A short trip from Paris is a magical area of France that I hold dear – the Champagne region. Oh, Champagne. There is always a reason to have Champagne, no? I know my sisters and I agree on this one. When I was in DC with Jill, sometimes we had to celebrate monumental occasions, like Tuesday. In this picture, I was celebrating free Champers in Monaco. Great reason to celebrate!
So, living in Paris, and having this great Mecca so close, I have had the great joy of visiting twice. The first time, my school took a field trip to Rheims and visited the Taittinger caves. One of the oldest Champagne houses in Rheims , we descended down a spiral staircase to see their original caves, still in service today.
Due to the temperamental process of making Champagne, caves are used to keep out UV light and maintain the cool temperature needed to allow the fermentation process. Makes taking pictures hard.
There are row after row of these wine racks, holding the bottles at the angle needed to help the yeast fall down into the neck of the bottle, to allow for its easy removal when the Champagne is fully fermented. These are still all turned by hand, meaning a guy goes around, spinning the bottles a quarter of a turn everyday. In a cave. They really have all sorts of jobs here.
The caves were so pretty here – they had been used as secret churches back in the day when people weren’t allowed to worship as they wanted. Me, I still think it’s a bit holy down there with all that Champagne. But the history of what the caves were used for added some very pretty touches to what is otherwise just a cold, stone basement.
The various size bottles of Champagne available. For note, you usually buy the second from the right. The big guy on the left, Le Nabuchodonosor, is 15 liters of Champagne. Or 20 bottles in one. That’s one hell of a party.
And speaking of parties, this is a room full of bottles of Champagne, stacked up to the ceiling almost (I took the second picture with my arms over my head and just snapped; I have really long arms). There are many of these rooms in the caves. Wow.
So, after our learning and spelunking in the Champagne caves, we once again returned to the surface for a petit degustation. Yum.
After our visit to Taittinger, we wandered around the town of Rheims. Its truly a beautiful town, full of lovely architecture. Sadly, it was freezing and my tights were falling down, so I didn’t wander as much as I would have liked. But we did check out the Cathedral, where the Kings of France were once crowned. Of course they were crowned in Champagne – I love the French. The Cathedral was beautiful and highly impressive with the detail in such a massive building.
After my first taste of the Champagne region, I decided that I wanted to see the rest. Which isn’t hard, there are 2 towns in Champagne with Champagne houses, Rheims and Epernay. So when my parents came to visit, I knew we would have to go on a day trip to Epernay!
Epernay is much easier to navigate for a Champagne tasting. In Rheims, the Champagne houses are scattered around the town. In Epernay, you have…
The straightforward way to organize your Champagne Houses. It’s a long avenue, lined with the likes of Moet, Perrier Jouet, Mercier…Joy.
My ‘rents and I headed straight to Mercier, a house known for a great tour and an interesting history. It was like the Disney version of wine tasting, so I loved it. They have the largest caves in all of Champagne and so to traverse the acreage, you get on a handy little tram that escorts you through the caves.
After the tour, degustation! We were really lucky, when we arrived, no one else was there. There was only the 3 of us on the tour and for the tasting, so we were talking with everyone. It was really fun and informative. And delicious. Below, a rose (made with pinot noir and chardonnay), a vintage (the wine is all from the same year and has a unique taste – only made in years when the grapes are superior), and the classic Brut (a mix of types of grape and years of the wines to maintain the same flavor from year to year and bottle to bottle of the champagne). I did learn something, told you!
A lovely shot of rows of bottles…Monsieur Mercier looks a bit like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz, no?
After our tour, we went to lunch in one of the squares and then had a little break in the main garden. I loved this garden. I immediately tried to figure out how I could live there. Epernay is truly beautiful and this place was the icing.
After our break, more tasting! We went to A. Bergere. Not bad, but nowhere near the show we had before. My dad skipped this tasting – he didn’t prepare for the wines of France tour I was taking them on while they visited me in Paris.
Another lovely day in Champagne! I’m willing to say I’ll go there any time anyone wants to go. Its beautiful and has a strong sense of culture built around a luxury and celebratory good. My kind of place.
After all this talk of Champagne, I might have to celebrate something tonight…it’s a Saturday in May in Paris – good enough for me! Salut!