Thursday, February 3, 2011

France and Belgium - Part Six

Reims - is situated a little bit over an hour southeast of Paris by train. It is the champagne region of France. Only in the Champagne region are you able to get true champagne otherwise it is legally just sparkling wine.

So we took a day train out to Reims and wandered around the city.

The champagne houses are pretty far spread out so you'd either need a car or be able to walk a lot. Also, one important detail to note. Champagne tasting is by appointment only. You MUST make an appointment otherwise you'll be SOL. We didn't make an appointment and the only place who had an extra opening was G.H. Mumm. It also could have been because we were in an off season (Late October/Early November). Apparently, G.H. Mumm would also be switching to their winter hours shortly and be only open a few days a week. So just call ahead or make reservations online. All the advice I heard was Vueve Cliquot was very touristy.

The train was quite nice and we occupied our time by taking lots of pictures of ourselves.

G.H. Mumm is one of the older champagne houses in Reims and its very beautiful inside and out.

These are the barrels they used to hold the liquid from the grapes before they switched to the metal barrels.

This was how each city that provided a certain grape was separated. That way when making different champagnes they would use the correct grape.

I loved the cellars and their musty smell. It was quite cool naturally in the cellars and had a beautiful mold pattern that grew on the walls. On the right of the image is the special champagne bottles that need to be turned by hand every day. I can't remember how many it was but it was A LOT. Like 15,000 bottles a day.

This diagram explains how they turn the bottles.

Another view of the cellars

This is the Grand Master's Private Cellar. It houses a limited collection of a couple bottles of champagne from each time they have created a new blend. I think the oldest bottle was from 1877. The grand master is the only person who has a key. Now I was thinking how does the champagne preserve for all these years? Its not red wine! Champagne can be kept in its bottle if it has not reached the 3rd fermenation process. In the third process they add sugar and do the final capping which creates the bubbles in the champagne. So all of the bottles in the Grand Master's Cellar would need to go thru the 3rd fermentation process before he could taste them.

After the one hour tour of the cellars, we went upstairs and had a champagne tasting. We did the highest level which was three glasses of champagne

and we paid for an additional tasting of a special champagne that the name escapes me. It was delicious.

After the champagne tasting we had a bit of time to kill before the train came so we walked to a little bakery and ordered our first Croque Monsieur!. It was delicious.

This was a structure leftover from the 1300's. Amazing to see it still standing.

The town of Reims is small and quaint but charming especially with all of the champagne cellars!

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