Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Some Bubbly in Reims, France

Pommery Champagne House
We took advantage of the long Easter weekend by driving to Paris! We made a pit-stop in Reims, in the Champagne region. It was a nice way to break up the drive and sample some champagne. Because our trip was so last-minute, we didn't have time to make the reservations required for visiting some of the champagne houses. As a result, we ended up in one that was nice but felt really touristy.

Construction of the Pommery Champagne House was completed in 1888. The estate grounds encompass nearly 124 acres. This includes the house, cellars, and chalk pits. We took the one-hour cellar tour. It begins with a 124-step descent to the bowels of the estate. Our guide described the champagne-making process in detail and showed us store rooms filled with thousands of bottles of champagne earmarked for destinations all over the world. Interestingly, contemporary artwork is interspersed throughout the cellars. I found it a bit confusing.

The tasting happened at the very end of the tour in the lobby. It was crowded and sort of felt like a cattle call as we all lined up to collect our samples. You choose your champagne with the purchase of your tickets. Of course we wanted to try as much as possible so my husband selected the 30 Euros option with a tasting of the Cuvee Louise 1999, Pommery's signature, prestigious champagne, and I chose the 21 Euros option with a tasting of two champagnes of your choice (except the Cuvee Louise).

The champagne was good and the tour was interesting. If we had more time to plan, we would have made reservations at one of the smaller champagne houses (Ruinart was our first choice). It was a very decadent thing to do, considering we also each had an 8 Euro glass of champagne while we waiting for our tour to begin.

At the end of the day, I suppose I'm a true product of being raised in a tiny Southern town; champagne is champagne to me. I don't really taste the difference between a $50 bottle and a $35 bottle. Granted, I've never had premium champagnes like Dom Perignon or Veuve Clicquot so maybe there is a difference and angels sing as the cork pops. I'll let you know if I ever experience this. Before we moved here I didn't even realize there was a region in France called Champagne. I've learned a lot! And I've consumed some bubbly to go along with my education so I still feel high-class.

We'd arrived in Reims in the late afternoon and our hotel was on the outskirts of town, close to the highway. This left a limited amount of time for us to sight-see in the city but we did manage to make it to the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims. The first religious structure was built on the site at the beginning of the 5th century. It's a Gothic masterpiece filled with incredible stone sculptures illuminated by the light pouring in from breathtaking stained glass windows.

We spent a long time wandering through the cathedral, once the site of the coronation of French kings. It is also where General de Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer set the seal on the reconciliation between France and Germany on July 8th, 1962. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting churches I've seen in Europe and definitely worth a visit if you're ever in Reims.

The City of Light is up next. Au revoir, mes amis!

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