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Our Champagne Writer is a Louis Roederer Winner

September 16, 2010

I am delighted to announce that one of our Champagne writers, Michael Edwards has won the prestigious Louis Roederer award for International Wine Book 2010 for his recent book The Finest Wines of Champagne.

Among the panel of six judges was Tom Stevenson, renowned Champagne expert and the original writer of our three Champagne guides. Michael’s book was one of a shortlist of four books, all strong contenders for the award. The others shortlisted were, from the same publisher, The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy by Nick Belfrage MW; What Price Bordeaux by Benjamin Lewin MW; and The Great Domaines of Burgundy by Remington Norman MW and Charles Taylor MW. Chairman of the judges, Charles Metcalfe introduced the awards which were presented by the head of Champagne Louis Roederer, Frédéric Rouzaud.

Charles Metcalfe, Frédéric Rouzaud of Louis Roederer and Michael Edwards © Brett Jones

Michael used to be a hotel inspector, making him possibly our best reviewer of Places to Stay and Eat, but for the past 20 years he has focussed on wine writing, and as one of the judges said to me: “we chose him because, quite simply, he writes like a dream.” The book is an in depth study of the region, the wine and in particular the Champagne producers, with around 100 profiles that include a mix of the famous names, as one would expect, along with some excellent smaller Champagne growers that Michael recommends. A few of these featured in the latest updates of our travel guides earlier this year. We are, frankly, honoured that Michael makes the time to write for us.

Brett and I were very privileged to attend the Louis Roederer Wine Writers’ Awards ceremony at the top (39th and 40th floors) of London’s ‘Gherkin’ building in the city where we were treated not only to a splendid view of London, but also a taste of the very young, newly launched Louis Roederer Cristal 2004, along with copious amounts of their always delicious Brut Premier.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier ready to serve on the 39th floor of the Gherkin, London © Brett Jones

I had actually entered the competition, submitting the Wine Travel Guides website into the category for International Wine Website – I was, however up against some formidable competition with the shortlist being Tom Cannavan for wine-pages.com, Jamie Goode for wineanorak.com, Gabriella Opaz for catavino.net (for whom I promised to collect the award if she had won) and the eventual winner, Jancis Robinson for jancisrobinson.com whose website has undergone a re-vamp in the past year and is one of the most successful part-subscription websites in the world of wine.

The other winner I particularly want to mention is Simon Woods as International Online wine columnist/blogger for articles from simonwoods.com – extremely well deserved by Simon. He provides interesting and witty short posts, regular videos and much more on his site, having really grasped the online potential and how to communicate in a really direct, yet educational manner with wine consumers online. I commend his site to you!

Finally, I want to mention the World of Fine Wine, a quarterly magazine, perfect for those of you who enjoy in-depth wine writing. They won the award for Wine Publication of the Year and also happen to be behind the publication of Michael’s book.

You can read the complete list of the Louis Roederer 2010 International Wine Writers’ Awards and no doubt soon see the photos from the enjoyable prize-giving evening, and launch of Cristal 2004, on their dedicated competition website. Thank you to Louis Roederer for supporting these awards and giving us such a great party for the presentation. And, thank you and congratulations to Michael for being such a diligent Champagne writer!

Michael’s book along with other selected books, is available from our Amazon Book store – you win, Michael wins and we get a few pennies too. We have both a UK Amazon store and a US Amazon store.

I predict that a future Louis Roederer award-winner could be our new Wine Travel Guides writer, Tom Fiorina, who has written our two new, quite amazing in-depth guides to wine travel in Corsica. More from him soon!

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Champagne – Off the Beaten Track

May 6, 2009
Rolling landscape of the Aube

The rolling landscape of the Aube

If you drive south through France from the UK to the Alps or the Mediterranean, chances are you’ve sped past the vineyards of Champagne. Many people decide to stay overnight in Reims, but once you’ve driven past the exits to Reims, Epernay and Chalons-en-Champagne, chances are you thought that’s it – we’re done with Champagne, it’s onwards to Burgundy. Next time, stay alert and a good hour later you might notice one of those French brown tourist signs on the motorway stating ‘Vignobles en Champagne’ – it’s almost as if the sign is in the wrong place. Look to your left and you will see a slope of vineyards in the distance, in fact it looks quite pretty seen from the rest place or ‘Aire’ just there on the motorway. Better still, arrange time to break your journey.

A couple of years ago in spring, we did just that, driving north on the way to some wine visits in Reims and Epernay, we stopped to explore this southernmost region of Champagne which is called the Aube, named after a tributary of the Seine. The region seems in the middle of nowhere, and really it is. The only town of note – and it is well worth a visit in its own right – is Troyes, about half an hour to the west of the vineyard areas. The other terribly famous landmark for the French (which also merits its own brown motorway sign) is the village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, the burial place of General Charles de Gaulle. The whole area is sleepy but with attractive rolling countryside, interspersed with vineyards that are currently gaining attention.

The Drappier Champagne House in Urville, near Bar-sur-Aube

Drappier in Urville, near Bar-sur-Aube

Not only are these vineyards the source of excellent grapes especially Pinot Noir for several big Houses based in Epernay and Reims to the north, but in the Aube itself you can find a growing number of interesting Champagne producers to visit, who offer an excellent product at a comparatively reasonable price. We visited the well-established house of Drappier, still family owned and exporting Champagne around the world – it’s open to casual visitors for tastings and sales, but you must make an appointment for a cellar tour. You taste in a rather grandly furnished room and the whole visiting experience is much more like a visit to a mid-sized wine producer in another regions of France than to one of the famous big Houses up to the north, that’s the family angle for you.

Three generations of the Drappier family

Three generations of the Drappier family

Afterwards we headed off back to the motorway near Troyes via a walk near the vast Lac d’Orient, one of several large lakes in the Champagne region, which are havens for wildlife – this one is in the vast region park, the Fôret d’Orient.

Wine writer and Champagne specialist Michael Edwards has just completed a thorough update of our three travel guides to Champagne originally written by that other great Champagne specialist writer Tom Stevenson. In particular he’s added details on several family-owned producers making so-called grower Champagnes. In editing the three updates I was struck by the Aube guide in particular. Although still quiet, there are increasing numbers of hotels and restaurants in the region, which range from the sumptuous Hostellerie La Montagne (a recently refurbished starred restaurant and hotel near Colombey) to the modest en-suite cabins of Domaine des Foolz up the road from Bar-sur-Seine, where you can eat reliably at the Hotel Restaurant u Commerce. At last there’s an alternative to staying in Troyes for a visit to the Aube, although we also detail some fine-sounding recommendations in Troyes.

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