Champagne tasting day #15

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Europe » France » Champagne-Ardenne » Reims
July 18th 2012
Published: July 18th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Jim has developed a cold and cough. Yesterday before dinner he took a benadryl that I brought, last night before we went to bed, he called his DR. Poate to ask is he could also take some of the codeine cough syrup I brought. The P.A. Called him right back and said the DR. responded okay to the cough syrup. He was so glad because he knew with that he would get a really good nights sleep.

Today will be another fun day in France as we are going to tour the caves of Mumm and Tattinger champagne houses. First up, Mumm at 9:30am. We drove there and used the GPS on the iPad to get there. These streets are just crazy narrow and go every which way so navigating and driving is very complicated and frustrating. The cars here all have side view mirrors that automatically retract when the vehicle is turned off so the mirrors do not get hit in the narrow streets! Also, our car has sensors on all corners and front and rear when you get close to anything it warns you via the nav system display!

We arrived at Mumm and remember this place because in December 2009 we came by here but they were closed. Nice to be here in nicer weather. So the tours are reserved by language, we are in an English tour. We started our descent down to the caves and it was dark, musty and cold. It's hard to believe these caves were dug by hand in the mid 1800's.

Founded in 1827, Mumm now owns some of the best champagne grape real estate in the Champagne Ardenne region. As they explain in their tour, the local soil is graded (highest grade = best soil for grapes) and they own a large chunk of the best soil in the area. The tour began in the elegant Mumm lobby and visitors first see a video showing how champagne is made. Then, a guide leads you into a labyrinth of tunnels and storage cellars made of chilly limestone and refrigerated further best store the champagne (bring a sweater!). There is an inventory of almost 25,000,000 bottles here, and you'll see endless tunnels of storage as you continue on the tour. The main tunnel is called the Champs élysées. At the end, you'll walk through a small museum that exhibits champagne-making tools from throughout the ages. Then, you'll go into the tasting room and sample a glass or two of Mumm champagne. I tasted a 2004 cordon rouge and a reserve that were both delightful. Due to Jim's cold, we though it best he not partake in too much tasting but he took a brut to taste and it too was good but not as good as the 2 I tried.

After Mumm, a guide suggested lunch in the country in a town south of Reims called Verzy. It was only 25-30 minutes so we headed south to find this restaurant. We found the town, drove through the extremely narrow streets, found the restaurant only to see that it was closed on Wednesday ! So we turned around and headed back after we stopped at a Pharmacie to get Jim some throat lozenges. Did I mention how narrow these streets are? There was a semi coming up the road and a big UPS type truck heading down like us, it took about 20 minutes and there was only maybe 1 inch between them but they each made it through! It was unbelievable to watch.

We drove back in to Reims to find a bistro for lunch. We stopped at Brasserie del la prix. The lady owner was flying around and spoke no English at all. Her assistant, Thomas, spoke a little English and so to be easy, we ordered hamburgers and pomme frites. He asked if we wanted a French hamburger, we said sure! It was delicious and had formage, jambon, tomato and lettuce. Did I mention that the French take 2 hours for lunch and it always seems to include wine or beer and finishes with an espresso. I think this is a great idea and we have become quite accustomed to lingering! Sunny, thoughts? Hahaha

We only had a short drive to our 2nd appointment of the day, Tattinger champagne. We arrived in time for our 2:20pm English tour and tasting. Again, the tour starts with a short video of the company and winery, then you take the staircase descent down to the caves. The oldest parts of the cellar were Gallo-Roman chalk mines, worked during the 4th century to provide building materials for the growing city above. According to legend they were dug by slaves who carved strange figures into the chalk. You can see some faces and markings! During the 13th century the cellars were enlarged by monks of the Saint Nicaise Abbey. They produced and traded Champagne wines, and needed the cellars for storage. The abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution, but the cellars survived and have been expanded by Tattinger to what they are today. The tasting was a single glass of champagne and was a disappointment. I kind of felt like they really don't want to do the tastings! Just the tour.

All these visits to the french wine country remind me to reread the book "Wine and War, the French, the Nazi's and the fight for Frances greatest treasure". This is not a book about wine--it's actually a non-fiction historical thriller with wine as the prize. All you need to know about wine is what most people know: Wine is part of the French soul. It is not merely a drink or a product. It is more important than all the perfumes and fashions and cheeses. Nothing in American cultural life has similar status. So learn to understand and enjoy the beauty of French wines, we are doing our part!

We returned to our hotel and Jim took a nice nap, we want him to get better quickly! After 7:00pm we wandered out to grab a light dinner. We enjoyed small pizza, a salad verte, I had a glass of French wine and we both enjoyed a cafe au lait. Another fantastic day! Tomorrow, Epernay which is south of Reims and the house of Moët Chandon. Then we risk our lives and drive in to Paris, drop off the car and go to the Hotel la Bourdannaise in the rue cler area. Bonne nuit.

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