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Champagne 和Coteaux Champenois:爭「氣」孖兄弟

提起Champagne,大家的腦袋中旋即浮現的大概是節日或特別日子跟眾友人或心上人舉杯共酌的片段──法語中謂之Joie de vivre,且譯為生活逸趣 。19世紀初,香檳酒坊著力灌輸香檳區氣泡酒就是那沾著貴氣、予人愉悅時光的葡萄酒選擇,奏效至今。1936年,香檳區成功爭取立法保護香檳氣泡酒的生產範圍、方法、技藝過程等。今日,提起香檳,大可省略氣泡酒三個字 ﹣ 香檳跟氣泡酒彷已劃上等號。

寥人知曉的是香檳區的孖兄弟 Coteaux Champenois。法定地理範圍跟香檳區完全一樣的 Coteaux Champenois,在1974年成立,包含來自香檳區「沒有氣泡」的一眾干紅、干白及玫瑰酒。香檳區自14世紀中世紀時代開始有釀酒記錄,那時候釀的是呈玫瑰酒顏色及口感的紅酒。 礙於700多年前氣候過涼的關係,當年的香檳區干紅,相對向南不過二百多公里外的Burgundy,見是失色。

香檳氣泡酒於200多年後出現,熟為人知的Dom Perignon 修士窮一生大大提升氣泡酒釀製技術,但也待他死後百多年,香檳區釀造氣泡酒的潮流才成氣候。

Coteaux Champenois這個較 Champagne晚了四十年才被法律認可及保護的產區,論釀酒歷史更見悠久,論名聲卻又差得遠矣,難兄難弟。

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Benoit Lahaye Coteaux Champenois Bouzy Rouge (Source: Vivino.com)

Coteaux Champenois「沒有氣泡」的葡萄酒中, 以紅酒生產為主,用上Pinot Noir釀製,產量之少,讓這酒款難於海外市場找到。全球暖化,讓香檳酒農更易維繫該區久遠的傳統,釀造那酸度清爽,菓風輕盈,濃郁車厘子香的Pinot Noir。為好奇一試的,Paul Bara Coteaux Champenois Bouzy Rouge NV (Cru World Wine: $240) 及Benoit Lahaye Coteaux Champenois Bouzy Rouge 2011 (Wineworld: HK$310) 是性價比高的選擇。大家較熟悉的007 占士邦酒莊 Bollinger,出品Coteaux Champenois La Cote Aux Enfants 2009 (Ginsberg+Chan: HK$600),屬酒體較飽滿的例子。

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Bollinger Coteaux Champenois La Cote Aux Enfants (Source: Vivino.com)

其餘經典的選擇,恐怕只好有待大家下回法國之旅,搜購Larmandier Bernier Coteaux Champenois Vertus Rouge 1er Cru,以及Louis Roederer 自2015年起新釀的Coteaux Champenois Mareuil-sur-Ay Rouge。

待友人再搞 Champagne wine dinner,是時候帶上一支來自Coteaux Champenois的黑馬之選了。

Photo Credit:
http://www.vivino.com
http://www.wineterroirs.com

文章初載於AM730

Modern-day Glamping Gypsy

If you own a dictionary that you bought more than five years ago, chances are under letter G, the word “Glamping” has yet to set down its roots in the jungle of dictionary-worthy English words. Born a buzzword, this lovechild of “glamour” and “camping” found favour with modern-day travellers. Once a species of outdoor sport, camping has reincarnated into a bohemian form of travel: Glamping. Last month I found myself in the heart of England, sniffing out the best of Glamping gems, while turning away from conventional luxury housed within hotels and inns.

“Off the beaten path” is the leitmotif of Glamping. The Ninks, host of our first Glamping destination, forewarned us that GPS will not get us to our quaint, circa-1920s bohemian circus wagon. We were given very detailed instructions, and as we slowly drove through one hamlets after another. Like orienteers we scan for signs and marks described, before arriving at the Ninks’ beautiful farm property in the village of English Frankton. Right by the stable farm buildling erects the 1920s Nink’s wagon which has now retired from circus life and become a Glamping hotspot for curious travellers and nostalgic circus performers.

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Fascinating interior of Nink’s Wagon!

It was well into twilight hours when we arrived. The receding glow of dusk outlined the undulating countryside. The very lovely Mrs. Nink has switched on the exterior festive lights, bohemian lamps and walled chandeliers within the wagon, and made a crackling fire in the metal fireplace for us. We spared no time to start exploring the wagon. It was no large space but the dainty decor of almost a century worth of memories and stories of people whom have travelled and lived in this circus wagon that captivated our attention. Mrs. Nink herself was once a ringmaster herself, and Nink’s Wagon was her home years back. A modest selection of modern equipments were brought into the wagon to preserve the vintage look and feel: microwave, kettle, toaster and an outdoor fire pit BBQ stove for those whom crave having a grill or roasted marshmallows likewise.

Waking up next morning is no easy feat. The cozy warm down blanket and fluffy mattresses promised amazing rest. Right behind Nink’s Wagon is the stable farm building where the Ninks kept their Appaloosa horses and Shetland ponies. Save some carrots and you are sure to receive a very warm welcome from these handsome friends whom definitely have a weakness for crunchy treats!

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Tanner’s Wine Merchant flagship store on Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, part of the structure date back to 1490s and is recognized Grade 2 heritage building by the UK government!

Despite being unplottable by GPS, Glamping at Nink’s Wagon is far from putting ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Mrs. Nink helpfully drew up maps for us, highlighting Shrewsbury and Llangollen as the best two towns to visit, both just about an hour’s drive away from the wagon. Boasting well-preserved medieval abbeys and churches, Shrewsbury is a charming, quintessentially English, county town that appears to have found its way to balance the almost unstoppable influx of commercial brands with a wealth of independently operated small businesses. As wine lovers nothing is more exciting than visiting the flagship store of a century old wine merchant – Shrewsbury was the cradle of 143-year-old Tanner’s Wine Merchant. The Shrewsbury Market Hall is another hidden jewel where you can buy anything from local cheeses to cloche hats!

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Quintessentially Welsh town Llangollen in a sun-drenched late afternoon!

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Take a steam train ride (to enjoy with lots of cream teas!) to and fro Llangollen and the town of Corwen – end of this month marks the 150th anniversary of this line!

A trip to the enchanting Welsh town Llangollen ended our Nink’s Wagon experience on a high note. The Ninks welcomed us into their farmhouse for a cup of tea before we set off with Mr. Nink to Llangollen, the birthplace of Mrs. Nink. With just about 4000 residents, Llangollen sits on River Dee, which runs through the heart of the town, separating the bustling main street and the icon restaurant The Corn Mill from the steam train station and access to historical trails that bring you up to the medieval ruins of Castell Dinas Bran.

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A quick 30-minute hike up to the hill to reach the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran where it perchs proudly over the town of Llangollen since 12th century!

Before departure we stopped by Mr. Nink’s specialty furniture shop on the Main Street, and were greeted by the jovial company of his friendly neighbors. Not surprisingly, from them we discovered a handful landmarks that warrant a second visit to this small, yet filled with historical and natural wonders, town. “In five, or even ten years’ time, you will come back and find Llangollen exactly the same as it is now,” remarked the bespectacled jolly lady, whom run the cafe next door. I surely hope so, for the charm of Llangollen is timeless.

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The charming Mr. Nink and his little shop in Llangollen. Shopkeeping is just a pastime when he is not with Mrs. Nink sipping tea in their beautiful home in English Frankton!

Next up, we will travel deeper into Northern Wales, exploring the beautiful Llyx Peninsula, where I stumbled over the Lord of the Rings-inspired Glamping village. We stayed in the trademarked concept EyePod, a lovely stargazing-friendly pod; neighbour of two equally interesting structures: The Hobbits.

Summary of Features

Nink’s Wagon
English Frankton, Ellesmere, Shropshire
http://www.qualityunearthed.co.uk/accommodation/wagons/showmans-wagon-ellesmere

Shrewsbury’s Highlights
Tanner’s Wine Merchant
26 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1XD
http://www.tanners-wines.co.uk/

Shrewsbury Market Hall
The Market Hall, Claremont Street, Shrewsbury, SY1 1QG
http://www.markethallshrewsbury.co.uk/

Shrewsbury Abbey
Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury SY2 6BA
http://www.shrewsburyabbey.com/

Llangollen’s Highlights
Castell Dinas Bran
Llangollen, Denbighshire, Northeast Wales
http://www.castlewales.com/dinas.html

Llangollen Steam Train Railway
Llangollen Railway, The Station, Abbey Road, Llangollen, Denbighshire, LL208SN
http://www.llangollen-railway.co.uk/the-line/

The Corn Mill Restaurant
The Corn Mill, Dee Lane, Llangollen, LL20 8PN
http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/cornmill/homepage/

半工讀天堂

親愛的馬爾代夫,差不多是時候要跟您慶祝兩周月快樂啦!轉眼間,我在這海天一色的國度已待上兩個月。大家的噓寒問暖,總夾着一條問題:在馬爾代夫工作,是怎樣的?

馬爾代夫為人所知的,是這個水鄉澤國,滿綴超豪華渡假村的一面。這個全世界最平坦的國度,整個國家最高點不過兩點四米,她的藍天白雲、水清沙幼的陽光與海灘,及世界級的潛水熱點,備受全球各地高端旅客擁戴。大家大多沒留意的,是在馬爾代夫生活才知道的一面:國教是回教的馬爾代夫,整個國家面積99%是海洋;首都馬累是個最寛處不過兩公里的小島,全國幾乎所有東西連同天然資源也是進口的。島與島之間的交通,以快艇及海機為主;燃料因進口的關係並不廉宜,所以在渡假村工作的人,大多隔幾個月才離開工作所在的小島。回教的規條限定供本地人居住的小島,不容許任何酒精,衣著也必須嚴格保守。相對其他以陽光與海灘為主題的渡假勝地,馬爾代夫可謂並沒有任何消遣或夜生活可言。

然而,享受工作及生活與否,終究看態度。 我的工作,每天早上十時半開始,午夜十二時結束,其中偶爾有兩小時小休;一周工作六天,高峰期好幾個星期無休。在小島當侍酒師,管理整個渡假村所有餐廳及渡假小屋內的葡萄酒儲藏,相對在大城市整幢式酒店或餐廳工作,分別最大在於物流。在這邊工作,常要體力勞動,把葡萄酒從中央存庫分送,每周三次:自己一個人搬運四個大木箱,共74瓶葡萄酒,當下省卻了去健身的需要了!又由於並非每家餐廳都駐有侍酒師,當客人有需要的時候,必需盡快趕去。踏單車工作,於是成為了我每天必做的事情!來自世界各地的名流及富人來訪,每天除了需要不斷加強葡萄酒知識外,更不可忘記留心新聞大事、也需提昇個人修養,注重言行舉止。快兩個月在天堂的生活,出奇的充實,沒半點悶場!

工餘時間,小島生活是閑情逸緻,還是無聊苦悶,因人而異。我的小島天堂,繞全島跑一圈不過三公里,跟我一樣的島民大概三百多人,住在小島樹林茂密的心臟。心臟地帶佔全島面積大概百分之三十左右,餘下的空間留給願意付上千美金留宿一夜的旅客。主島上沒有超市、戲院等。三百多員工的休憇及居住空間,面積跟香港大球場差不多,幾幢宿舍外加一個迷你足球場、小小的游泳池、健身房、飯堂及水吧。好動的可以夥三五同伴,租小艇去釣魚或鄰近荒島浮潛。簡單的生活,讓我發覺生活原來可以這麼簡單。

適應馬爾代夫如斯獨特的工作及生活環境,志在於全球最頂尖的酒店邊工作邊學習(這就是我的「半工讀」),豐富個人見識及經驗,也好讓工作履歷勝人一籌。人各有志,身邊不乏很有志氣的同儕,把青春都燃燒在事業發展上。十個如斯有志氣的朋友,大半數極努力工作,長年累月的加班、工時長、老實不喜歡所幹的事情也在所不辭,笑說今天的努力,是為他朝「破地獄」而花的。我心裏甚是佩服,要知道堅持做一份自己不大喜歡的差事,並非易事。

我姑且把自己跟身邊一些毅然創業的朋友擠到少數一族。我敢說我們投放到工作上的時間及努力不比眾人少,甚至可能更多(有些創業的朋友其實都有正職的,雙線發展事業,睡眠和休憇的時間自然少了)。唯一的分別,大概是我們着實很喜歡自己的工作。一份熱忱,讓我另闢葡萄酒事業,日夜搬抬跑動、假期例必上班也心甘情願。一份好奇,讓我把工餘時間及人工都花在進修上,為的是前程,為的也是興趣。

天堂,於我而言,並不是馬爾代夫,而是找到一份一輩子都懷着「半工讀」心態的事業。帶著熱誠及不斷學習的,哪裏也是天堂,甚麼差事也是dream job!

原文初載於CosmoGirl!Hong Kong

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