Last week I was invited by Maison RUINART, the first established House of Champagne, for the harvest in their vineyard outside of Reims. It was a truly unique experience. But it also made me aware of things, especially TIME.
I believe time is the greatest luxury you can have in this world. Think about it: When was the last time you did something for the first time or how much time does it take to learn a new craft or achieve something you were always looking for? Imagine someone gives you a whole day of free time as a present, what would you do?
All these questions came to my mind when I was working in the vineyards of Ruinart, cutting grapes on a sunny day. I had the nicest thoughts coming up whilst doing this very repetitious, if I might say, simple work, just cutting good grapes, looking for bad ones, separating them from the good ones…. It was almost meditative.
It sounds so relaxing but reality caught up with me quickly. Although I have to admit it was a beautiful reality: a lunch in the fields at long tables under a tent with beautiful, delicate food created by French/Vietnamese Chef Céline Pham and of course accompanied by the most delicious Ruinart Champagne.
My fellow “seasonal workers” were quite an international crowd from Europe, Asia and the US, all working in the field of arts, social media and journalism, talking about how fast everything moves forward and how quickly you have to catch on to develop new skills and ideas. Time is always an issue.
So think about it, the grapes we were harvesting are for the Ruinart 2020. Drink to my health in 4 years! And also did you know that to make one bottle of champagne, you need about 1.5 kg of grapes, each carefully selected and cut by hand? Imagine how long that takes! (They said a professional picker is ten times faster than we were. Thank God!)
SOME TIDBITS I LEARNED ABOUT CHAMPAGNE AND MORE
• “Creating a champagne is like painting with the weather and the soil,” says Frédéric Panaïotis, the famous chef de Caves of Ruinart. “The complexity is also like having nature imposing the year’s colors, and trying to guess what they will look like after 10 years or so.”
• If you only have a moment to relax with a friend in your favourite bar, how would you like to drink your champagne? We drunk it at about 8-10°C, the temperature which is best to develop the flavours.
• We learned from Grégory Marchand, the chef of Frenchy in Paris, that apparently he had no time to prepare the dressing for his first course, Pressé of duck foie gras, at dinnertime and had a lovely side dish with all different ingredients like puffed fennel seeds, peaches and basil to dress the foie gras according to your taste. Saves time for the cooking team and it was fun and tasty for us! ☺
• Pickling is on the one side easily and quickly done, but it takes up to 3 weeks before you can eat it and then it lasts about 6 months. It is perfect to add to most of your meals as it is salty, sweet, crunchy, and sour all at the same time. They create a balance for each dish according to Vietnamese French born Chef Céline Pham.
• Did you know that oysters process about 8 liters of water a day, suck it in, filter it and spill it out again? They just take all the good things from the sea and get rid of the rest. If only life were always that easy.
• By the way, did you know that champagne and oysters are a perfect combination? The champagne complements the saltiness of the oyster, and naturalizes the acidity of the champagne – a perfect match!
• When was the last time you thought seriously about the weather? How does the weather affect, for example, the grapes of your champagne? If it rains too much or gets too hot for longer periods of time the harvest will be poor. In France the Champagne houses are not allowed to irrigate the grape vine.
• Funny enough, I discovered something when returning back to Paris the next morning. I stayed in the neighbourhood of Le Marais where they offer a special Concierge Service, Lulu dans ma rue. Just imagine it like in a hotel. Built like a kiosk, you walk by and they organize your daily life, like booking a private cook, or sending someone to watch your children or explain your new computer program and they take care of watering your flowers when you are on holiday – all things which help you save time and do what you really want to do….