Canard-Duchêne have a feast for you senses. I won’t spoil it with my description of the amazing five-course meal with champagne pairing, just have a look at the gallery below.
With history, fame, quality, and worldwide influence, you’d expect the champagne house to be a sprawling chateau behind large walls. It is quite the opposite. The House of Canard-Duchêne blends in with the other countryside homes in the town of Ludes. It felt very harmonious with the environment and you’ll be happy to know this is one champagne house which has a green initiative; making a commitment to sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly techniques. There are many champagne houses to visit while you’re in France’s Champagne region.
I give five stars to Canard-Duchêne. They are who they are for a reason and you’d be very happy you selected this house for your tour.
*If you are interested in visiting during grape harvesting, you can also volunteer to pull grapes. During harvesting, towns in Champagne see ten fold population increases. Have a unique experience and work at a champagne house (you get paid!). Canard-Duchêne and others accept applicants yearly so contact them and ask how you can be a part of next year’s harvest.
DO YOU HAVE a favorite wine/champagne? What wineries have you visited?