There is hardly a celebration of some type in the west be it a wedding, ship launch or one of those special birthday’s when a bottle of champagne is cracked or indeed cracked open!
Certainly it is a drink of choice when it comes to parties and family festivities.
However do you know where this delightful bubbling liquid hails from?
Champagne you say! Which of course you are right.
This area in and around the city of Reims is the place to use as a starting point to find out more of this classic drink.
CHAMPAGNE AND CATHEDRAL
The city, which has been blessed with one of the most stunning cathedrals in France where some 25 French Kings were crowned. Plus many historical events that helped to shape and create the perfect place for champagne to blossom.
Picking the grapes and producing the drink is one part of the process but one key component is to be able to store the champagne in ideal temperatures for at least a minimum of a year. Although many bottles, in fact millions of bottles are stored for decades in the carved chalk caves that lie beneath the vineyards and city of Reims itself.
I guess you could name a number of brands just like that. But once in this area of France now covered by the newly named Grand Est (Grand East) it soon becomes clear that there are over 70 champagne domains and independent producers based in the official Champagne Region.
Mainly the vineyards are found around Reims itself but towns like the pretty Epernay are very much centre’s too.
Most of the producers in the city are happy to allow visits and tastings at their domains. The tours, which include visits to the storage caves are priced around €20 to €25 which can sometimes also include a glass of bubbly too like Pommery.
The rough-hewn cave systems run for miles and miles under the city and one domain, Veuve Clicquot say they have 100milion bottles stored in theirs. The high vaulted ceilings and tunnels make for the ideal place to bring to maturity the bottles of champagne that often lie dust laden and rack after rack lining the chambers, which without your guide you could very easily get lost there.
The key temperature seems to be around 12degrees, which they naturally keep to all year round anyway being 50 or 100 feet below ground. However, additional ventilation is required sometimes.
With giant white chalk cathedrals underground and brilliant warm stone carved sandstone cathedral above the city it is a delight for a short visit.
Having such an iconic drink at its heart it’s a perfect place to raise a glass and bless all those that still produce champagne today for us to celebrate our own successes with too!