Bottles of Bubbly

Champagne & port tasting in the Pays-de-Gex, just outside Geneva: Standing in a group of people consisting of an American, a Swede, a Dane, two Brits and a German, discussing French products in French with a Portuguese port representative. Fairly typical, I’d say. The only people who didn’t really speak any English were the very knowledgeable and friendly French representatives of a storied Champagne house, Philipponnat.

They gave, however, an entertaining presentation that included the story of how their current bottle shape was designed. Namely, the photo above – which is of one of the vineyards used to produce one of house’s choicest Champagnes  – was taken back near the beginning of the 20th century. Someone turned it on its side – see the image to the right – and voilà! The Philipponnat bottle was born. Cute. The house has been run by the same family for 16 generations.

We tried three cuvées – Royale Réserve (mostly Pinot Noir grapes), Grand Blanc (all Chardonnay), and Clos des Goisses (Pinot Noir). All tasty – I don’t pretend to be an expert in nomenclature, but all three were unique and excellent in their own way.

The rep told us that 300 million bottles of Champagne – that is, products exclusively made from grapes harvested and processed in the Champagne region – are exported and sold every year. Seems like a lot. And the market is growing as developing economies have increasing populations that can afford to buy champagne. Like the market for good chocolate, the appetite seems to be insatiable.