On our second day in France we visited Reims (pronounced like France but with a R…Rance) which is in the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region of France. This region is home to many of the world famous champagne houses, known as les grandes marques...some you may know of such as Veuve Clicquot, Domaine Pommery, Taittinger, and Champagne G.H. Mumm.
Traveling to Reims from Paris is super simple, we don't know why we hadn't taken advantage of its closeness before. The train to Reims is only 45 minutes from Gare de l'Est station and the views of the countryside are lovely.
When we first arrived in Reims we strolled the streets getting familiarized with the town, which is relatively small. We then visited the Notre-Dame de Reims in the center of town. This cathedral is where the kings of France were crowned! Over the years it has served as a place of worship, a hospital in the First World War, and now as a tourist destination with over 1 million visitors each year. The facade is beautifully carved with the faces of a thousand saints, gargoyles, and architectural elements. It may be one of our new favorite cathedrals! Afterwards we visited the tourist information center to get a map and ask for any suggestions they could give us. We had already booked a tour of Lanson champagne house for the afternoon but Eve had heard that a few champagne houses offered tours without reservations. They suggested heading to Tattinger for one of their tours. They had a tour in about 40 minutes time so we hopped on one of the super convenient busses and zipped over to Taittinger for our first tour of the day!
The cathedral was having restoration done to the stain glass windows.
When we arrived at Tattinger, we were immediately struck by the grandness of the buildings. We entered the large white buildings to book our tour and then stepped outside for a few minutes of sunshine before our tour began. Taittinger uses chalk caves, called crayeres, to store their wine. These caves were originally made by the Romans in the 4th century for harvesting chalk for building materials for houses and buildings in the town. Chalk, being porous can exchange air and humidity which keep the caves cool and at a constant temperature of 45 degrees all year round. Once the caves were dug out and there was no more need for the chalk the Roman monks started using them for wine storage. Taittinger is the third oldest champagne house and its caves are on the site of the Abbey of Saint Nicaise which was destroyed during the Revolution. Taittinger also owns 712 acres of vineyards outside the city where they harvest only the best crops to make their champagnes. Once they have made their wine, they let them age up to 10 years before selling them. The tour costs 16 euros (more if you want to taste more champagne) and it includes a glass of their champagne at the end.
Yummy champagne & Ivys THEIT Camera Bag!
The chalk caves storing the champagne.
After our tour of Taittinger we grabbed a few sandwiches from a bakery nearby and ate as we walked across town to Lanson, one of our absolute favorite champagnes! The Lanson winery is different to Taittinger's since it does not use chalk caves to store the wine but old cellars built into the hillside (much like the wine cellars back home in California). The temperature however still stays cool and constant. Lanson also is the first champagne house to have their own estate vineyard right next to their cellars and facilities. We were told that they play music in the vineyard twice a day: once in the morning to help protect the vines and roots from natural damages, and once in the evening to help aid the growth of the plant. Cool! Lanson is also distinguished between the other champagne houses because they do not use malolactic fermentation in their wine making process. This step was added to most champagne houses when it was discovered around 1837. Now it is used in many wines, still and sparkling. The process makes wine less acidic and more of a smooth mouth feel. The other champagne houses in Reims use malolactic fermentation which speeds up the aging process and therefore the wine is ready sooner. However, not using the malolactic fermentation helps Lanson wines keep longer. There are a few levels for the tour and tasting you can choose from 15 euros to 30 euros, we decided to do the most expensive option which includes 3 glasses of champagne after the tour. We got to taste their classic Black Label non-vintage brut, Rose Label rosé (one of the first rosé champagnes ever made), and the Gold Label 2008 brut. Our favorite glass was the 2008 brut which had an added complexity to the fresh citrusy taste of Lanson.
Walking in Lansons Caves...they use special light bulbs that do not create heat and gives an orange glow to photos.
If only we had hallways full of Lanson champagne...
Black Label non-vintage brut
Rose Label rosé
Gold Label 2008 brut
After our tour of Lanson we headed back to the train station to head back to Paris. On our way we stopped at Maison Fossier, which is a famous bakery in Reims for its pink biscuits. These biscuits were invented in the 1690’s. Bakers in Reims wanted to make something that could be made to use the heat of their ovens after baking bread. These cute pink cookies are traditionally dipped into champagne or can also be eaten with coffee or tea. We bought a few for ourselves and for gifts. They really do go so well with champagne! Once we were at the station, we had time for one last glass of bubbly before zipping back to Paris.