If you were offered a weekend in France, including your hotel, travel and food – plus all the champagne you could drink – for £125 (€158), what would you say? Yes, me too. The thing is, it actually happened.
The result was a weekend I will never forget – and a lifelong affinity for Pommery champagne.
It came about a few years ago through the Sussex Wine Club, which was run by a local wine retailer, St Martin Vintners. It seemed a tremendous offer and we quickly booked our places.
The Saturday started with a coach from Brighton to Dover, on which we were served croissants and Bucks Fizz. Once we had taken the short ferry journey, the coach sped us over to Reims.
After a quick dash round the historic city, we changed for the evening and headed off to the Pommery château. St Martin distributed Pommery champagne to restaurants throughout Sussex and sold it in its shop, and the château’s representative was keen to impress.
We were taken on a tour of the cellars – the caves – beneath the château and even learned how to sabre a bottle of champagne.
Then came a private dinner in the château. With each course, we were served a different champagne. As well as its standard brut label, Pommery produces seasonal variations with varying proportions of the three wines used to make champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. The wintertime brand, for example, is a blanc de noirs, so it uses just the two red grapes.
At the end of dinner, port from Pommery’s sister label, Rozès, was served.
It was a night of nights.
The following day, we went to the Vranken château and to Mumm before clambering back onto the coach for the return journey home.
St Martin ran several more wine-tasting trips, including to Bordeaux and Burgundy. Sadly, however, it closed down a few years ago. Its shop – and its bargain breaks – are now a thing of the past.