Every day brings a new adventure as we travel the Champagne Route from our home base situated in the village of Le Breuil. Our travels on the last day of our trip took us to an area we have not explored previously, the western portion of the Marne Valley. Before we’d left on our trip, Gary Westby, the Champagne buyer for our local wine shop, K&L Wines, gave us a tip about a small Champagne producer making some fabulous Champagne. The name of the house is Collard-Picard and is located in the village of Villers sous Chatillon. Olivier Collard is the winemaker, and his wife Caroline Picard runs the PR side of the business. Both Olivier and Caroline come from families who have been renowned grape growers in Champagne for years.
We tried to set up an appointment to visit Collard-Picard from our Le Breuil home, but without an answering machine or voicemail on our end, it was difficult to make contact. Finally, we decided to head to Villers sous Chatillon and take our chances, hoping to visit Collard-Picard without an appointment. The drive itself was worth the effort. This area is stunning and lined with tiny villages. We find the entrance gate to Collard-Picard open and enter the visitor center. Olivier Picard appears from his office, and we ask if it is possible to visit and taste some Champagne. With a quick phone call, Olivier rearranges an afternoon appointment so he can spend some time with us. He makes us feel comfortable and tells us that he is happy to receive us.
This is a remarkable winery in more ways than one. This is a new facility (2005 opening) and beautifully appointed by Caroline Picard. She also has designed the beautiful labels for the various Champagne wines produced. The winemaking equipment is the latest. The grape press is only one of five in France and Collard-Picard is one of the few Champagne houses using sizeable wooden oak barrels to age their wine. Olivier Picard adamantly states that the most critical aspect of making Champagne is what happens in the vineyards. The state-of-the-art equipment only puts the finishing touches on the Champagne. The Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier come from Olivier’s family vineyard nearby, and the Chardonnay grapes come from Caroline Picard’s vineyard in the Blanc de Blanc region of Champagne.
After a brief tour of the winery, Olivier opens two bottles of Champagne for us to taste. We begin with the Collard-Picard “Cuvee Selection” Brut Champagne and then move on to the “Prestige” Brut Champagne, this one having been aged in the oak barrels. Ah, what a magnificent wine! The wood just adds an extra flavor to what is a delightful Champagne. We purchase one of each of these beautiful Champagne wines to celebrate the end of our wonderful trip to Champagne later that evening.
Olivier points out that his production of 100,000 bottles per year is perfect to enable him to maintain the care that results in the quality of the wine. His wines are in high demand, so there are few new clients that he can allow to export or sell his Champagne. Should you ever find yourself in the Champagne region, make an appointment to visit this fantastic Champagne house. Luckily for us, K&L Wines is close by, and we can easily shop for this delicious Champagne.