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A Year in Champagne

champy5A Year in Champagne takes the viewer on a wonderful journey through the Champagne region of France. What is the story behind the world’s post popular alcoholic beverage? The movie begins with the excitement of inflating a hot air balloon. After all hot air ballooning began in France. The balloon flies over vineyards, some established while others were recently planted. One of the passengers is Xavier Garnier, champagne maker. This is the first time he has seen his vineyards from the air. Another passenger is Martine Saunier. a wine importer who guides us to six champagne producers.


A Year in Champagne covers the four seasons during the year 2012. Spring is the first season covered in the film. The narrator talks about Champagne’s location and chalky soils. Stephane Coquilette inspects his vines in early April with Martine who imports his wines to the United States. Next Ghislain de MontGolfier, President of the Union of Champagne Houses speaks about the duo personality of champagne makers. On one side, champagne is used for celebrating and telling jokes, while on the other side, champagne is serious and hard work. Martine then visits Bollinger and speaks with the managing director Jerome Philippon, who talks about the uniqueness of Bollinger. The next producer, Diebolt-Vallois shows the two generations of the family that work producing champagne. Martine joins them for dinner and the next day tours a vineyard with Jacques Diebolt. The narrator speaks of the hardships and war that has plagued Champagne for thousands of years. Hardships abound today. In 2012, the sun disappeared and clouds covered Champagne for three months from April through June. Martine visited the cellars of Champagne Saint-Chamant led by Christian Coquillett past 750,000 bottles.


On a rare sunny day in June of 2012, Martine visits vineyards. Even though it is a Sunday, vineyard workers are busy in the vineyard. During the summer of 2012, the vineyards needed to be constantly sprayed to prevent mildew and rot. On the lighter side, we see the 40th birthday celebration for Xavier Gonet. The celebration did not last for long as the rains came and washed the spray away. And so it was a challenge in the vineyards during the summer of 2012.


Although 2012 was the year of the Champenois’ fears, August makes the wine. That month, the rains stopped and there was abundant sunshine. The weather was good during the harvest. The balance of sugar and acid in the grapes was one of the best in years, although the quantity of grapes was lower. Many behind the scenes activities of harvest and winemaking are shown. After harvest corks are popped at le cochelet, the end of harvest celebration.


How the cellar masters create a constant wine by blending is discussed. After blending, the secondary fermentation begins. The movie shows disgorging and dosage. Finally bottling is shown. Then the champagne is given time to rest.

The narration is in English and English sub-titles are used to translate the French audio during conversations. I did not find this at all distracting as I do in other movies. A Year in Champagne is a must see documentary for anyone who enjoys sparkling wines. It is the perfect movie to view if you are planning a visit to the Champagne region of France.

For more information, visit the movie’s website.


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