It has been another busy week here at Rathfinny, starting with a visit to Champagne.
Mark and I had an amazing tour around Taittinger getting a serious case of cellar envy! 20 metres under their main site in Reims (pronounced Rance!) are Roman chalk cellars dating back to the third century, that they call ‘crayeres’. They are incredible, dome shaped, rising like pyramids above you to small vents at ground level.
We saw rounded caves stacked with bottles, 72,000 to be exact, that take 2 men one week to fill. With the help of wooden bars to line up the bottles exactly, they stack them 42 levels high – any higher and too much pressure is exerted on the lower bottles.
Then there was the range of bottles that made the standard 75cl bottle look positively tiny!
I learnt their names – from smallest to largest – demie, bouteille, magnum (1.5 litres, 2 bottles), Jeroboam (3 litres, 4 bottles), mathusalem (6 litres, 8 bottles), salamanzar (9 litres, 12 bottles), balthazar (12 litres, 16 bottles) and finally nabuchodonosor (15 litres, 20 bottles).
I also learnt that Taittinger are one of the only Champagne houses to age their champagne in a jeroboam. Many others decant from smaller bottles into a jeroboam after the secondary fermentation. Taittinger only decant into bottles bigger than a jeroboam and we saw this process with a mathusalem.
We met Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his son, Clovis and took on board their words of wisdom on how to market our sparkling wine all over the world. The main messages I have taken home with me are it is hard work and attention to detail is paramount.
Back at Rathfinny there’s the winery tasting room fit out to finalise, seasonal workers’ employment contracts to draft, overseeing the Gun Room building works, preparing the winery for the delivery of the tanks, meetings with our PR agency to finalise our plans for next year, details to sort out for the winery opening, decisions to be taken on our labelling… They were right about one thing – it is hard work!