March 26, 2013

Reims - A Taste of Champagne at Mumm

I've been intrigued by Reims ever since I read The Widow Clicquot about the audacious Barb-Nicole Clicquot who took over her husband's struggling wine business after he died and turned it into a global empire during the challenging times of the French Revolution.  It's an amazing story centered in Reims and a highly recommended quick read.  Unfortunately, Veuve Clicquot wine cellars were closed during our visit so we opted to tour G.H. Mumm instead.
We entered the lobby of the building and were greeted by gold foil capped bottles in three sizes.
Soon, we descended into the cellars on an English language guided tour.
The old wooden barrels used to age the champagne have since been replaced by higher tech stainless steel but the barrels still remain on display.
We made our way past a seemingly endless row of stainless steel tanks.
The caves were dimly lit with an ethereal green light.
Before descending further into the cellars, we passed a statue paying homage to the art of wine-making.
Bottles were stacked from floor to ceiling as the bubbly aged.
A back-lit bottle hanging from the ceiling highlighted the yeast and sugar sediment required for formation of fine champagne but that presents a serious process challenge to remove.  The bottles are turned upside down at an angle and then turned by 90 degrees a day until the sediment falls to the cap.  The cap is removed and the pressure inside the bottle forces the sediment out.
We passed a dimly lit cellar only accessible by the lead wine-maker which contains G.H. Mumm vintages dating back more than 100 years.
Riddling racks lined the corridor.
The system of caves went on for miles.
The tour ended with a mini-museum exhibit featuring champagne making tools and instruments over the years.
When we surfaced again, we were taken to the tasting room.  The tour price varied depending on which tasting option was chosen.  Since we would likely only do this once, we decided to go for the fanciest and most expensive tasting.  We sampled a 2004 vintage, a Blanc de Blancs, and a Blanc de Noirs.
It was definitely an educational and fun tour - the opportunity to sip champagne at the end didn't hurt the experience either!


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