Guided Wine Tours In Champagne, France

Could France see the return of Nicolas Sarkozy?

(Photo: Tasty Side to Life) SHARE 2 CONNECT 9 TWEET COMMENTEMAILMORE Champagne has its own universal language. No matter where you are in the world, popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly kicks off the party. Sports champions are sprayed with Champagne; births and marriages are celebrated with toasts; and ships are launched with bottles smashed against their hulls. The effervescent wine is so legendary, even its origins are shrouded in myth. When the monk Dom Perignon discovered the methode champenoise in the 17th century, he is said to have shouted, “Come quickly, brother, I’m drinking the stars!” Whether fact or fable, the resulting beverage has inspired odes, raps, and many a marriage proposal. Champagne is exclusively produced according to appellation rules in a small pocket of northeast France. Just an hour from Paris by high-speed train, Reims is a great jumping off point for discovering the region. Here, the big Champagne houses like Pommery and Veuve-Clicquot offer guided tours of their cellars: cavernous underground tunnels called crayeres where millions of aging Champagne bottles represent a pretty penny. These prestigious maisons have luxurious tasting rooms where flutes of fizzing Champagne are sipped by a couture-clad crowd. But for those yearning to get close to the grape vines — stomp around in the grass, pluck a grape straight from the vines, and talk face-to-face with a vigneron (winemaker) — here are some top picks for guided wine tours. Sante! Tasty Side to Life Tours, Luxury Small Producer Champagne Tour Food blogger and American expat Sydney Krueger launched Tasty Side of Life Tours in November 2010 to provide an intimate, off-the-path experience in Champagne country. Her mission is to introduce guests to the smaller, independent producers, while also treating them to the region’s celebrated gastronomy.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said Sarkozy had to overcome the “Karachi Affair” hurdle before he could contemplate a return to politics. “If he navigates his way past this particular obstacle then it might be possible, but he would have to go back on his pledge never to return,” Hewson told CNBC. “Any return would probably need to appeal to his ego and he would need to be asked,” he added. (Read More: Moscovici to France’s businesses: stop French-bashing ) Furthermore, Sarkozy’s path to a political return could be scuppered by divisions within his own party. A bitter UMP leadership election last November was left unresolved after Francois Fillon and Jean-Francois Cope both claimed victory. While Cope was eventually declared the winner, both sides alleged fraud and new elections were slated for this year. They are yet to materialize. With Fillon and Cope still battling it out, would a Sarkozy return cause more divisions or could he be a unifier? Fillon, who was prime minister under Sarkozy and once a staunch ally, told the JDD weekly paper this week, “I cannot take on all the consequences of a presidential candidacy and not be in conflict with Nicolas Sarkozy, given his state of mind. De facto, we are in competition.” Philippe Waechter, chief economist at Natixis Asset Management, said Sarkozy would do best to bide his time before making a comeback. “He will be impatient to be the leader of the UMP, but if he does that too rapidly there is a risk that French citizens reject him. For me, the best strategy would be to come back in politics in 2016 as the man who could unify his party,” Waechter said. He added that while Sarkozy was popular within the UMP, he was less so outside: an Ifop survey in July revealed that 70 percent of the population believed Sarkozy would run for president in 2017, but only 40 percent actually wanted him to do so. As Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, told CNBC, “He is a deeply, deeply polarizing figure in France.” Spiro took a similar line to Waechter, saying that it was too early for Sarkozy to bid for the UMP party leadership, and that with the party facing an insurgency from the French far-right, he would not want to divide the party further by interfering.