Greetings from Robbi and Jim

A warm welcome to the more than 6000 members of our Aroma Tours newsletter in over 30 countries around the world.

As we move towards the end of another fabulous year, we feel truly blessed to have shared so many delightful moments with this season's Aroma Travellers.

Our attention is now fully focused on next year which is already off to a flying start.

Provence Lavender Tour and Loire Valley Sojourn

Robbi and I are excited to announce the addition of two wonderful new tours: our Provence Lavender Tour and Loire Valley Sojourn.

We have had a lot of fun creating these delightful journeys and know that they will become two of our most successful and well loved tours in the future.

We invite you visit our Information Request Page for more details.

Our latest Memorable Photos

We have compiled another page of memorable photos from this year's adventures for your viewing pleasure at Memorable Photos 2007-4

Please remember that there are also hundreds of other lovely photos that we have collected over the years for you to enjoy in our Picture Gallery Pages

If you have not already done so, we also invite you to read some of the Messages of Thanks we have received from this year's Aroma Travellers.

Aroma Travellers Our Thanks

One of the main reasons that we continue to grow and flourish, is the on-going support we receive from our past Aroma Travellers.

On all indications, next year we will be enjoying the largest number of return travellers we have ever had. Currently the level is 32% and it is a great delight for us to be welcoming back so many good friends.

Robbi and I would also like to give our heart-felt thanks to all of you who continue to support us with your kind words and referrals and by spreading news of our tours and retreats amongst your friends.

Current Booking Status

After the fabulous start to our upcoming tour season, we are continuing to enjoy a healthy rate of bookings for all of our tours.

Our current booking status is:-

If you are planning to join us in 2008 and would like to reserve your place, please visit our Tour Booking Page

If you have any questions, please contact us at info@aroma-tours.com and it will be our pleasure to assist you.

  • Our up-to-the-moment booking status is available via our Calendar Page

Aroma Tours Vision Statement ( Repeat )

Earlier this year, Robbi was a speaker at several conferences and as the finale for her presentation, "Living a Visionary Life - Rekindling Purpose and Passion", we created a Vision Statement for Aroma Tours to illustrate our journey over the years.

The combination of photos and music did a wonderful job of expressing the passion we have for our chosen adventure - Aroma Tours. We hope that you enjoy it.

  • Please turn on your computer's speakers, and if you internet link is a bit slow please be patient while the video file loads.

The Story of Champagne - Part 4

If you have not already read the earlier chapters of this fascinating story, I highly recommend that you read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 ( found in our past newsletters )
 before you continue on with Part 4 below.

The Story of Champagne continues:-

In France, the declaration of war against Germany on the 3rd of August 1914, was initially met with widespread enthusiasm and despite the terrible experiences of the Franko-Prussian war ( circa 1870 ), there was a general belief that the French with their elan and bravery would prevail.

However, after only three weeks and a series of bloody engagements, one hundred and sixty thousand French soldiers lay dead and under the relentless onslaught of the German's big guns and superior fire-power, France's campaign was in tatters.

The Champenois knew that the storm would soon be upon them and in early September with the French army in full retreat, the Germans marched triumphantly into Champagne's two largest cities, Reims and Epernay.

After several days of "adjustment" - taunting by the Champenois and displays of overpowering military might by the Germans - life began to settle into a new normality. The Germans, sure of ultimate victory, viewed Champagne as a valuable new fiefdom and were keen for champagne production to resume as soon as possible. The mayor of Reims posted a public notice, pleading with his citizens: "I beg you to avoid any provocation. It is not your responsibility to try and change events; it is your responsibility not to aggravate them. We beg of you silence, dignity and prudence." 

In Epernay, champagne maker Maurice Pol-Roger assumed the roll of mayor ( all of the public servants had fled ) and used his influence and personal fortune ( not to mention a great deal of bravery ) to ensure the peace: "I will stay no matter what happens, to reassure and to comfort those who wish to leave but cannot. And I will do all that is humanly possible to defend them."

The Germans now full of confidence, paused to regroup and resupply before moving towards the grand prize: Paris. What they hadn't consider however, was the resilience and ingenuity of the French troops who opposed them and as they crossed the Marne river in mid September they found themselves severely tested. 

The "Battle of the Marne" as it became known, was fought within sight of Pommery and Greno's famous champagne house, where the vignerons were granted a ring-side seat as the opposing armies exchanged avalanches of deadly fire. Gradually it became clear that the French were gaining the upper hand and just as suddenly as they had begun, the occupations of Reims and Epernay were over. 

In Reims the mood was euphoric, with celebrations and joyful tears accompanied by many a glass of champagne. The Germans had been repelled, however, it was not the decisive victory that many thought it to be and far from being defeated, "The Boche" were busily digging themselves into the hills outside the city. The war was not over, rather it had only just begun and the very next day, the sounds of celebration were replaced by the roar of German artillery. The obliteration of Reims has begun!

As the shelling intensified, the Remois looked on in horror and disbelief as the German guns began targeting their magnificent cathedral, where France's Kings and Queens had been crowned and emperors created. Despite the worldwide outrage it caused, the Germans knew that by destroying the cathedral, they would be dealing a devastating blow to French morale. 

Over the next few years Champagne was transformed from a land of vineyards, fields and beautiful towns and villages, into a blood-soaked  moonscape, scared with trenches and barbed wire. Reims suffered 1,051 consecutive days of bombardment which would result in ninety-eight percent of the city being destroyed! To escape the "avalanche of iron and fire" above, the Remois were forced to flee underground to live in the crayeres ( wine caves ) and the world over, Reims became known as "the martyred city".

The German's long range artillery ( their largest gun, Big Bertha had a range of 75 miles ) inflicted serious damage on virtually every champagne house including Ruinart Pere and Fils, Pommery and Greno, Roederer and Moet and Chandon. As a result, just like the people of Reims, champagne production was forced to flee underground into the crayeres.

In spite of gunfire, shelling, gas attacks and unexploded bombs, the Champenois ( including women, children and the elderly ) heroically continued the work of tending and harvesting what was left of their grapevines and became a symbol of French national pride and resistance in the face of overwhelming adversity. Many would loose their lives so-doing!

1917 began as an impossible year for France and the Champenois, with the war bogged down in a deadly stalemate and everything needed for champagne production ( and just about everything else ) in extremely short supply. 

Apart from export to countries like the USA and Russia, demand for champagne was understandably at rock bottom and then to make matters worse, came news of the Russian Revolution and subsequent loss of one of France's key allies. The only saving grace was that as a result of attacks on their shipping and the discovery that Germany was attempting to coax Mexico into the war ( promising them the return of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico ), the Americans had decided to join the conflict, which until then they had seen as purely European.

For the Champenois the October Revolution was a devastating blow that left bills for millions of bottles of champagne unpaid. The new communist leadership branded champagne a "degenerate capitalist habit" and declared that vodka was the patriotic drink for Russians.

For Louis Roederer in particular, it was a total disaster! Eighty percent of his sales went to Russia and his production was geared to the sweeter style of champagne preferred by Czar Alexander II. He had even produced a champagne for the Czar's exclusive consumption in elegant clear crystal bottles ( rather than the normal thick dark green ones ), which he appropriately named "Cristal". With a huge stock of champagne so sweet that nobody else wanted it, he faced utter ruin and to quote a Roederer spokesman: "The only reason our firm survived, that we still exist today, was that no one else in Champagne had any money to buy us out."

With the American "doughboys" now arriving in significant numbers, Germany was forced to mobilize and pin its hopes on taking Paris - they believed that the rest of France would soon follow. Achieving their goal however, meant pushing though - you guessed it - Champagne!

In July 1918, the second "Battle of the Marne" began in earnest and the Kaiser himself came to watch the "drive for final victory". After failing to take what was left of Reims, the Germans surged towards the Marne river where they walked straight into miles of close-laid artillery batteries. Five minutes of withering fire later, the German campaign and dream of taking Paris were effectively over. Four months later, on November 11, they signed the armistice to end the war. 

Hundreds of thousands of bottles of champagne were "liberated" in the euphoria of victory that followed but amidst the joy, was the tragic realization that a whole generation had been practically wiped out. Champagne alone had lost over half of its population with entire towns and villages wiped off the map, never to return!

The Champenois were now faced with the daunting task of resurrecting their lives and of course their vineyards, which in many cases resembled a scene from Dante's Inferno. They soon discovered that while the Great War raged, another battle had been taking place unseen. Not only was the soil shredded by bombardment and poisoned by the detritus of war but the vine destroying parasite Phylloxera had continued its inexorable spread. This meant that all of their vines would need to be uprooted, grafted onto Phylloxera resistant American root stocks and replanted.

On the positive side, with the end of the war everyone was eager to blot out the nightmare they had just lived through and champagne was the perfect tool. It was an exhilarating time, skirts got shorter, women cropped their hair and Chanel No 5 was invented. Josephine Baker and Sidney Bechet mesmerized audiences with a new kind of music: jazz. The roaring 1920 's were light, gay and sparkling, just like champagne. Not even prohibition in the USA could dampen the soaring spirits of the Champenois - they simply moved their sales underground to smugglers and gangsters, one of the most famous being Al Capone.

However, all was not well in the Western world and in October 1929 the New York Stock Exchange took a sudden dive and then tumbled out of control. The Great depression had begun.

As a result there was now a glut of champagne( over 150 million bottles ) and customers had simply dried up. Many champagne producers were reduced to making cheap sloppy wines and even still wines!  Many simply couldn't continue and left for the cities, where some were even reduced to begging on street corners!

The Champenois needed a saviour and as times were desperate, they weren't going to let a little thing like the truth stand in their way. The saviour they invented was Dom Perignon!

Soon the reclusive monk from Hautevilliers was being hailed as the "father of champagne" and celebrations were announced to mark the 250th anniversary of Dom Perignon's "invention" of sparkling champagne  ( in fact, as we saw in Part 1, no-one had actually invented champagne ). No one seemed to mind that the date was arbitrary and that the Champenois had tried unsuccessful 18 years earlier to do the same thing for the 200th anniversary! 

What was important was that it worked and champagne sales soared with the image of Dom Perignon holding a frothing bottle of champagne exclaiming, "I have tasted the stars". To this day his name is attached to Moet and Chandon's flagship cuvee.

By 1935 the worst of the Great Depression was over. Then out of the ashes of post-war Germany, came Adolph Hitler and World War II - the third war against Germany in only 75 years! With the horrors of the Great War still vivid in their memories and the knowledge that they were now basically a nation of children, old people and cripples, the French wondered: will there be a France at all?

Within a month of the German invasion, France had surrendered and in the initial chaos, over two million bottles of champagne were pilfered by exuberant German soldiers. Then, under the orders of Field Marshal Goring, the Champenois were forced to agree to provide 350,000 bottles of champagne a week, at little more than a pittance. Some went to supply the German controlled restaurants in France and the rest were destined for the Third Reich back in Germany. This amounted to little more than legalized plunder but the Champenois were relieved that their towns and villages had been spared the massive destruction of the last war and that there were no battles amongst their vines.

Over the years of World War II the Champenois resisted as best they could by hiding as much of their top marques as possible and by using bad corks, dirty bottles and adulterating their cuvees. In an indirect way they also helped the allies by sharing information about the destination of large champagne orders, which often presaged the location of German activities - for example their campaign in Egypt.

By mid 1944 with D-Day approaching, the Germans had planted explosives in order to destroy Epernay's cellars and bridges but thankfully General Patton's army caught them completely by surprise and Epernay and its buried treasure was spared.

In the spring of 1945 General Eisenhower moved his headquarters to Reims ( where so much suffering had occurred 30 years earlier ) to await Germany's unconditional surrender. The last explosion of World War II was the popping of champagne corks from bottles of the acclaimed 1934 vintage of Pommery and Greno.

Every spring in Champagne, the vines begin to weep. The French call it "les pleures" (  the time of tears ), when sap begins flowing from the wounds inflicted by pruning. Throughout the centuries, Champagne and its vines have had good reason to weep, given so many wars and other traumas. But the tears the vines shed are a symbol of hope, a sign the vines have survived another winter and that another season of growth is ahead. 

I hope you have enjoyed our journey through the history of Champagne and the iconic wines that proudly bear that name and I trust that you will reflect on the toil, ingenuity and valour of the Champenois when next you open a bottle of champagne.

Champagne Feast

Now that we know the story of La Champagne, I though it appropriate to create a simple but delicious menu featuring le champagne.

Fresh Oysters

Champagne is the perfect accompaniment to the creamy, saltiness and velvet texture of freshly shucked oysters.

A glass of Billecart-Salmon non vintage brut reserve would be ideal.


Lobster in Champagne Sauce

Ingredients ( serves 6 )

6 small lobster tails, fresh.
5.5 litres water.
6 large onions, thinly sliced.
12 carrots, finely chopped.
12 stalks of celery, finely chopped.
3 tsp sea salt.
1.5 tsp white pepper.
3 cups plain flour.
4.5 cups cream.
4.5 cups milk.
1.3kg fresh mushrooms, sliced.
350g butter.
1.5 bottles brut champagne.

Method

  • Place lobster tails into a large saucepan,  add water, onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper.
  • Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  • Remove lobster meat from the shells and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Strain the remaining broth, return to heat and reduce to 1.5 cups.
  • Combine milk and cream then blend 1/2 a cup of the mixture with the flour.
  • Gradually add to the reduced broth and stir until smooth.
  • Add the remaining milk/cream mixture and cook over gentle heat with constant stirring until the sauce thickens.
  • Saute the mushrooms in butter until tender.
  • Add the lobster pieces and mushrooms to the thickened sauce.
  • Slowly add the champagne then simmer for 15 minutes.
     

Serve with wilted leeks and steamed asparagus or other mild vegetables of your choice. 

A glass ( or two ) of vintage Krug champagne is mandatory.


Champagne and Orange Sorbet

Ingredients ( serves 6 )

3 cups sugar.
4 cups chilled champagne.
8 tbsp strained fresh orange juice.
1 tsp orange-flower water.
4 large egg whites.

Method

  • Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer over a moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer the syrup for another 10 minutes.
  •  Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then cover and chill until cold but not frozen.
  • In a freeze proof bowl, combine the chilled syrup, champagne, orange juice and orange-flower water and place into the freezer until semi-frozen but still soft.
  • While this is happening, beat the egg whites until they are frothy and when the time is right blend them into the chilled sorbet mixture.
  • Return the freezer and chill till firm.

Citrus flavours are always a wonderful finale to a meal. Oh yes, a glass of Verve Cliquot or Louis Roederer champagne would be just perfect!

Viva la Champagne!

Arranging Your Travel

Once you have reserved your place via our Tour Booking Page, all your need to do is make your travel arrangements to meet us at the tour rendezvous point. Either with the help of your travel agent, or for the more adventurous, by booking your flights and connections yourselves. All of our rendezvous are easily achieved and naturally we provide all of the information and assistance that you will need.

Just a reminder that we have a Frequently Asked Questions Page to help answer the most common questions including how to book, travel arrangements, group sizes etc.

Previous Newsletters and Stories of Interest

Our past newsletters are well worth a read and are available in our Newsletter Archives

You may also enjoy reading a few of the stories that we have compiled over the years on our Stories of Interest Page

Thought for the Day

"If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn't have given us grandmothers."
  ~Linda Henley

Our Invitation

Robbi and I look forward to welcoming you to one of our delightful tours or retreats in the near future and invite you to visit our Aroma Tours Website for more information and to take a peek at the latest photos of our travels in our Photo Galleries

If you would like detailed information about any of our tours please visit our Information Request Page

As always if you have any questions or if you would like us to assist you personally with advice about your travel arrangements or with any other details please contact us either by email at info@aroma-tours.com or by phone on +61 3 5331 3254 ( afternoon/evening USA time zones, mornings from other countries ).

Warmest regards,

Jim and Robbi


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