Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders to star in Absolutely Champers
The stars of the BBC hit sitcom Absolutely Fabulous are returning to our screens for a fizz-fuelled trip to France which includes a visit to their favourite Champagne house.
The programme celebrates the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Absolutely Fabulous which aired on 12 November 1992 and saw Lumley and Saunders play Patsy and Eddy, two high-powered women in London’s fashion industry who regularly overindulged in alcohol and recreational drugs. Absolutely Champers will air tomorrow (21 December) on BBC2 at 9pm.
Patsy in particular was known for her penchant for Bollinger, or Bolly as it was referred to, and therefore it comes as no surprise that a trip to France would be incomplete without visiting the Champagne house.
In true Ab Fab style, the pair begin drinking before leaving the UK, sampling some Champers at Searcy’s Champagne Bar at St Pancras before boarding the Eurostar for Paris. From the French capital, they then travel 130km north-east to Reims, one of the centres of Champagne production.
Behind the wheel of a vintage Citroën DS, they explore Reims, Epernay and its Avenue de Champagne, which is home to, among others, Moët et Chandon, Pol Roger and Perrier Jouët.
Their first stop is the Georges Laval vineyard in Cumières, north-west of Épernay. Certified organic since 1971, the winery produces Champagne from just 2.5ha of vineyard parcels. Visiting the vineyard at 7am, Lumley and Saunders are taught how to pick grapes followed by a Champagne breakfast.
They then travel to Hautvillers to see the the tomb of Dom Pérignon, the Benedictine monk and cellar master of an abbey who was known for his exacting approach to wine production, though not for the invention of Champagne as has been widely proclaimed. Royal permission was not granted to bottle wines in Champagne until 1728, 13 years after Dom or Pierre Pérignon had died.
And naturally sweetie darling, it wouldn’t be a proper Ab Fab-esque trip to Champagne without a visit to Bollinger.
Having never visited the house before, Lumley and Saunders are welcomed by Jérôme Philipon, the former president of the house and now chief operating officer of the Société Jacques Bollinger (SJB), the holding company for Bollinger as well as Champagne Ayala, Burgundy’s Chanson, the Loire Valley’s Langlois-Château, and Cognac’s Delamain.
Philipon said: “Ab Fab is part of the DNA of Bollinger” though did admit that the association was at first “a bit of a shock” for the well-respected, family-owned Champagne House.
He takes Lumley and Saunders on a tour of the Bollinger cellars which stretch for five kilometres under its base in Aÿ and store bottles dating back to 1830. The pair are then treated to lunch in Madame Bollinger’s dining room where they are given a magnum of Bollinger La Grande Année 1992, a nod to the year that Ab Fab was first broadcast.