I hold the opinion that the French are, generally, not much good at marketing, an opinion I have formed from many observations over the years. It's a generalisation, of course, and like all generalisations, there are exceptions. Champagne is one.
If anyone can be said to be the inventor of the fizzy white wine we know as Champagne, it has to be Dom (Pierre) Perignon, a monk whose astonished and delighted cry of "Brothers, come quickly! I am drinking the stars!" announced its birth (according to legend). Dom Perignon died in 1715, and here we are in 2016, three hundred years later, and the drink that came to be known as Champagne still carries a certain cachet.
It commands a price premium of anything over 100% above rival products that are produced in exactly the same way, with essentially the same ingredients. But if you are celebrating something important, and the fizzy wine you are serving isn't actual Champagne from a certain specific area in France, well, you're doing it wrong. Perhaps your heart isn't in it, perhaps you are not 100% committed to this project, or perhaps the happy couple will eventually divorce.
Pure marketing genius.
Having a short spell between customers, we decided to take a recce in Champagne, swinging back through Burgundy, over a week. We decided to stay in Epernay, rather than Reims, although the latter is supposedly the capital of the Champagne region. Epernay is more central to the vineyards, and I think it was a good call.
We arrived on a Sunday afternoon when everything is shut, and with a few hours to kill, we spotted a nearby car boot sale and moseyed along for a look. I got 2 single CDs and a double for 3 euros, and a little metallic-coloured porcelain vase for the same price.
The difference between this car boot sale and one that you might find in our corner of the Mayenne was in the drinks being handed around between friendly locals. In Mayenne, the bottle would contain carefully nurtured, illegal, apple-based hooch. The anonymous bottle at this car boot held a white wine coloured, highly fizzy drink. Welcome to Champagne.