Two weeks ago Ele, Cassie, and I went to Reims to explore France’s champagne region. It was only a forty minute train ride from Paris and definitely worth the trip. Reims was a little different than we expected. We all thought we were going see rolling vineyards and grape vines, instead it is a cute little town where the grape juice is brought from the vineyards to be fermented and turned into champagne. There is also a beautiful 800 year-old church in the town center – Cathedral of Notre Dame.
After a little tour of the town center, which of course involved some coffee and chocolates, we visited the caves of Taittinger and Mumm. Both “houses “make their champagne in a similar way – the grapes are brought from the vineyards to the houses in Reims where the grape juice is fermented in large steel/cement/oaks vats and turned into wine. The second fermentation process which takes place in the champagne bottles themselves (resting on their side in the the caves) turns the wine into champagne. This second fermentation process takes a minimum of three years The more expensive or “grand” varieties are aged for much longer. Below is an example of the bottles in the second fermentation stage – there are about 750,000 bottles in that ONE room!
During the second fermentation a sediment forms on the bottom side of the bottle. To remove the sediment, the champagne is moved onto racks and turned and angled little by little so the sediment gently falls to the neck of the bottle.
Once the bottles have finished the turning cycle, the neck of the bottle is frozen, the cap removed, the sediment pops out, and the bottle is corked and sent to your local Blanchard’s for your enjoyment! (Prior to this corking stage there are metals caps, like beer caps, on the champagne bottles). Our cute little tour guide at Mumm gave us a great explanation of the champagne turning: