Local guides-cum-translators have completed hundreds of hours of research, and impart tasting techniques and buying tips. Between glasses, you stop for lunch at the Michelin-starred La Briqueterie, a hotel-restaurant nestled on seven acres of meticulously landscaped gardens. One of the youngest chefs working in Champagne today, Michael Nizzero serves up farm-to-table cuisine like the foie Gras terrine scented with apricot and lavender compote. As each tour is customized, other lunch options (like a picnic overlooking the vines) are available. (Note that the lunch is not included in the tour price.) The two-person tours cost 399 euros (about $534 US) per person for a half-day tour, and 465 euros (about $622 US) per person for a full-day, with a pick-up in Reims. For a pick-up by private luxury car in Paris, the price is 499 euros (about $668) per person for the full-day tour. Larger parties receive discounts, and multi-day tours are possible. tastysidetolifetours.com Tour of Ay’s Vineyards by Electric Car Eco-conscious travelers can go green on a Champagne-infused jaunt through the countryside. James Richard-Fliniaux, a wine-grower in the historic, Champagne-producing village of Ay, has an electric jeep for touristic excursions. These pretty vineyards are classified as Grand Cru, and many of the prestigious Champagne houses source grapes from them. Lasting two hours, the eco-visit traverses all 7.5 miles of Ay vineyards. Along the way, you have the chance to hop off the car and step into the vines while Richard-Fliniaux explains the Champagne-making process from the planting of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes to the dual fermentation required to create the carbonation. Bien sur (of course), a tasting of Richard-Fliniaux’s wines is included in the outing. With 24 hours’ notice, a gourmet picnic can be prepared. Think salad topped with salmon, chicken, or Italian ham; seasoned escargot; a regional specialty called pate en croute; molten chocolate cake or a fruit basket all washed down with Richard-Fliniaux’s DEDICACE cuvee of Grand Cru d’Ay, made with 80% Pinot noir and 20% Chardonnay.
The law is part of France’s broader regulation of book prices and curbs on discounting, which was passed in 1981 by the Socialist government at the time to protect small bookshops from supermarket chains. In the past decade, online outlets have challenged physical bookstores, prompting French publishers to lobby for a change in the law to stop what they call Amazon’s “dumping” and “unfair competition”. According to a French parliamentary report, online book sales rose to 13.1 percent of total book sales in 2011 from 3.2 percent in 2003. The country is still home to more bookstores than most countries with 2,000-2,500 in a country of 65 million people, compared with 1,000 in Britain, which has roughly the same-sized population. “The (book pricing) law is part of our cultural heritage,” said conservative lawmaker Christian Kert who sponsored the bill. France’s lower chamber, with the support of the Socialist government, passed the law unanimously. It will now go to the Senate, which is expected to pass it by the end of the year. For its part, Amazon said the law would have the perverse effect of hurting sales of books from the back catalogue and from smaller publishing houses, which were often bought online. “All measures that aim to raise the price of books sold online will curb the ability of French people to buy cultural works and discriminates against those who buy online,” it said. The proposed law is only the latest example of France taking aim at U.S.-based Internet giants. Last week the country’s data protection watchdog moved closer to fining Google for the way it stores and tracks user information after the search engine ignored a three-month ultimatum to bring its practices in line with local law.