Posted by: vlibrizzi | April 26, 2009

While the boys are studying, the girls will…

img_2462…drink champagne!!! 

Today, some girlfriends and I left our studious husbands at home (they have final exams this week) and we drove two hours north to Reims (pronounced “rance,” which rhymes with “France”), a small, but historically very important, French town in the Champagne region. 

According to Rick Steeves, my favorite travel guide, Reims is where “26 French kings were coronated (in the Reims Notre Dame cathedral), were Champagne first bubbled (Dom Perignon, a monk, discovered how to make champagne here out of adding yeast to wine and fermenting it), where WWI devastation (all but 70 buildings were damaged in 1918) met miraculous reconstruction during the Art Deco age, and wehre the Germans officially surrendered in 1945, bringing World War II to a close in Europe.”

So, it seemed like the perfect place for us to take a day trip.

img_2455We started our day by tasting champagne at Martel. Those in the US might not know this brand of champagne (only 20 percent of their product is experted and, that 20 percent is mostly exported within Europe). But, if you are in the US and can get your hands on one of the bottles, you should. Their champagne is wonderful.

Or, if you can make it to Reims, the tour was wonderful too. Our friendly, English speaking guide, Emmanuel, began by taking us deep into the champagne caves (built by the Romans in the 4th century) where the champagne was stored (now all the Champagne companies have larger, more industrial, facilities in Epernay, a close-by town). He told us about how champagne is made and he showed us how to turn champagne bottles to keep the sediment from staying too long in one place. Before machines took over, it was one person’s job to turn every bottle in the champagne cave one quarter turn ever hour. That’s thousands of bottles every hour!!!  A pretty demanding (but boring) job, huh?

img_2461Then, after leaving the cellars we got to the best part…the champagne tasting.

We tasted three different types of champagne: a brut, a rose, and a demi-sec. In general, there are three different types of champagne based on the amount of sugar that is added: Brut (less sugar), Sec (medium amount of sugar), and then Demi-sec (more sugar).

Of course, my favorite is demi-sec (are you surprised?), but the French only drink Brut champagne. Since they only drink champagne as an apertif (before dinner drink) and not after a meal, the French want their champagne to be more like an appetizer than a dessert. Hence, they like the least sweet variety.

 

img_2469After our tasting, my friends and I visited the Reims cathedral, the construction of which began in 1211!

Since 26 kings and queens were coronated at the cathedral, it plays a much more important role in France’s political history than the Notre Dame in Paris. But, as you can see in the photos, it looks very much like the Notre Dame in Paris….flying buttresses, large rose windows, vaulted ceilings. It is massive, like most French cathedrals, and most Europeans consider it to be one of their greatest churches.

 

You can see some more photos from our trip to Reims below. I’ll have to take C. back there in the future. It is a great town to visit, and I’m really sorry he had to miss seeing it…and tasting the wonderful champagne!   

 

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