While flipping through network TV tonight, I was happily surprised by a challenge on The Amazing Race. The Amazing Race is a competition where teams of two travel around the world and must complete challenges to get to the next leg, usually in a different region or country. As a consummate armchair traveler, this is one of my favorite shows to watch. This episode focuses on France, and in particular Champagne. Yes, Champagne is going mainstream, and other armchair travelers can see that this region is more than just bubbles. There is the beautiful landscape, the friendly locals, and yes, of course the product we can just never get enough of: Champagne.
Teams first must navigate to find the Champagne house of Leclerc Briant. Once found, one of the team members must rappel 100 feet below to the chalk pitts which house thousands of bottles and find one that is specially marked for the race. Then, a quick lesson in Sabrage, the dramatic opening of the Champagne bottle with a saber, practice started by Napoleon’s army. You don’t really get to see the lesson on how it’s done, you can uncover the mystery on your next trip with us.
After opening the marked Champagne bottle with the saber, the next clue: find Champagne Taittinger (pronounced tay-tehn-jay) in Reims. This is one of my favorite tour and tastings in Reims. Now the problem is that the clue has “Taittinger La Marquetterie”, which is not the same as the tasting house. Enter the drama- locals have misguided some team to Taittinger in Reims, not la Marquetterie which is outside of Reims close to Epernay. But it’s a win for the Champagne house, getting another mention worth its weight in gold for the branding.
Back to Taittinger La Marquetterie, where teams can either stack Champagne glasses several feet high and fill them from what looked like a Jerobaum (large format bottle which holds 3 liters and is very heavy) or find a cluster of grapes in the vineyards. For the tower challenge, yes, one team manages to fail, and the delicate glass tower falls apart and shatters on the floor, wasting all that lovely bubbly-ah again more drama! For those who chose to find a cluster of grapes in the vineyards, there are acres and acres of vines to search, and only one cluster (it is not harvest season!) Although is the early spring, the vistas are beautiful and offers an infomercial for visiting the region. This is the ultimate in marketing for the region and for Champagne, which has been hit hard by the economy in 2009.
My favorite quote during this part of the show, “I wonder if children growing up in the region are happier with all the Champagne here…”
Once the last challenge is successfully completed, teams must travel to ORCCA, Office Regional Culturel de Champagne, a gorgeous chateau where all the cultural activities of the region are centralized.
I was so happy to have watched this episode, and I applaud the crafty person who conceptualized this challenge. This is a major coup for the Champagne region and the brands of Leclerc Briant (one of our favorite visits and Champagnes) and Taittinger. You could not have paid for a better advertising campaign!
Have you had any exciting visits to Champagne? Tell us about it below!