A short train ride from Paris takes you to Reims, the capital of the Champagne district. It is home to three of the biggest champagne houses in the area: Tattinger, Pommery, and my favorite, Vueve Cliquot. Our first stop was the very impressive Vraken Pommery house. It was marked by trees in the bright blue Pommery color that pervaded the design.
A short walk down some nondescript alleyways led us to the Tattinger caves. After the grandiose buildings at Pommery, I was surprised the find a concrete building with only a generic sign, parking lot, and unmarked door. It was quite confusing to determine if we were even in the right place. They have tours of their caves available or you can pick up some bottles in their shop. The generic exterior really hides the stunning wine caves & incredible champagne that is made here.
We took our prized bottle of Tattinger to the nearby park and unpacked the picnic lunch I’d squirreled away for us. Crusty bread, strong cheese, Laduree macarons, and Tattinger champagne made for one of the most memorable picnics of my life, second only to our engagement! I very reluctantly dragged myself away from this beautiful spot, lured away only by the promise of a tour of my favorite champagne house, Veuve Cliquot.
Vueve Cliquot offers several different tour options. I chose the Madame Cliquot option because she is such a trailblazer & I was interested in learning more about her. Madame Clicquot took over the champagne house from her husband and turned it into the first international champagne house. While other champagne houses focused primarily on the French market, Madame Clicquot built relationships worldwide. She sent bottles to Russia during the war that arrived even though Napoleon never did, making it the champagne to toast the end of the war with!
Underneath Reims there run endless caves, originally excavated for their chalk. They stay nice and cool all year round, making them perfect for the storage of champagne.
Madame Clicquot helped the company develop champagne using a new technique to get rid of sediment. The bottles were regularly turned so that the dead yeast would all gather near the cork (riddling). Once the settling was complete, the wine near the cork was removed and the cork and frozen plug removed (disgorgement), followed by an addition of wine to refill the bottle. Without this development, we would all be drinking grainy champagne to this day!
The wine was originally bottled, aged, then lifted out through vents in the ceilings. Now they have an elevator to get to it!
During WWII, the tunnels were used to house, hide, and treat military troops. Some of the directional markings linger on the walls.
That wraps up our Wanderlust Wednesday segments on Italy & France. Check out the travel page if you missed any! Next week join us as we head to the Caribbean!