Too Late for the Train to Reims...
How About Epernay?
the way the trip began. For a visit to the Champagne region
from Paris, Reims
was our first choice. Reims cathedral added to the wine cellars makes for a good mix
of fun and culture. But we had enjoyed the morning in Paris
and after lunch the train
schedule for the planned trip to Reims didn't fit into the
the rest of the schedules we found that we could still make
the train to Epernay,
visit the Moët & Chandon cellars and get back to Paris
the same day. It was settled.
choice was perfect. Getting tickets for Epernay is much simpler,
as well. For English speakers, Reims is extremely difficult
to pronounce! (Reims is pronounced rans', a somewhat
nasal 'ran' with an s' -- better to write it on a
slip of paper to show the ticket clerk).
Off to visit Epernay
with tickets in hand to Epernay, we boarded the train for the
quick trip to the Champagne
region. Trains in France make travel part of the adventure.
As you relax in your seat, the scenery floats by...
in Epernay, we emerged from the station to find the Church of
Notre Dame. While not as magnificent as the Cathedral at Reims,
the gargoyles and architecture were a very nice surprise. The
village was pleasant and the wine houses were a short walk away.
also treated to a traditional French wedding procession as a
young bride and groom crossed the courtyard and entered the
Church. The children walked behind the bride holding the train
of her dress with the rest of the family and guests making an
honor guard in front of her. What a warm welcome to the village
the wedding we made our way to the great Champagne house of
Moët & Chandon. Guests are greeted by a statue of Dom
Perignon, the monk who is generally credited with discovering
the Méthode Champenoise (may-tawd shaw-pah-nwaz). His
call to the other monks, "Come quickly, I am tasting stars!"
may still be the best description of the sparkling wines made
in his name. Dom Perignon is the flagship product of Moët
et Chandon. We were ready to see the cellars where one of the
finest champagnes is created.
the tour guides were waiting. The tours are offered in several
languages and the guides are fluent. Our guide was actually
a British student who was studying in France.
of the limestone caves that house the Champagnes is an experience
you should put on your schedule if you are visiting the Paris
area. The miles of tunnels are used to store more than 100 million
bottles of Champagne! Do not wander off from the group or you
will find yourself lost in the labyrinth of the cellars.
guide leads you through the caves where you can see the bottles
of champagne in the stages of fermentation that lead to a finished
bottle of champagne. In Methode
Champenoise, the wine is fermented more than once. After
the first fermentation, which takes takes two to three weeks,
the wine is transferred to very sturdy bottles designed to prevent
breakage from the pressure inside the bottle. Some bottles do
still break, but the percentage is very small.
and yeast mixture called Liqueur de Tirage is added to
the wine at this point. The bottles are sealed with a metal
cap that looks like a beer bottle cap. Adding the sugar and
yeast causes the wine to ferment again. This second fermentation
in the bottle is what makes the carbon dioxide bubbles - the
sparkle in champagne. During fermentation the yeast settles
in the bottle. This is called sediment and needs to be removed
before the wine is ready.
is done by placing the wines in racks at an angle. Every day
the bottles are turned just the right amount. This process,
or remuage, is very precise and the people who are responsible
for it train for years before they become experts. After about
6 or 8 weeks, the sediment slips to the neck of the bottle.
The liquid in the neck is frozen, the bottle is opened and the
force of the pressurized wine inside the bottle pushes the frozen
sediment out. This process is called disgorgement.
Wine and sugar is added to replace the liquid that was removed
with the sediment. The amount of sugar added in this last step
determines the sweetness
of the champagne. The bottle is then given its permanent
of this we moved to the tasting room where the staff served
samples of the finished Champagne to the tourists. Most thought
this was the best part of the tour. After the tasting, the tour
moved to the shop where Champagne and other items were for sale.
We did bring home a case of Brut Imperial, as a keepsake of
see in Travel -> Train
Travel | Rome
to Florence by Train
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