One of the main ‘wants’ on Felicity’s list was to visit wineries in the Champagne region. Having worked in the wine industry for such a long time, this was totally her bag. I, of course belive there is no show without Punch and tagged along on a fabulous little tour of the Reims and Epernay wine region – home to Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon and lots of other big names that Fliss got super excited about that I hadn’t heard of.
Our actual tour guide was Raphael who was a Brazilian chap living in France. He was incredibly knowledgable about wines and champagnes and the whole region.
He first took us to the village at the top of the hill where Dom Perignon lived and to the abbey where he is buried.
We were told by Raph and then another chap from the winery who screeched to a halt in his car to tell us not to touch the grapes as they’d been sprayed with sulphur. Ew!
It was Dom, a French Benedictine Monk who first started the French champagne movement as we know it today. Apparently before he came along they were making some terrible wines and it was his idea to try blending the grapes.
Here is a little pictorial of D.P’s Abbey. Apparently it was taken over by the Nazis during the war, but was eventually given back to the people when the Pope said “give it back”.
Not sure what this was all about, but I found that the title being in English was curious.
These were the original 18th century bench seats
The seats that Raph is showing us here were for the monks when they prayed. They had to stand up, then when they were allowed to sit, the whole seat folded down, but then if you were an older monk who needed to sit down during the stand up bits, you were allowed to pretend to stand by resting your derrière on that little seat bit. They thought of everything.
This chap here with the jaunty hat was saying to the other guy, “I want this built here.” and the guys on the right were saying, “Is this guy serious? Have you seen the size of it?”
The one thing that I love about old buildings is imagining who has walked through them before me…
Look at this step!
This is where Dom Perignon is buried, right up near the altar. That’s how much they loved him.
A little bit of angelic white draped cloth….. it’s a bit magical, isn’t it?
Thank you Dom Perignon.
His story is far more than that though, he became the cellarer, a voted in position that he held for 47 years, until his death.
Moet & Chandon (this name came about because a Moet married a Chandon) used Dom Perignon’s system and produced their cuvee, “Dom Perignon” as a tribute to him.
So next was a visit to the Moet & Chandon cellars. We had a tour of the underground tunnels. There are apparently 28km of tunnels, but we only saw a small portion of them.
Apparently, Napoleon always had 300 bottles of Moet & Chandon with him – just in case he got caught short with nothing to drink. And speaking of short – apparently Napoleon’s lack of height was a lie – he was really 170cm tall!
She’s got a ticket to ride…..
Each batch of wine is bottled and labelled with 3 lines of numbers and letters. The top line is the secret code the Cellar Master gives to the blend, the middle number is the location in the cellar and the 3rd number is the amount of bottles are in that batch.
Fliss being amazed at the gold coloured ceiling in the cellar.
And so, let the tastings begin….
Next was a little family owned winery called Champagne Julien Chopin. We stopped here and had a lovely farmhouse style luncheon. Homemade pastry covered terrine, cheese, bread and more wine tastings.
They had these signs up around their tasting room.
The last stop of the day was to a cooperative called Collet which works together with a number of grape growers to produce their own champagne. The vats are where the wine is being mixed. It was a little less romantic seeing it in big steel vats, but we did get to go downstairs to the wine library to do some more tastings.
Apparently during the war all the wine here was destroyed, but there was one bottle saved from 1943 which is stored here in this little cave – which is locked with an iron gate.
Normally at a wine tasting you would be offered a small amount in a coiffing glass, but here in the Champagne region, a tasting glass is a champagne flute filled to the top… so after 9 FULL glasses of champas, it was time to snooze all the way home!