Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Champagne Region of France

After returning late Thursday night from Paris, Rick and I were up and out of the house early driving to the Champagne Region of France as our first tour started at 10AM!! Yikes!

We made it and had a great time driving down! If you know Rick, you know that he is full of hilarious stories and Rick'isms (as I call them). We laughed the entire drive....he made the road trip a lot of fun! Oh, and I too had my fair share of funnies as well.....so don't think it was all him!!

A friend of mine highly recommended visiting the Ruinart Champagne House and I am so glad we did! It was incredible. The Ruinart House was officially created on September 1, 1729 and was the first Champagne House. We had a private guide to take us around the house and share with us the process for making champagne. It was great because we were not under any pressure and could ask as many questions as we wanted.

I will not try to tell you the process for making champagne, but the aging process was so interesting to me. The Ruinart cellars are old chalk pits used way back when. Mr. Ruinart found these chalk pits and determined them to be the perfect place for the storage and aging of champagne as the mines are more than 30 meters below ground and the constant and natural temperature remains at 11°C/50°F. Once he found this little discovery, he built the champagne house on top of the chalk mines!

These are the stairs leading the to chalk pits!

Bottles stacked for as far as you can see!

The aging process requires bottles to be hand turned on a specific rotation by trained 'turners'. (It takes 3 years in training to be qualified to examine and turn bottles!) You would think in this day and age there would be machines to do such a task. Well, we asked, and was told that each bottle is different and all bottles are examined and depending on how the yeast is settling requires bottles to be hand turned and monitored constantly. There are machines that do this on some bottles. It got really complicated at this point in the tour!

No wonder the cost of a good champagne can be so expensive!! After our tour we were able to taste 2 glasses of different champagnes. The cost of a bottle of the 2 types we tasted was over $200 per bottle! I told you they were expensive!

Rick and our guide!
Champagne in Champagne!!!
I think this may be enough for Rick to get through 2008!! There were over 60,000 bottles in this one area!
Our next tour was at the Mo√ęt & Chandon Champagne House. Founded in 1743, this house is the maker of the famous Dom Perignon and is the largest of the Champagne houses. Although fantastic, the tour at this house was not as exciting as the Ruinart tour. I think this house is a bit more touristy and the groups are larger than at other houses.

This lady had been doing champagne tours for over 22 years! What a cool job!

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