Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Bubbly Side of Reims

Besides the cathedral, Reims is known for its champagne houses.  It's a quick 45-minute train ride from Paris, so we took a day trip to learn about and indulge in some bubbles.

I found central Reims rather lacking in charm, but once we were by the champagne houses, all that was forgotten.  (By the way, it's not pronounced Reems but something more like Raunce, with a little phlegm at the back of your throat... it's really fun to say--try it!)

We toured both Taittinger ("Ta-ta-jay") and Pommery ("Dee-lish-us").  We thought the Taittinger tour was slightly better, only because the guide went more into the process of making champagne, so we could nerd out a little.  (For example, did you know that someone called a riddler still turns the bottles by hand at Taittinger?  [Best job title ever outside of a Batman movie!]  And that the tops of the bottles are essentially "frozen" to eject an ice cube of sediment and then depending on the extra liquid added to replace that lost, it becomes sec, demi-sec, or brut?  Fun facts, these.)

Both Taittinger and Pommery had awe-inspriring caves, which were especially remarkable because they date back to 4 AD and were originally dug by the Romans, who were using the chalk and limestone for building in Reims.  In the middle ages, monks came in and started using the caves to store their champagne.  Later, the caves were used as shelters during the bombardments of WWI.  So, yeah, they let off a powerful vibe.

Another fun fact about Reims is that the first instrument of surrender of WWII was signed there on 7 May 1945.

But back to the bubbly...

Where we were.

Creepy stairways at Taittinger.

We had lunch at Les Crayeres, which is a fancy-schmancy hotel with the cheap rooms starting at 345 euros a night (and the fancies maxing out at 700 euros).  We ate at their brasserie, which is called Le Jardin.  It is less fancy, but not so much so.  I mean, we had a finger bowl with fresh lemon slices to clean our hands after our sardine beignets.  A finger bowl, people!

This is Le Jardin.  Nice, right?  I had some delicious pigeon served on a nest of potatoes and foie gras.  First time for pigeon... and it may have ruined me for the other birds.  Who knew those goofballs getting after the crumbs on the sidewalk could be so delicious?

Champagne country.  Overcast day.  Just perfect.

The main entrance of Pommery.

Pretty Pommery.

Down the stairs to the Pommery caves.

The Pommery library.  1975... a good year.
They had bottles that dated back to around 1874.

Look at this baby downing some champagne in the tasting room!
He downed his glass and his parents got him another... and then I realized that it must have been some kind of juice.  Or they were total party parents.  But yeah... I think it was juice.

But still, even babies get in on the action at Pommery!