Sunday, August 10, 2008

Watch Out for the Flying Cork

France is a major exporter of all thing luxury. Louis Vuitton bags, Chanel perfume, Dior sunglasses, Yves Saint Laurent suits; Paris just wouldn't be Paris without these expensive items on display. But luxe isn't limited to the glitz and glam of the Champs-Elysées or Avenue Montaigne. Drive an hour and half east of Paris and you'll end up in France's Champagne region, famous of course for it's bubbly bottles of alcohol by the same name. Tucked between rolling hills of vines and quiet little villages, big and small operations alike skillfully produce their delicious wares. A weekend visit gave me a peek into the centuries-old and modern-day beloved process.

Champagne's small, independent producers can be found throughout the region, and often let you tour their caves or partake in a tasting. If you're looking to visit the major houses, as we were, you'll want to stick to the city of Reims and the town of Épernay. Here you'll find all the major exporters: Moët and Chandon, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger and many more. Take the cave tour to learn about the the process that turns grapes into champagne....and for the tasting that follows. Taittinger's caves were the most interesting as they include areas dug during the Gallo-Roman era in the 4th century as well as all that remains of the Saint Nicaise Abbey whose Benedictine monks built caves for their own champagne creation. The rest of the Abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution. For an excellent tasting experience, request a private tasting in advance at Moët and Chandon. As you sip your Millésimé 2000 in the quiet garden you'll truly feel like a V.I.P.

Champagne is an easy day trip from Paris and well worth the drive (or train ride) to get there. The price tag for a visit will most certainly be less shocking than the one on a Hermès scarf, and bonus: unlike Louis Vuitton or Dior, whose stores can be found across the globe, the Champagne region is the only place in the world where you can drink a glass of bubbly at the source.
After all, if it's not made in Champagne, it's just sparkling wine.


sdg1844 said...

I love the history behind the creation of so many different champagnes. It really puts things into perspective when I'm staring @ a bottle.

I LOVE champagne more than anything else in the world EXCEPT Ben & jerry's Choc. Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. :-)

Tanya said...

sdg1844: I totally agree. The amount of work and care and thought that goes into each bottle is amazing.