...Champagne Anyone?

I have been on an absolute roller coaster ride the past 2 weeks.  We have been all over France stuffing ourselves silly and drinking amazing wine. One of the friends we're travelling with imports French wine for sale in Australia and will soon open an online store (more of that coming soon) and I have been gathering images for the upcoming website and newsletters.  One of our stops included an amazing winery in the Champagne region.  A. Robert is the name and all of their products are superb.  I didn't even really like champagne before this!

This is Arnaud Robert... owner, winemaker and heir to the family's champagne legacy started generations ago in the 1700's.

His passion about the whole process is absolutely contagious.  He took us into the fields to explain the intricate process of pruning the vines in order to both maximise quality and maintain the necessary government regulations involved in producing in the Champagne Region.

We have had the amazing fortune of personal tours from the owners themselves... Sometimes into areas of the wineries unavailable to tourists.   The Champagne must be protected from light during the process so we had to navigate by the light of our phones a few times.   I was experimenting in the minimal light far below the tasting room.  This cool arch/ hallway was one of the few places light was available so I began to explore the possibilities of shooting a portrait.

As you would expect, winemaking has undergone a very modern facelift.  So you usually only have giant stainless steel tanks in concrete rooms...  The romantic wooden barrels in stone rooms is definitely not what you find these days.

So one of my goals has been to shoot portraits with a sense of the classical feel of old-time wineries.  I think this works perfectly.  I would have shot more outdoors but we came very early in the season.  In the Loire valley we found the youngest leaves sprouting out of the vines.  But Champagne is farther North and East bringing Spring a touch later.  As you can see from the first photos above, there isn't a leaf on these vines yet.

I was really wrestling the with the math here since it was so dark.  I wanted the lowest possible ISO, of course...  But I needed a decent handheld speed which factored in the movement of the fluid (I mean, it's really about the champagne too!)

So I went straight to my minimum aperture of 2.8 and managed to squeeze out 1/40 sec at ISO 1250.  The camera settings are ultimately unimportant.  I had an opportunity to shoot a fantastic portrait somewhere special with a willing subject and I jumped on it.  What could be better?!