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Photo: Clément Morin

Food & Drink

Enjoy the best champagne in SAS Business

There is growing interest around the world in the unique and excellent products produced by smaller champagne houses, so-called Grower Champagne. We visited a couple of growers in Champagne – whose best products are served in SAS Business Class.

Say the word Champagne, and the vast majority of people would first think of the large Champagne houses. The orange Veuve Cliquot label, the Hip Hop craze for Cristal, Mumm and Formula 1, or chic nightclub favorite Moët & Chandon. History buffs may mention the six cases of Pommery, that were drunk to mark the official surrender of Germany in Reims in Champagne in 1945, ending the European theater of the Second World War. The popped corks were said to signify the last explosions of that part of the war.

“But now, more and more people are asking for unique champagne, and as independent wine growers and winemakers, we can produce very special reserves and vintage champagnes,” says Alice Loriot, of Loriot-Pagel, a sixth generation winemaker in the tiny village of Festigny, around 120km east of Paris.

Alice Loriot-Pagel. Photo: Clément Morin

Loriot passes me a glass of 2012 Special Club, that Loriot-Pagel has created for Club Trésors de Champagne, a network of small growers that was founded 49 years ago. The idea both then and now, has been to boost production of unique Grower Champagnes. These make up around 10 percent of the total annual production of around 300 million bottles of champagne.

Surprisingly good champagne

As I swirl the glass under my nose and let the golden bubbles roll around my mouth, in addition to the expected minerals, I get a surprising tone of jasmine blossom.

“This is because the wine is made from 100 percent handpicked pinot meunier, the dominant grape here in the Valée de la Marne area,” Loriot says.

She points to both the six generations of knowledge and the sticky clay soil in Festigny as the secret behind the special flavors in the 60,000 bottles the family produces per year. Like all champagne growers, she is incredibly proud of her terroir.

“We call it our love of mud. Partly for the taste, partly because it sticks solidly to your boots when it rains.”

Only the best champagne is bottled

Chouilly, 15m to the east in the Côte des Blancs area, is famous for its ideal terroir for chardonnay. I met Carole and Clémence Champion here, two sisters in the process of taking over Champagne Roland Champion, that was founded in 1929.

“Our champagne is blanc des blancs – 100 percent chardonnay,” says Carole Champion.

Roland Champion’s total production is around 140,000 bottles per year – but only the very best vintages go into the Club Trésors bottles that are used by all 28 members. Club members work together in general to raise the profile of their unique terroirs and winemaking skills. In addition to producing vintage champagnes, that are all produced by the individual growers themselves with their own grapes, the champagnes also need to pass through the eye of a needle: Every Club Trésors-champagne must be approved in two blind tastings by independent experts – one at the wine stage, and another after three years in the bottle.

Roland Champion. Photo: Clément Morin

Carole and Clémence Champion claim that family is the secret behind their dry as a bone blanc des blancs with its characteristic chalky and mineral tones.

“We trust and rely on each other; we know all our family secrets.”

Unique and delicious champagne in SAS Business

Gustaf Öholm, SAS Head of Onboard Product and Services, is delighted with the partnership with Club Trésors des Champagne.

“The whole idea is to offer customers something unique in SAS Business Class on our flights to Asia and the US. Something we would appreciate ourselves. This goes hand in hand with what we are doing within our New Nordic concept: small scale, locally produced exclusive brands,” says Öholm.

Two of the 28 members of Club Trésors de Champagne were selected, Loriot-Pagel and Roland Champion.

“We aim to present a world outside the large champagne houses and leave the door ajar to families that actually grow grapes in Champagne,” says Öholm. 

Champagne bottles in Loriot-Pagel. Photo: Clément Morin

Facts about champagne

  • There are around 49 million bubbles in each bottle.

  • There are almost 20,000 growers in Champagne, of which some 5,000 produce champagne under their own label.

  • Total production in Champagne is approximately 300 million bottles per year.

  • The bubbles are created during the secondary fermentation when the wine has been bottled. In the 18th Century, explosions were a common occurrence in wine cellars due to the pressure that arises during secondary fermentation in the bottle. English coal-fired kilns that produce stronger glass resulted in safer bottles, which solved this problem.

  • To resolve the problem of defective cork, many growers have switched to Mytiq, a new type of pressure and heat treated stopper.

Visit Champagne

SAS flies to Paris from Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm. Direct trains go from Paris Gare de l’Est to Champagne-Ardenne. Travel time is 45 minutes by TGV.

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