22 April 2006

Champagne 2

The champagne house where we bought the Premier Cru is a typical small business. The owners employ themselves and have 6 other full-time staff. They are a boutique-type of operation with 9 hectares cultivated, producing about 80,000 bottles per year. It sounds romantic , but like many agricultural businesses, much of the year is taken up with back-breaking repetitive labour.

You can see an example in the picture here (click to enlarge), the vine is pruned and then tied by hand to a series of wires. This activity alone takes about 4 months of the year since each of the growing buds has to be tied down as they develop. If the shoots aren't tied down properly then the vine may be damaged by the machinery which is used later in the year.

Total champagne output is over 250 million bottles per year, so you can tell just how small this house actually is. The hillside is just covered in famous names. I was standing in a field of vines owned by our seller and across a path no more than 1½ metres wide, the vines were owned by Bollinger.

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