On the second day of our trip to France, a meeting was organized by the host company in a manor at the Domaine de Villeneuve, a vineyard located in the town of Bar Sur Seine.
After a breakfast buffet at our hotel in Pont Sainte Marie, which included delicious French Croissants, toast, fruit juice, coffee and cereal, we got into the bus that would take us to the manor. It was a 40 minutes’ drive.
Between the plains of Champagne (not the wine, but the wine-producing area) and the slopes of Burgundy lies the region of Cote des Bar, one of the largest Champagne (a sparkling white wine) -producing regions. There are a number of vineyards in this area and Domaine de Villeneuve is one of them.
The young care-taker of the manor welcomed us, served us coffee and croissants, explained our agenda for the day and showed us around the place. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the building, the garden and the river Seine flowing beside.
There was a showroom selling Champagnes, specifically Champagne Devaux, one of the best Champagnes in the region since 19th century.
All year long, this manor provides a tour of the Champagne-making process, history of the region and some important facts about Champagnes.
I learnt that Champagne is produced from 3 different grapes namely Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and the Devaux is made of Pinot noir and Chardonnay.
Apparently, enough sunlight, steep terrain and good drainage are the major characteristics of the vineyards selected to produce the Champagne Devaux. Every year, the wine-growers go through a rigorous process of soil work to grow the grapes; conduct weekly vineyard observations, systematic de-budding (removal of unnecessary buds), maturity tests (to determine harvest dates), selection of best grapes and final delivery of the grapes to the pressing center.
Once the grapes are crushed and pressed (with pressing machines), they are sent for the first round of fermentation. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats (at controlled temperature) and partially in oak vats.
Then comes the Assemblage, where different wines are blended together to create the base- wine for Champagne. Oak casks (barrels) are used for this.
Next sugar, yeast and yeast nutrients are added, and the concoction is put in a thick-walled glass bottle and sealed with a cap for the second round of fermentation.
At some point, the yeast cells die and after several months, the fermentation is complete. This process is called Aging. Depending on the type of Champagne, aging takes place from 6 months to 5 years. The bottle is opened and the dead yeast is removed through a process called riddling. It is then corked quickly and wired down to secure the high internal pressure of carbon dioxide (which causes the Carbonation or the sparkling in Champagne).
There’s a small conference hall in the manor and our Sales- Engineering group meeting was held there. The first half of the meeting ended with a Champagne-tasting session, followed by lunch. Lunch included salad, bread, special yogurt with some kind of sauce and a Tiramisu cake.
Our meeting ended at 5 pm. The tour of the Vineyard concluded with a second round of Champagne-tasting; We savored the tasty Champagne and bade hearty goodbye to our hostess and the Vineyard.