Wed. Sep 18th, 2019

On the roads of Champagne, from Reims to Épernay

14 min read

Champagne is more than bubbles stuck in a high-quality wine, synonym of party or success. It’s also a title of an appellation since 1935 and of a geographic region, including many departments but whose birthplace could be located between two sister-capitals, Reims and Épernay, seated in the Marne department.

Reims, a martyr city, reborn from ashes…

Marked by centuries of History, Reims gained nearly a new face after being almost completely destroyed during the First World War. Nearly 1,000 German explosive shells landed, during the 1st World War, on the most beautiful remains of the city, of which 300 shells just for the mythical cathedral, famous for having housed the coronation of many kings of France. So many symbols are enclosed in its walls whose peak reaches 81 meters high, making it one of the highest in France after Amiens. Thanks to the generosity of the Rockefeller family, enormous reconstruction work was done on this building marked by the damage of the War. In addition, some facets of the site were left to the same to show the magnitude of the great fire caused by the countless bombings.


 

The first stone of this Cathedral, which housed the coronation of 31 kings of France, was laid in 1211 but the work lasted 300 years until 1519, Notre-Dame de Reims is both the center of an important “cathedral complex” and the ideal representation of the heavenly Jerusalem for the Middle Ages humanity.

Erected between 1211 and 1516, according to a program of great artistic richness, the cathedral of Reims is among the most beautiful testimonies left by Gothic art.

Thus we find contemporary stained glass windows from different periods. The destruction dating from the Wars of Religion and the Revolution, rather spared the Cathedral of Reims.

However, as early as the 17th century, the rain and the infiltration of water made restoration work necessary on several sculptures of the facade.

If the second quarter of the 19th century ushered in a series of important works and the classification of the building as Historic Monuments (1862), the destruction of the First World War resulted in a series of almost uninterrupted restoration campaigns to the present day .

For the preservation of this heritage, the French government has a double policy of stained glass restoration and support for creation.

Thus, some of these medieval windows have regained their former splendor while, at the same time, renowned artists exercised their art inside the Cathedral.

Contemporary creations were possible thanks to patronage operations. Since June 24, 2011, the stained glass windows of Imi Knoebel, a german artist of international reputation, are visible in the cathedral, on both sides among those earlier of Marc Chagall.

Did you know that it’s possible to visit the towers of the Cathedral? Thanks to a dual ticket delivered by the Palais du Tau Museum, you would be able to climb during 10 minutes and get closer to Paradise! This ascension may have been possible since the early 2000s. A guided tour lead in a limited group of 18 privileged people. Be reactive, this visit is very successful, especially on weekends. Despite its 80 meters high and its 248 steps to climb to reach the towers at 42 meters, the Reims Cathedral is not the highest in France but the longest, 150 meters. Since the parisian Cathedral Notre-Dame has recently burned and thus closed, the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Reims remains now the closest and more important religious edifice, for the tourists from Paris, willing to keep a contact with such old stones (photo credits: Alex Plato).

However, the building has the largest Gallery of Kings, there are 59 of which 56 turn out to be anonymous.
By the way, anyone may find some surprises in the sculptures from the facade. In particular, the scene of the baptism of Clovis, although some may notice there an anachronism, in the way which Clovis was baptized.
On September 19, 1914, the Cathedral unfortunately burned. Twenty years were needed to Henri Deneux, architect of historical monuments, and his team to restore the building. In 1938, the inauguration took place in the presence of personalities from all over the world. It should be noted that, during this World War I, 287 shells fell on the Cathedral, marking the extent of the German bombings that destroyed 85% of the City of Reims, of which only 20 buildings remained intact after those violent events.
This is why the Cathedral is miraculously miraculously reconstructed, thanks to the generosity of certain donors like the American billionaire Rockefeller around 1919.

While many traditional elements were conserved like the gargoyles and the ubiquitous golden lily flowers, an eternal royal sign in tribute of the past of the Kings consecration. Some changes have been operated to the installation of a reinforced concrete framework, renovated in 20 years. Although it was a new material at the time, it turned out to be stronger, lighter, cheaper, insect resistant and most of all flame retardant. Maybe a suggestion for the future fixing works for the woodwork arch of Notre-Dame of Paris?

The visit continues on the northern and southern transepts which are linked and thus tell religious stories. Indeed, the southern illustrates the Annunciation.
The northern part represents the Assumption, the end of the Virgin’s life, this one needs some renovation as you could see on the picture nearby. Those illustrated representations were indispensable in the Middle Ages when only 10% of the French population could read.

The Cathedral is open everyday from 7:30 to 19:30. Unless the towers are closed from November 1st to March 14th and May 1st.

Cathédrale de Reims / 2, place du Cardinal Luçon BP 2062 / Tél. : 33 / (0)3 26 47 81 79 Fax : 33 / (0)3 26 47 99 60


The residence of the archbishops of Reims adjoins the cathedral since the twelfth century, but it has had the classic appearance it currently has after the transformations made in the late seventeenth century by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte .

The Palais du Tau now houses the Museum of the Work of Our Lady. The treasure of the cathedral and part of the original statuary of the church are on display.

 

 

The most remarkable pieces of the royal treasury are the talisman of Charlemagne (ninth century) and the chalice of St. Remi (twelfth century). The reliquary of the holy bulb would contain the oil of celestial origin which was anointed the new king during the ceremony of his coronation.

 

 

 

 

Palais du Tau /2 Place du Cardinal Luçon, 51100 Reims / 00 33 (0)3 26 47 81 79

From January 2 to May 5: Open everyday, unless Monday, from 9.30 to 12.30 & from 14.00 to 17.30
From May 6 to September 8: Open everyday, unless Monday, from 9.30 to 18.30
From September 9 to December 31: Open everyday, unless Monday, from 9.30 to 12.30 / from 14.00 to 17.30
Closed on January 1st, May 1st, November 1st, November 11th and December 25th.


The role of large American families in the Reims revival is not exhaustive since we can mention the municipal library, formerly located in the City Hall also burned and whose foundation of the new antenna was supported by the family Carnegie, whose main donor, William, unfortunately died before attending its inauguration in 1921.

The Carnegie Library was rebuilt after the 1,000 bombings that destroyed the city during World War I, 300 of which wiped the cathedral which benefited from the funds of Rockefeller Junior for its reconstruction after its fire of 1914, with some elements of the facade renovated in concrete. The Art Deco style inevitably trended along the city center architecture, during the construction of the post-war.

Reims was more populated than Paris during the Gallo-Roman era and more extensive with its 650 hectares. It was the capital of the region Gaul-Belgium, bounded by four doors connected by ramparts.

It is also the symbolic center of the authority exercised by the Metropolitan Archbishop over the bishops of several dioceses in the north of France.

On some of them was built the Saint-Rémi Basilica, a Romano-Gothic basilica and one of the most remarkable achievements of Romanesque art in the North of France.

With a size of about 126 meters long, the edifice impresses with its depth and the feeling of intimacy it provides.

It was built in the eleventh century to house the holy light bulb and the relics of St. Remi, the bishop who baptized Clovis in 498.

 

His tomb (1847) occupies the center of the choir. The sober Romanesque nave and the Gothic choir (late twelfth century) with four floors constitute an impressive set of lightness and harmony.

The facade was built at the same time as the choir.

 

Saint Remi Basilica / Place Chanoine Ladame 51100 REIMS France / Open every day from 9am to 7pm, free entrance.


Taittinger, a dream spread from the chalk cellars to the bottle

The Champagne Taittinger is more than a brand, that produces 6 million bottles, that is to say almost 2% of the 320 millions of bottles on the market every year, for all of the Champagne appellation.
The House settled in the cellars of the former Saint-Nicaise Abbey, built in the 13th century upon Gallo-Roman chalk mines, dating back to the 4th century. We can count 3 cellars of the group including one in the center, one under the vinyards and one under the abbey where is currently the building of the visits; with 2km of galleries dug in chalk, 3 levels of storage of 6 million bottles.
Taittinger and Russia still maintained a strong link since the Tsar Peter 1st visited the abbey in 1717, moreover the brand will be the official supplier of the late 2018 Russian Football World Cup with a specific designed bottle for the occasion. In the meantime, the export market is very important for the brand because it represents 80% of its sales, of which the United Kingdom and the United States represent the first markets.


Pierre-Charles Taittinger founded this “young” house in 1932 and in the Vinotheque are nowadays preserved the oldest bottles, the oldest of which dates from 1966 while the series started in 1952 with a form inspired by the Middle Ages ones, allowing a better oxidation of bubbles by the flared shape of the neck. All composed of the best villages called “Grand Crû” for a maturation, from 8 to 10 years, grown in oak barrels, comparing to 18 months for a casual juice. Those cuvées mostly called Comtes de Champagne are riddled manually by an expert that may be able to “turn” 7,000 bottles per hour. Some of the oldest samples are sometimes tasted to appreciate the evolution of champagne. Like other fellows, Taittinger has a range of large formats of bottles, that account for nearly 25,000 sales a year.

 

A heritage particularly present in the galleries between stored bottles and indeed testifying of those different periods, ranging from the 3rd to the 20th through the 13th century carved in chalk (material only present in France, Benelux and England), sometimes as a pyramidal shape to avoid landslides. Galleries spread over 3 levels between 12 and 20 meters underground, lit with sodium to ensure a constant temperature.
The property of the House’s vineyards is spread between 288 hectares which represents the 3rd vineyard in surface for the Champagne appellation, which doesn’t forbid them from requiring 50% of supply of external juice contributions. For information, the first surface is 1300 hectares for Moet and Chandon and the second ranking, 500 for the Champagne Veuve Cliquot, whereas the Champagne appellation was registered in 1935 and represents nearly 34,000 hectares in all the departments concerned.

Taittinger / 9 Place St Nicaise, 51100 Reims / 0033(0)3 26 85 45 35 / Planning here

View this post on Instagram

#Reims, a martyr city, reborn from ashes… Marked by centuries of History, Reims gained nearly a new face after being almost completely destroyed during the First World War. Thanks to the generosity of the #Rockefeller family, enormous reconstruction work was done on this building marked by the damage of the War. The role of large American families in the Reims revival is not exhaustive since we can mention the municipal library, formerly located in the City Hall, also burned, and whose foundation of the new antenna was supported by the #Carnegie family, whose main donor, William, unfortunately died before attending its inauguration in 1921. The @champagnetaittinger is more than a brand, that produces 6 million bottles, that is to say almost 2% of the 320M of bottles on the market every year, for all of the #Champagne appellation. The House settled in the cellars of the former Saint-Nicaise #Abbey, built in the 13th century upon Gallo-Roman chalk mines, dating back from the 4th century. #Taittinger and #Russia maintain a strong link since the #Tsar Peter 1st visited the abbey in 1717, moreover the brand will be the official supplier of the @fifaworldcup in Russia with a specific designed bottle for the occasion. The first stone of this #ReimsCathedral, which housed the coronation of 31 kings of France, was laid in 1211 but the work lasted 300 years until 1519, among them the famous #Clovis in #NotreDame de Reims. Since June 24th, 2011, the #stainedglass windows of #ImiKnoebel, a #germanArtist, are visible in the cathedral, on both sides among those earlier of #MarcChagall. Reims was the capital of the Gaul-Belgium, bounded by 4 doors connected by ramparts. On some of them was built the Saint-Rémi #Basilica, a 126m long Romano-#Gothic style. Music: #ChristinaVierra / Those Eyes @reimstourisme @lacitedessacres @carnegiehall @christiesrockefeller @rockcenternyc @rockefeller_university_press @reimsgoodnews @reimsgourmand @tourismechampagne @champagnetaittingerau @taittingerusa @richardtaittingergallery @taittingerchampagne #russiaworldcup2018 #jeroboam #magnum #salmanazar #mathusalem #balthazar #michaelbolton #nabuchodonosor @usembassyfrance

A post shared by The Best Of You & Nearby (@francevisiting) on


Épernay, the twin sister, beyond the Reims Mountain

The other emblematic city of Champagne is undoubtedly Épernay and is also located in the Marne department. Épernay and its famous Avenue de Champagne, also called “the richest avenue of the World” as it counts the famous Champagne Houses and its priceless storage of champagne bottles, on the cellars under those mansions. This rectilinear path of more than one kilometer is lined with buildings with a strong identity architecture of the late nineteenth century. Private mansions and large trading houses make up a luxurious promenade, punctuated by high grids massive and worked. Ideally located on the royal road, linking Paris to Germany, it developed when the wine trade specialized. The fame of this street begins in the eighteenth century: when “The great road from Paris to Germany” crosses this path, it becomes “the royal road”. Renamed “Faubourg du Commerce”, it is said that “all establishments of champagne trade settle there because of the superiority of the cellars, and grow with acceleration.” On September 2, 1849, the section “Paris-Epernay” of the Eastern rail line is inaugurated and offers new development prospects for the champagne trade and in 1925, the boom is such high that the former street trade is re-christened “avenue de Champagne”.

Named “Faubourg de la Folie”, under Louis XV (probably because of the presence of rich properties), it became a land of choice for the champagne wine. The largest Champagne Houses are developing there and show their success with many castles, like Perrier, Gérard, Peking, which combine the family aspect and the Champagne trade are thus witnesses of the time. The mansions of Maisons Auban-Moet, Chandon, Maigret, Gallice, Billy and Mercier are all prestigious, as much in the interior layout as in their environment. Nowadays, the whole thing represents a park of 110 kilometers of cellars located under the avenue and more than 200 million bottles. Each year, more than 450,000 people from around the world visit Épernay and its famous avenue.


A new player in the Champagne game, the Comtesse Lafond House

The Comtesse Lafond Champagne House is part of the newcomers in this Champagne Avenue, since the site, formerly property of Eugene Mercier under the name of the Castle of Peking, was bought by the Baron de Ladoucette in 1998, also owner of other vineyards across the Hexagon. The monumental site, testifying the flourishing past of the city, was restored at the cost of three years of renovation work, to paint back the original charm, thanks in particular to the Compagnons du Devoir cooperation. The first bottles of the seven cuvées proposed nowadays, came out in the early 2000s. The place also provides salons for specific events after a possible visit of the Château’s wine cellars and its extensive park, through agreements between prestigious food and champagne.

As one of the last family champagne houses, notably after buying vineyards located over Pierry in 2000, the management decided that the sales would be mainly at 95% aimed to hotels and restaurants customership (photo credits: Champagne Comtesse Lafond).
The castle was built in 1860 by Eugène Mercier but was abandoned in 1950, until its acquisition in 2000 and 3 years of renovation work was needed to return to the original charm and oak-wood templets inspired by those that adorn the porch of Trinity College Dublin. The joinery wood comes from Avelin State Forests.
The Comtesse Lafond inspired the name of the brand, as a tribute to the name of great great-grandmother of the founder Baron de la Doucette, in their estate in Pouilly sur Loire, portraited by the academical painter Franz-Xaver Winterhalter.
7 varieties of champagne are proposed for large restaurants, 50% of which are exported, starting from 3g to 6g of sugar amount, between the extra-brut and the Blanc de Blancs range or the Comtesse vintage with 9g vs 13g a casual champagne.
The House doesn’t use barrels to avoid altering the taste of the champagne fruit.


Another way to do Champagne

On the same Champagne Avenue, the Collard-Picard House was born from an alliance of two names. Since the early days, the idea was to remain traditional while harvesting champagne grapes by handling, to be able to control the supply chain and adopting certain own receipts. Cuvées are aged in oak barrels (of 7,200 liters, equivalent to 20,000 bottles) since 4 generations, allowing a controlled oxygenation, and the wine to breathe while bringing it more aromas without being too woody. Plus, a fermentation (not malolactic leaving the acid natural malic). The juice is not chaptalized after harvest, leaving natural yeasts upraising in 2 months. Most of the production is located in Villers-Chatillon, 15km from Epernay, on 16 hectares extended on two vineyards, on the clay soils of the Marne Valley and those limestones of the Côte des Blancs, more suitable to Chardonnay and 120,000 bottles. In another hand, Cuvées are aged at least 3 years, minimizing the acidity of the wine. The disgorging takes place at least 6 months before placing on the market, allowing the liquor to better “marry the wine”.


A minority of champagne makers offer a vintage bleeding, with a fruit marriage of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, unlike the majority of farmers. Then, for the rosé conception, the way is to watch hour by hour the color of the juice with a maceration of the skin of the grapes.

Also the agriculture methods are familial with the use of traditional plow plow, no chemical weed killer and turf to prevent weed infestation but even though, Mrs Collard thinks that “organic, from an economic point of view is not viable”, since an average area is ​​2 hectares per farm.
An Art gallery completes the showroom on the Avenue de Champagne.

View this post on Instagram

#Épernay, the twin sister, beyond the #Reims Mountain. The other emblematic city of #Champagne is undoubtedly #Epernay & is also located in the #Marne department. @villeepernay & its famous #ChampagneAvenue, also called “the richest avenue of the World” as it counts the famous Champagne Houses & its priceless storage of champagne bottles, on the cellars under those luxurious mansions. This rectilinear path of more than 1 km is lined with buildings of a strong identity architecture of the late 19th century.  The whole ensemble represents a park of 110 km of cellars located under the avenue & more than 200 million bottles. Each year, more than 450,000 people from around the world visit Epernay with brands such @pol_roger, @moetchandon, #DeCastellane, @champagnevranken, @perrierjouet, @champagnegeorgescartier, #DeVenoge, @champagneboizel, @piper_heidsieck, Charles Lafitte, @champagnealfredgratien, Champagne Collard Picard. A new player in the Champagne game, the #ComtesseLafond is part of the newcomers in this Avenue, since the site, formerly called “Castle of Peking”, was bought by the Baron de Ladoucette in 1998, also owner of other domains. The monumental site, testifying the flourishing past of the city, was restored at the cost of 3 years of renovation. An #ArtDeco nest in the Montagne De Reims, the @chateaudesacyreims which was also originally called "Villa Maria". One of the last vestiges and summer residences of the pre War period. Most of them were destroyed during it. This #BoutiqueHotel is open since June 2017 & proposes the local organic restaurant & the #Echo #SPA with #nordicspa in the vineyards. Also nearby, in Chamery near Reims, the modern hotel #DansLesVignes awaits you with the @champagnebonnetponson, organic farmed with alternative methods based on #phytotherapy. Music: @devhynes / #Augustine @epernaytourisme @ccidereimsetdepernay @igersepernay @lesvitrinesdepernay @villedereims @champagne_moments @tourismechampagne @pommeryusa @krugchampagne @lvmh @bldorange @aychampagneexperience @airbnb #bollinger #moetchandon #VeuveCliquot #minabasaran #ruinart #michaelbolton #cahuzac #tomwolfe #bloodorange #nettabarzilai #gaza #mh370 #magnum

A post shared by The Best Of You & Nearby (@francevisiting) on

All pictures courtesy made by Hugh Tran.

Leave a Reply