Thursday, April 19, 2007

Champagne Anyone?



In my novel, No Regrets, Caro, the heroine of my story, is a champagne heiress. Not that she knows it at the beginning of the book, it is all part of the plot, ducks. Anyway, any writer with any gumptions has to make sure she knows what a champagne estate looks like. And if there is one thing I like about Europe, they keep their buildings.

The Champagne region in France is north of Paris, around Reims. So like any good researcher we went there for a few days.
Because this was bdc (before digital camera) and because my wonderful but typically English b-i-l was driving (Englishmen stop for no man or author) I do not have my own pictures to show you. But I did take extensive notes. And of course I have located some pretty pictures on the internet.

One of the striking things I noticed about the champagne region of France is that while it is rolling, it is basically flat. It also has a very chalky soil. So chalky that the ground looks white. It reminds me very much of Kent on the other side of the channel. Probably because at one time they were connected. I am sure you knew that right?
This picture gives a good sense of the green in the valley, the rows of grapevines on the open land and the white soil. In this second picture, the chalk soil is very clear. It is also clear that I did not time travel. These are definately not 18th century farm laborers. But the job hasn't changed. Anyway the other thing about the second picture is the farm in the distance. Everywhere we went in this region, farms were walled and usually had a tower in one corner.


We only visited one winery while we were in Reims, Tattinger. There was a particular reason for that. This winery is built on the site on an old monastary/abbey and the champagne is aged in bottles in cellars made of chalk. In my book, it is the chateau that is built above the chalk cellars, they were just too old and scary to resist.
Hmm, we will see what that turns out like, but the big thing for me was those ceilings and white white walls that glistened. How low the ceilings were and how chilly. All those bottles were turned a quarter turn by hand by one man until the wine reached maturity. Can you imagine that? This chateau now belongs to the Tattinger family. Originally it belonged to the philosopher Cazotte, who was sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution for his loyalty to King Louis XVI. For my novel, I combined this building with the idea of the round towers that I saw everywhere in the region and .... well you will just have to read the story when it comes out.
As you can see, authors make great sacrifices for their art, all that travelling, my dears. Actually, I can't wait for June when we are off to Europe again.

Happy Rambles until next time.