Champagne and unsung heroes

I had the pleasure last week of experiencing one of the great sides of being a hospitality business owner – a tasting trip to the Champagne region of France!

Usually once a year we get the opportunity to visit a producer with our wine supplier. These are always great trips and it’s always a fantastic experience to meet the people behind the excellent wines we sell at Titchwell Manor and our other restaurants.

Obviously it’s enjoyable tasting wine, but for me meeting the people and learning about their businesses is the real highlight. First stop was Pol Roger. Winston Churchill declared this champagne to be his favourite, and there has been a strong link between this family-run business and Britain ever since, with Pol Roger holding a prestigious Royal Warrant. Production is small, compared with other grandes marques champagnes, at just two million bottles a year compared with Moët for example which produces 30 million.

We joined Pol Roger’s president, Hubert de Billy, for dinner and a tasting on the first night, followed by a tour of the incredible production facilities and cellars. The cellars were mind-blowing, stretching over 7km and more than 30 meters underground! It was an amazing experience.

We then visited Duval-Leroy. This family-run company, set up in 1859 by Jules Duval and Edouard Leroy, operates on a similar scale to Pol Roger. In 1991, Jean Charles Duval died young, leaving his wife Carol and their three young sons. It was expected that Carol would have to sell the business but she continued her husband’s work and made Duval-Leroy a huge success. She became the first and only woman ever to sit on the ‘Comité Champagne’, the organisation that represents independent champagne producers and houses – quite an incredible achievement. Her sons hold various positions in the company and continue to drive the business forward. One of them – Charles – hosted us for lunch and a tasting and it was fascinating to learn about their business and family story. Their flagship champagne, ‘Femme’, honours Carol’s achievements, and was one of the favourite champagnes I tasted on the entire trip. I’m keen to add it to our list soon.

Unsung Heroes

Often, some of most important people in a business are the ones customers don’t see. At Titchwell Manor we have an amazing team that I’m very proud of and value enormously, but I wanted to mention here a couple of our back-of-house heroes.

Terry has been with us for over four years working as a full-time maintenance man. We first met in the playground at the primary school our children went to. Terry is a truly skilled craftsman, often working his magic on the original sash windows at the Manor, refurbishing furniture, or decorating rooms. He’s even great at cleaning hot tubs! Poor Terry gets a lot of jobs thrown his way, and he always does his absolute best on them. Thanks Terry.

Cath looks after the cleaning in our public areas. Cath is always the first in, making sure the hotel is spotless by the time guests come down for breakfast. She always works with a smile on her face, and she’s a great person to chat to if you need some local knowledge as she’s lived in the area all her life. Thank you Cath for being so reliable and for making such a difference at the Manor day in, day out.