Tag Archives: Champagne



First of all, I want to acknowledge the huge amount of damage to the vineyards of France and much of central Europe by the frosts of the past week, which continue as I write this. It is possible that a majority of the 2021 vintage may be lost. The damage runs from First Growth Bordeaux to Chablis, to Champagne to everyday wines. It is tragic and will be felt for a long time.

I haven’t posted on this blog in quite some time – since November 2019, in fact, during those pre-COVID halcyon days of bliss. The main reason for my absence from these pages, while not from wine, has been that since I have been living in France for 3 years or so now, my experience with wine has changed. It has become more of a relationship with a smaller number of mostly unpretentious and unspectacular wines consumed, for the most part, with meals. If anything, COVID cemented this relationship, as our restaurants are closed and the occasional “special bottle” with a restaurant meal has not been in the mix. When I last wrote about our wine experience living in Lyon (LINK), I was new to the area and just beginning to learn.

While Dorianne and I have extended our pricing for “everyday wines” from an upper limit of about 12€ to about 16€, putting a few second labels from Burgundy in range. Despite this, our average expenditure is likely under 10€ per bottle. This is because I have found a number of labels in the 7€ range that are good enough to drink just about every day. I will list and describe these wines later, but I am not sure that they can be found outside of France. Suffice to say, that for 16€ and under, you can find very drinkable wines from just about any region in France (even Burgundy!). Equivalent wines in the US, in my experience, tend to cost upward of $25.

Another change is that our social circle here is not so wine-centric as the one we left behind in California. The French, with some exceptions of course, view wine as a grocery item. One French friend who loves to drink wine and visit wineries, seldom spends more than 4€ for a bottle. There is a bit more wine talk among the English-speaking expat community here, but not all that much.

Our diets have gotten lighter here and we drink more whites and rosés, especially in spring and summer, but also in winter with fish, salads, and soups.

My purchasing habits here in Lyon are different than they were in the US. I have gradually expanded outward geographically, as each wine shop (cave) here is unique. Each shop has one or two (or more) very good French wines at lower price points; each shop has different wines from the various regions. Most larger supermarkets have some very nice wines on their shelves. Some have more international choices – I get good Spanish, Italian, and Middle Eastern varieties at an Armenian grocery store; Port wines at a Portuguese bodega near the Portuguese consulate; South African wines at a major chain grocery; and even some Penfold’s from my local wine shop.

I have begun to buy more wines online from the producers – wines from Lirac, Tavel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Pommard, Beaune, and the northern Rhône Valley. When we can, we visit wineries and co-ops nearby in Mâcon, Pouilly-Fuissé, also in Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, and Fleurie in the Beaujolais.

Since we have not been back to the US for over a year, our cave has about 6 bottles of California wines left. But it is fully stocked with other wines, about 90% are French, many purchased at the fall wine festivals (LINK) which I hope return this year.

About half the time, we drink wines which are under 20€ and we consider “everyday wines.” I will do another post featuring those wines soon.

As promised, here are our go-to everyday wines for ten euros or less. Le Versant is a favorite. They make other wines as well, but these are the ones available near us. These are wines that I would share with anyone who visits, as they represent their regions well. They are not of premiere cru quality, but they don’t have to be. I would say that each is worth 2 to 3 times what they sell for.


Le Versant Syrah 6,99 €

Le Versant Cabernet 6,99 €

Château Junayme, Fronsac Bordeaux blend 6,35 €

Château Etang des Colombes, Corbières Red Blend 7,40 €

La Bastide St. Dominic, Côte-du-Rhône Red Blend 7,99 €


Le Versant Chardonnay 6,99 €

Le Versant Sauvignon 6,99 €

Le Versant Viognier 5,60 €

Les Orfèvres du Vin, Mâconnaise Aligoté 7,50 €

So that’s what Dorianne and I are drinking most nights with dinner. France offers a wealth of very drinkable wines at very good prices, once you learn what to look for. As we all hope that the local vignerons manage to survive these frosts, let us be grateful for the French wines that we can enjoy today.

As always, your comments are welcomed.

Copyright 2021 – Jim Lockard


This is proving to be a well-spaced series of posts, the first in September 2017 (LINK), the second in April 2018 (LINK), and this, the third one in November 2018. Here is an update on the months since my last post.

We moved into our apartment in the 6ème Arrondissement of Lyon beginning in late June. Our shipment from the US arrived in early July, but we had some paining done and moved our shipment in early August. The good news was that there were no customs duty or taxes due since we were moving our primary residence (if it were a second home, the duty and taxes could be 50% of the value). The bad news was that an armoire was heavily damaged and about 6 boxes were missing – and not covered by our homeowner’s policy as we had been advised by our agent.

Our building is essentially a co-operative, with 9 owners, some descendants of the original builder and owner. Gas and electric hookups were generally easy, with some language issues, especially on the telephone. Our building fees and taxes are under 400 euros per quarter.



We needed to buy new appliances for the apartment, since in France, the owners take everything with them when they move (renters usually do, too); and none of our small electrics would work in France, so we needed to replace them as well. We also needed new furniture other than the three armoires, two book cases, one table, and the Steinway piano we had shipped. We had one lamp rewired for 220 current as well.

We happened to hit a sale period for most of our furniture and electronics – there are two or three general sales during the year, regulated by the government (to keep small business from severe undercutting by larger retailers). Shopping for furniture here is like in the US, you do your research and look online. We purchased most things in area retail stores and a few online. We ordered two convertible sofas in early August, just before the whole country goes on vacation, so they were not manufactured and delivered until September and October.

Cable TV and Internet services are like in the US only cheaper, as is cell phone service. Communications companies are required by law to keep prices low and provide customer service. We ended up with cell phones from one provider and cable TV and internet from another.

The new apartment has a cave, or basement, with a dirt floor. It is perfect for storing wine. Our building was built in 1847 and is a block from the Rhône River. There are 5 wine shops (also called caves) in our neighborhood, so the basement cave will be filling up in due order.



Our long stay visa renewal mentioned in Part 2 ran into a snag in June.

You renew your visas through a different agency than the one to which you initially apply through an embassy or consulate in your home nation. In Lyon, which is located in the Rhône-Alps Department (or state), that is at the Prefecture in Lyon. Appointments take about 3 months to obtain. When we went for our renewal, using a list of necessary paperwork from the OFII website (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration), we were told the list on the website was incorrect and we were given another list and told to make a new appointment. That was on June 28th. Our visas were to expire on July 12th and the next appointment available was in October.

So, we contacted an immigration attorney (advocat), who told us that the OFII official had illegally returned all of our application items and that our visas would remain in effect until our October appointment. He sent them a letter to this effect, which we took with us when we left the country and had no trouble returning during this period.

Then, on October 18th, we returned to the Prefecture and handed in all the correct paperwork (LINK) and were given our extension good through December 2019. Champagne followed.

As I noted in Part 1 of this series:

What we discovered is that it is very difficult to get a work visa for France unless you are hired by a French company or working for a foreign company and will have a temporary assignment in France. The law says that to qualify for a job, there must be no French citizen who can fill that job, and then, no EU citizen who can fill it. Unless you meet those criteria or are going to invest and start a business and hire ten French citizens, you can forget a work visa. There are no investment visas in France, such as the Golden Visa for real estate purchases in Portugal, Spain, Greece, or Malta.

We applied for a long-stay visitor visa (there are time constraints) (LINK) (LINK). Essentially, we had to show that we could afford to live in France for a year, had health insurance that covered us there, and were not wanted by the law. We submitted a stack of papers and had a short interview at the French Consulate in Los Angeles (you must apply in person at the embassy or consulate nearest to your US residence).

Now, we are legal for another year. After doing this for five years, we will be eligible to apply for permanent residence (like a Green Card) or French citizenship. The current wait for French citizenship applications to be processed is 2½ years, mostly due to an increase in applications from UK citizens due to Brexit.

Learning French is still a slow-go, in part because it’s a difficult language and in part because we have been back and forth to America so often. We are planning to be in France more during the coming year and to focus on learning the language better.



Meanwhile, the wine is still wonderful, abundant, and relatively cheap; the food is still glorious; and France is, well, France. I am again forgoing Beaujolais Nouveau this year, opting instead for some lush Côte-du-Rhônes and maybe a cru Beaujolais or two. Our first Lyon Christmas is approaching, including the famed Fete des Lumieres (LINK), plus a December trip to Paris. For our first New Years Eve, we will celebrate with friends in Mâcon with what they call Champagne-a-Go-Go, which apparently means large quantities of Champagne. We will be staying over.



As always, your comments are welcomed, as are any good tips for expats.


Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: I will be covering a very interesting wine conference in Portugal in June. The MUST Wine Summit: Fermenting Ideas (LINK). If you can’t go, you can see my posts about it coming in late June!


A very special experience awaits you. If you are a wine lover and are eager to experience some of the greatest wine regions in the world, we have a journey for you. Seven nights in France, with time on the left and right banks of the Gironde River to explore the tastes of Bordeaux wines, followed by time in Paris, the City of Light, and a day in the Champagne Region to savor the famous wines of that historic area. This intimate, small group tour features lodging in fine hotels, meals in châteaus, visits to the legendary vineyards, and tastings of some of the great wines of the world.

Journey to French Wine Country 3

In Paris, we will pair wine and food at specially selected restaurants, have a literary walking tour with a local author, and even have some free time to explore on your own or just relax and sit in a sidewalk cafè. All the while, you will learn more about wine in the vineyard and at the château. All tours will be in English, but there will be interactions with French people.

Bordeaux Treasures

Led by American wine blogger Jim Lockard (JimLockardOnWine.com), who has traveled extensively in France and who will be joined by local experts, you will get the inside story of some of the great wines of Bordeaux and Champagne and have access to places not generally available to the traveling public. This small group experience will give you the opportunity to interact with the guides and the winemakers and sommeliers. You will be joined by a few other wine lovers and share gourmet meals and luxury transportation.

St Emilion Image

“The Bordeaux/Paris/Champagne Tour is unlike anything offered in the travel industry today. I looked for the trip I wanted to take and could not find it – so I created it, in partnership with travel expert Steve Hooks of Journey Different.” ~ Jim Lockard

Now you have the opportunity to join them for the wine experience of a lifetime.

For more information and to register visit  DeluxeWineTours.com (LINK)


Every now and then, something really creative is invented in the wine world, despite its ancient origins and long traditions. So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I present to you the latest such invention: THE CHAMBONG! The bong for Champagne.

Wine - Champagne Bong

From Drinks Business publication: “The drinking vessel, which fits up to 4 fluid ounces (120ml) of liquid, is available online at a price of $25. It is made of borosilicate glass and is dishwasher safe.

The Chambong’s creators said the invention came about in early 2014. It was inspired by the Super Bowl and was originally intended as a device for smoking marijuana.

“We had an epiphany the week prior of the big event to create a ‘super bowl’,” they explained.

“The resulting device of our imagination harnessed an ability to hold an extraordinary amount of cannabis, however was sadly non-functional as a smoking apparatus.

“Fortune would prevail several evening later, while onlookers examining the piece remarked at how it looked like a fantastic wine ‘shooter’.

“They promptly filled it with Champagne and experienced the resulting magic. And thus was born the glory that is the Chambong.”

The Chambong has reportedly sold out its since its launch.”

There was no comment from anyone in the Champagne industry.



I am very pleased of officially announce the launch of DELUXEWINETOURS.COM (LINK), my new venture with Journey Different, Inc. to provide unique wine tours in France. Our focus is on bringing wine lovers into contact with wine makers and others in the industry in the great wine regions of France.

2015-05-07 14.08.47
Chateau Guibeau and its Organic Vineyards in St. Emilion are on our Itinerary!

Why France? Because France is the modern-day cradle of all things wine. Wine may not have originated there, but modern wine culture is centered there. And, it is a truly beautiful country, offering great cities such as Paris and Lyon that can be added to itineraries and provide a much richer experience.

You are invited to join us for this unique and exciting inaugural tour!

2015-04-29 18.08.03
Le Wine Bar, the top-rated wine bar in Bordeaux is on our itinerary!

Our first small group tour, scheduled for March 15-22, 2016, is to include Bordeaux, Paris, and Champagne.

We will combine visits to châteaus with great meals (some of them IN the châteaus) and fine wine tastings, wine seminars, luxury accommodations, local guides and experts, time in the vineyards, opportunities to purchase fine wines to ship home, a literary walking tour, TGV train travel, and more!

Did I mention that there would be great food? 

Visit our website (LINK) for all of the information and to register at a limited time discounted price.

Tell your wine-loving friends about this great opportunity to experience the best of French wine culture with me!

Wine - Paris Wine Shop Display
Large Format Bottles in a Paris Wine Shop Window.


The food at Noma changes, sometimes daily. It is based on the seasons, on what has been foraged that morning, on what the chefs are trying to do, and, I am sure, on other factors that I know nothing about. Everything that we had was unique and clearly well thought out. I did not like everything, but I did not hate anything served. There was quite a bit of “sour” taste on the menu, and some on the wine list. There were some dishes that were interesting but not memorable. And there were some that soared. Those experiences were different for each of us at our table for four – Dorianne, me, and friends Ginger and Patricia. Three of us opted for the wine paring, Ginger opted for the juice pairing – a different juice blend comes at the same time that new wines are introduced. She raved about the juices, and we all tasted some and they were very, very good.

The presentations were unique, generally attractive and appealing, and mostly, delicious. There were lots of flowers, some rocks, mushrooms, moss, leaves, dough, lobster, bone marrow, berries, and many things that I had never seen on a plate before.

The restaurant is very nicely appointed, but not flashy at all. Rough-hewn wood, lots of gray colored fabrics and surfaces; you might say that the dining room is understated, as you might expect in Denmark.

2015-07-22 12.05.24
The Dining Room with the Wine and Juice Cooler.

The tables are simply set. There is a clear effort to have guests feel welcome and to make the experience as unpretentious as possible. Staff are friendly, direct, and relatively informal. They do what they do very well, are always in motion, but have time for any query or request.


2015-07-22 12.00.21
Turnip and Unripe Strawberry Marinated in Aquavit with chamomile and other berries. Served on Ice.

2015-07-22 11.54.48
The First Wine – Not on the Menu – A Champagne.

2015-07-22 12.07.16
The Bread Bowl.

The first three courses are not considered a part of the pairing dinner. We were served a Champagne for all of these courses, a dufour par charles champagne “les instantanes”, which I could not find in an internet search (found the producer, but not this wine). Suffice to say that it was very well made, light and crisp, and you likely will only get it at Noma. The first item served to us was a small bowl of ice topped with turnip and unripe strawberry marinated in Aquavit. There are obviously other things sitting on top of the slice of turnip and the strawberry, berries, flowers and such – there are always other things on the dishes that are not described on the menu, but are described by the server. The server, by the way, will be either one of the wait staff or someone from the kitchen who worked on the dish being served.

This dish, eaten with the fingers, was very tart (Aquavit and unripe things) and the Champagne was a wonderful match, giving a sense of ripeness, but not too much. I was thinking that they know what they are doing. Smiles, oohs and aahs, and photo taking all around the table (I stopped the server to photograph each wine bottle as it was served – they were wonderfully patient). A very good start.

The bread, served in a felt basket, made from native Oland wheat and accompanied by both butter and rapeseed oil was delicious. The basket was refilled at least twice during the meal.

2015-07-22 12.09.24
Summer Cabbage Leaves and White Currants.

2015-07-22 12.09.44
The sauce being added to the Summer Cabbage for Patricia.

Next came summer cabbage with white currants and a white currant broth that was added at the table. This continued the tendency toward sour, unripened flavors. It could be classified as a soup, I suppose. Again, the Champagne was right there to extend and ripen the experience of the food.

2015-07-22 12.19.39
The First Shoots of the Season with Scallop Marinade.

2015-07-22 12.20.21
Dorianne Looks On as the Dish is Explained.

Next, course #3, the first shoots of the season with a scallop marinade, again with the Champagne. The plants were tiny and tender, some of them toasted, and after enjoying the presentation, you mix them all together in the thin layer of marinade and eat them in a few bites with your fingers. The rush of various flavors and the marinade tasting of the sea was delicious. After doing yeoman’s duty, it was time to part with the Champagne. Note: they do refill your glasses as often as you like.

2015-07-22 12.30.272015-07-22 12.30.33

Now, the actual wine pairing begins! With Sake! A 2014 Daigo No Shizuku Terada Honke (LINK), to be exact, which would take us through the next three courses. Full-bodied with a soft and approachable taste; hints of citrus and a long finish.

2015-07-22 12.31.02
Sweet Peas and Sliced Kelp.

2015-07-22 12.31.08
Sweet Peas and Sliced Kelp – Close Up.

The first course of the pairing was sweet peas with sliced kelp. There was a cheese under the kelp – like a ricotta but not a ricotta; and nasturtiums in with the peas (we will see more nasturtiums), all in a sauce. Very tasty with a mixture of textures and flavors. The sake went well with this.

2015-07-22 12.45.43
Flower Tart.

One of the most picturesque dishes, the flower tart. Various petals over a vegetable spread and placed on something like a cracker. We ate it like a small slice of pizza. The sake was less successful here, as it was far more tart than the “tart,” so to speak. This experience reminded me of my childhood, sampling most of the flora in the neighborhood. This dish prompted a nice discussion of all of the things that we ate as children that were not from the home larder. A delicious and fun dish.

2015-07-22 12.49.37
New Danish Potato and Lavage.

2015-07-22 12.51.56
New Danish Potato and Lavage – Opened.

Next came new Danish potatoes wrapped in a lavage leaf, residing on a bed of two kinds of salt (it was recommended that we not eat the salt). This dish was intriguing. The potatoes, once revealed by opening the leaf, were to be eaten with a sharpened Elm twig (very Paleo). They were warm, soft, and, when touched to the salt, delicious! The leaf was also edible, but had absorbed too much salt to be enjoyable. The sake added a fullness to the experience and was a good pairing for this dish, and it completed its duty with this serving.

2015-07-22 13.00.03
Sweet Shrimps Wrapped in Nasturtium Leaves.

2015-07-22 13.00.51
2013 Strohmeier Weiss #6 – Tromen Liebe and Zeit, 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Austria.

2015-07-22 13.07.46

The next course was sweet shrimps wrapped in nasturtium leaves with a seafood broth. Very tasty – the shrimp and the leaves were a good mix of textures and flavor. The next wine was 2013 Strohmeier Weiss #6 – Tromen Liebe and Zeit, 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc from Austria (LINK). This is really a nice white wine. I have loved the whites (weiss) of Austria since visiting there in 2009. I am a particular fan of Grüner Veltliner, the wonderful white grape so popular there and now being grown in California. But I digress – the Strohmeier has the nice acidity that one expects from Austrian whites, plus, the Chardonnay gives it a fuller mouth feel. It was a great accompaniment to the shrimps in nasturtium. Of course, this could be my appreciation for a more familiar wine after the sake.

2015-07-22 13.11.05
Cabbage and Roses.

2015-07-22 13.11.48
Cabbage and Roses Uncovered.

Next came cabbage and roses; dried and candied cabbage leafs sandwiched around samphire (sea asparagus) and rose petals. The leaves were crunchy and the middle was soft and creamy. Eaten with your hands. The 2013 Strohmeier Weiss #6 accompanied this dish very well, giving a smoothness to the experience.

So that is the first half of the Noma dinner, nine courses with nine more to go; and five more wines (by the way, no red wines)! Those will be depicted and described in the next installment, Part 3.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard


During our recent visit to the Penedès DO near Barcelona, we also visited the legendary Cava producer, Freixenet (LINK). Known in America mostly as a producer of very cheap sparkling wine suitable for college parties and sports celebrations (where most of the wine is shot out of the bottle), it is often hard for U.S. consumers to imagine high-end Freixenet Cavas. But that is what we had during our visit to the winery.

2015-04-15 16.18.12 2015-04-15 16.19.40

Cava (LINK) is the Spanish sparkling wine, similar in processing to French Champagne, but using different grapes and the name “Cava” is not limited to a specific geographic region or appellation. The primary grapes used in Cava are:

  • Macabeu (white)
  • Parellada (white)
  • Xarel·lo (white)

Other grapes:

  • Chardonnay (white)
  • Pinot Noir (red)
  • Garnacha (red)
  • Monastrell (red)

Freixenet uses the first three almost exclusively.

We did not do a tour of the extensive facility (90 million bottles per year) in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. We went right to the tasting room, after wandering around a bit and seeing some of the marketing vehicles the winery has used over the years and some of the “art” on display in the main building.

2015-04-15 16.17.50 2015-04-15 16.18.08 2015-04-15 16.18.16

The tasting room is in the 3rd floor of a large production building that has a large gift shop on the first floor where you can get your “inexpensive” black bottle of Freixenet  that you remember from your formative years, along with lots of other things. The tasting room is large and well appointed – and handled a tour group of about 50 young people easily while we were there.

2015-04-15 16.37.25 2015-04-15 16.37.28

We opted to taste four wines from the Cuevèe Prestige Collection, their higher end cavas, and one, the Brut Nature Reserva 2009, that is the favorite of the locals in Spain. Now, Dorianne is more of a sparkling wine fan than I am, and she was the driving force behind our visit – having many fond, if foggy, memories of evenings where that black bottle played a role. But I was game, so we tasted.

2015-04-15 16.39.14 2015-04-15 16.48.47

We began with the Trepat 2013, a Blanc de noirs” style cava, that is a single vineyard wine – rare in this business. The wine was sharp, tart, and had a very strong degree of carbonation. This would be a great wine with a ripe cheese.

Next, we tasted the Cuvèe DS 2007 Gran Reserva, using Macabeo, Xarel•lo and Parellada grapes. It is only produced when the harvest is very good. This wine was more balanced than the Trepat and had a nice sense of fruit and not too much sugar. 

Then, the Brut Nature Reserva 2009, the cava that sells the best in Spain (according to the tasting room staff). The wine is only produced in certain years. It is a smooth and well-crafted cava that would accompany a meal of fish or chicken, or, well, just about anything.

Next, the Riserva Real, a non-vintage cava, made in the Champagne style, meaning a blend of vintages. This cava, like some of the others, is aged in chestnut barrels. This wine was very nicely crafted, with a hint of minerality on the nose and a very smooth mouthfeel. Fruit and spice. A really nice sparkling wine.

Finally, the CASA SALA Brut Nature, Gran Reserva 2005, the highest priced wine we tasted. This wine was similar to the Riserva Real, but not quite as well balanced. The wine is  produced at the original properly of the family (The Casa Sala’s) via manual harvest, pressed in a wine press from the Champagne region that is more than 150 years old, fermentation with native yeast, and wine decanting and maintenance by gravity, without using pumps. This brut nature has no dosage and is reminiscent of the traditional cavas of 50 years ago. Two traditional grape varieties are used for the blend, Xarel•lo and Parellada, and their percentages in the cuvée change from year to year. 

If you come to the Barcelona region, a visit to the Pendedès DO is worth your while. I would say that the better cavas of Spain can take a seat beside most French Champagnes, and, like most Spanish wines, they are a great value.