Jennifer Santner, 2016 Scholar’s Blog: Finalists’ Champagne Trip

Tuesday, day 1
The day had finally arrived and we were all super excited! We met at 7am at St Pancras train station to travel to Reims.

Seeing all the finalists again after a long and eventful year was a rather special moment for all of us. We have all grown very fond of each other in the past 12 months so it was amazing to see everybody again.

After a few oysters and steak tartare and frites in Paris, we then arrived at our hotel. Everybody had a triple espresso and a shower and got ready for a packed day. We knew we were visiting two of the world’s major champagne houses. Excited beyond belief!

First up was Krug, we were welcomed warmly by Maggie Henriquez, CEO and President. She and her colleague were very passionate about the work they do and the champagne they represent. Hearing about the founders of Krug and their mission to create something unique every year and declare it as a non-vintage champagne that simply aims at being the greatest, was very inspiring to all of us.

During a tasting of the rarest Krug champagnes, we were introduced to the matching of music and champagne. To all of our surprise – it actually works!

We then went to Taittinger and tasted a very different, and lighter, champagne that afternoon. After a tour through the fascinating wine cellars, we were treated to a four-course dinner at the Chateau de la Marquetterie which was perfectly paired with some of Taittinger’s finest cuvees. We learned a lot about the production of champagne today and became some real connoisseurs. We can’t wait to share our stories and knowledge with loved ones and guests when we return to London.

Wednesday, day 2
Way too early, everyone agreed, we had breakfast at our hotel. We then jumped on a shuttle bus to visit a number of different champagne houses.

We started at Boizel, where we also enjoyed a beautiful lunch; then onto Lenoble, where we met the very inspiring Anne Malassagne and then on to Tarlant, where the delightful Melanie showed us around the vineyards. Meeting these passionate women from the champagne industry really made our trip extra special.

We were then treated to an incredible ten-course tasting menu at the “Le club des artistes” in the evening. The menu was paired with 10 vintage champagnes from different houses going all the way back to the Krug 1995!

Thursday, day 3
On Thursday we started the day at Jacquart with Floriane Eznack. We got to taste some first fermentation wines. We learnt about how the grapes from different regions from champagnes vary in taste and texture.

The blending process was emphasised and we learned a lot about the importance of the tasting sessions which last up to 2-3 months every year.

The second and unfortunately last visit of the day was to the Bruno Paillard house. A champagne house that was only established around 30 years ago. We got to meet the one and only founder Bruno Paillard personally. This champagne house was much more modern and all cellars are on ground level rather than the usual several floors underground. Finishing our trip with a last meal in Paris over Steak et frites we then headed back home. Feeling happy and thankful after such a “once in a lifetime trip.”

Over the three days, we not only had an amazing experience but we learned so much. This is something we will remember for the rest of our careers and hopefully put our new found knowledge to enhance the experience of our customers and guests in our restaurants and establishments.

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