Au revoir Paris, et bonjour Reims!
The next leg of our trip was spent in Champagne, because if you know anything about me … I absolutely LOVE bubbles. Reims is a short 45 minute ride on the TGV, so Leo and I packed our bags, jumped on a train, and were greeted at the station by Bruno, our most gracious Airbnb host.
**Post disclosure: I’m having issues with some of my photos turning sideways. On Safari they are not appearing the same as other browsers, so please bear with me as I resolve the issue 🙂
Oenophile Adventures in Champagne
To kick off our champagne tasting adventures, we took our bikes and headed straight to Taittinger, which is one of the oldest houses in the champagne region. The house started back in the 1700’s as a Benedectine Abbey with monks who used ropes to drop themselves into the caves to tend the wine. Incredibly enough, the caves still have stairs and other artifacts from the original abbey in the 17th century.
When you go into the caves, you go down 21 metres deep. Not only is the temperature ideal for storing wine, but the Taittinger caves are actually naturally made of chalk and limestone. The chalk absorbs the moisture in the air, which keeps the wine in a completely optimal condition. So, if you touch the walls, they are actually a bit balmy..
The monks knew what the heck was up!
After being completely blown away by the history of the caves and the intricate process that is involved with champagne making, I was equally as unimpressed with the tasting room. Maybe I’m spoiled from California wine country, but the tasting room was very modest.
Actually, the “modest tasting room” seemed to be a common theme throughout all of my experiences in Champagne, until we got to Epernay.
However, the history behind the houses are amazing. Apparently one of the holes that the monks used to get down into the caves had to be covered up because some of the Taittinger wine makers found out that Veuve actually had access to the same entry since they are next to each other. Today, this hole is covered up so that Veuve can’t get in 🙂
After Taittinger we headed to Mumm. Oh yum!
We did our second cave tour through the halls and miles under the ground. More or less, the tour was relatively the same. There was greater history with the monks at Taittinger, but Mumm had a very interesting tasting, as they have 17 different cru’s where they source the grapes. In order to produce their annual Brut, the grand cellar master must taste each of the 17 cru’s and combine it to make the perfect “Mumm” taste.
Our last tasting in Reims was at Pommery, and I have to say this is equivalent to the Disneyland of Champagne. The tasting room is quite literally like a circus.
It was not my favorite, but glad we made the stop.
Chateau Les Crayeres
Aka “Les Crap” as Leo and I like to call it…
We had made reservations one night for dinner, after we discovered it’s very prominent Michelin star; it seemed like “a must”.
We biked here before we stopped at Pommery to see if we could change our reservation, and they were SO RUDE! It was actually bizarre because the rudest people we met were not in Paris…. we found them at Les Crap!
Usually I love the Relais & Chateau properties, but this was such a disappointment.
So, TTYN Les Crap.
Where could we possibly stay after the Peninsula? Well, after Paris, we were looking for a place that was going to be really chilled out, and we found the most amazing Airbnb in Reims, with bikes, a private garden, and these beautiful French antiques. The headboard behind the bed had original shades from Roederer Estate, where Bruno used to work.
Another convenient thing about staying in the apartment was the fact that EVERYTHING closes down in France during the month of August (seriously, the French know how to do everything right!).
We found the local Carrefour, picked up fresh veggies and whipped up the most delicious French dinners each night.
A Day in Epernay
On our last day in Champagne, we wandered over to the local Europcar to pick up our rental car. After the assistant tried to give us a very beat up Punto Fiat, we convinced her to let us rent the very sexy VW convertible bug!
After all, we needed to show up in St. Tropez in style!
Upon arriving in Epernay, we sauntered down the Avenue du Champagne to see some of the most famous champagne houses including Pol Roger, Moet & Chandon and Pierre Jouet – just to name a few.
We quickly noticed that the tasting rooms were much more grand here.
At our first stop, we cozied up to Collard Picard for a quick tasting, while we decided where the next stop would be. Moet was under construction, and Pierre Jouet and Pol Roger were by reservation only.
We came across a recommendation for a wine bar, C-Comme Epernay, where we could try some unique, smaller champagne houses that don’t get distributed to the US, because honestly, we wanted to try the real stuff that the French drink 🙂
Quite honestly, if you’re going to go all the way to France to do a Champagne tasting, you should spend as much time as you can learning about the smaller production, or more unique vintages that you can’t get in the US. For example, I had no idea that a 100% Meunier champagne wouldn’t be sweet – it’s going to be fruit forward, but the sweetness will all depend on the dosage!
If we were to ever go back, I think we’d stay in Epernay next time. Both cities were as lovely as the champagne, but I feel like Epernay might be a more groomed city with more to offer in terms of bars, restaurants and things to see within the city.
As always, thank you to my loyal readers for following my adventures & stay posted for the next post about St. Tropez!! xx