Here’s to the day of the bubbly! Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience; touring the caves of the G.H. Mumm champagne cellars and then tasting and comparing pourings of the beloved bubbly. Yep, makes for a pretty great day. Oh, and what topped it off?
We were the only two people who signed on for the English-speaking tour, and as such, we enjoyed a completely private tour!
Remember I told you the story about me getting left behind at the Metro station and then trying to buy our tickets for the bullet train? Read here: https://www.oneroadatatime.com/just-like-in-the-movies/ Well, this is the day we took the bullet train from Paris to Reims (80 miles east/northeast of Paris) and as trying as it was to purchase those tickets, it was a really good thing that we took the time to purchase them in advance. Had we waited until the morning of our day trip we would have missed the train and been hyper stressed, so in the end it worked out quite well. Anyway…
We boarded the bullet train and wouldn’t you know it, our assigned seats were between windows. I was still able to see, but it meant leaning forward in order to peer out the window at the French countryside flashing by. But, the French do not adhere to daylight savings time so I really couldn’t see much anyway as the sun was rising just about the time we arrived in Reims, 9:00 a.m. (ish)
Reims, in contrast to the hustle of Paris, is a much slower-paced small city where the lifestyle appears to be much more subdued. Reims has a long and dramatic history. The Palace of Tau built between 1498 – 1509 is where the kings of France lived during the time of their coronations and right next door to the palace is the cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims which served as the place of coronations for the kings. In 1914 during World War I, the city of Reims suffered great damage due to German bombardment leaving only 70 buildings standing. And again, in World War II, the German forces destroyed much of Reims but on May 7, 1945 General Eisenhower accepted the German surrender in the town of Reims. To read more on the history of Reims: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reims Today, Reims is a vibrant blend of old and new.
Reims is in the heart of the champagne region of France. In order to be labeled, “champagne” the grapes must be grown and harvested in the region of Reims. Any bottle of bubbly produced anywhere else in the world is not champagne, it is sparkling wine. Way back in the day when the wine growers started to develop the technique of bottling champagne, they trademarked the name and region as being the only place to produce champagne. It’s in the soil, so we’ve been told!
We chose G.H. Mumm cellars because they were open in the winter, they gave tours in English and they were suggested by Rick Steves as being a visitor-friendly cellar, relaxed and not ostentatious. The cost of the tour depends upon which tasting package you choose. We chose to taste 4 different bottles at a cost of 28 euros/person (about $38/person). The tour lasts just about an hour and the tasting is not rushed, another perk of traveling in the off season.
Once you have been schooled in the riddling process, toured some of the caves and are sufficiently amazed by some of the history and statistics, you are rewarded with tasting the bubbly and learning even more as your guide describes the different vintages. Did you know that the smaller the bubble, the better the champagne?!
So, here’s my question to you. The riddling process, which is the turning of the bottles to push the sediment toward the neck of the bottle, is done only by those who are highly skilled in the art. Today, the process is done by hand only for the most prestigious wines, the best of the best so to speak. All others are processed with modern day mechanization. Anyway, how many bottles of champagne can one riddler at G.H. Mumm turn in one 8-hour work day? Post your guess either here, or on our FB page. Cheers!