I didn't know my way around. I was an insignificant buyer of Champagne. None of the 'names' wanted to know me.
Somehow I stumbled on to a new organisation of small-scale grape growers of Champagne. They had just formed a union so as to be able to negotiate better prices from the 'names'; the 'Houses' who totally ruled the roost back then. Well this little group is now over half the best growers in Champagne (the Premier and Grand Crus); a force to be reckoned with. I am very happy to have been the first person they agreed to make a wine for. The Laithwaite label has been going 35 years now.
When you think my old mates are the people who supply all the Chardonnay that goes into Dom Perignon, (to pick just one quite well known brand!! at random). In fact there will hardly be any famous Champagne that doesn't contain a good bit of their wine.
We meet at breakfast, talk a bit, then pose in the drizzle in front of the giant bottle at Cramont. Photographer says he can edit out the rain!
Do a tasting of elements for next cuvée. Already done by Helen but hey, who turns down a Champagne tasting?
Tip; Laithwaites Champagne, being made of Premier Cru and even finer v. rare Grand Cru grapes benefits enormously being kept a while. Like a year. To my mind that doubles the pleasure.
All Champagne vineyards are meticulously mapped. For 'Grand Cru' status a vineyard must have perfect soil, aspect (be south to east-facing) and inclination (be steep).