As midnight approaches it is not uncommon for a bottle of champagne to be opened to toast in the New Year, usually accompanied by Jules Holland’s Hootenanny on the BBC. I am reminded of a bottle of Champagne that has been resting in my wine rack since 2005. It is a remnant of one of my formerly annual coach trips to the continent which usually occurred in early November around the time of my birthday. In 2005 we visited the historic town of Rheims and one of the excursions was to Maison Ruinart.
Maison Ruinart was established in 1729 by Nicolas Ruinart and is the oldest established champagne house. We were taken on a tour of the cellars and were told of the fine art of producing champagne. As the wine ferments and matures it is housed in underground “Crayères”. These are chalk tunnels from former Gallo-Roman chalk quarries underneath the city of Rheims that were acquired by Ruinart in 1768. Their depth is up to 38 metres and there are 8 kilometres of galleries on three levels. The Crayères offer the benefits of a stable temperature, no vibrations and perfect humidity to allow the wine to ferment and slowly mature. The wine bottles are painstakingly turned a quarter of a turn periodically by hand.
The tour ended with a generous tasting of three different types of Ruinart champagne. I was particularly taken with their Rose champagne, so I indulged and came away with two bottles. One was opened on Christmas day that year and the other was saved for a special occasion. The last few years have had their ups and downs so those special occasions didn’t happen in the way they perhaps should have. My becoming a lady of a certain age, last November would have been the perfect occasion but due to being away in Bruges I completely forgot about the champagne.
I know our time zones are all different so midnight will bring in the New Year at different times for each of us but what better occasion than tonight, ‘New Years Eve’, to crack the bottle open as midnight turns in the UK. I will raise my glass to friends, old and new, and of course not forgetting absent friends.
CHEERS!! I raise my glass to you. Thank you for sharing life’s journey with me, I hope that any troubles from 2011 will fade into distant memory and I wish you, your family and friends a happy, healthy and peaceful 2012.