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My Visit To Champagne: A Travel Diary

Learn all about Champagne - why it's so cool, how to get affordable Champagne,

and my travel adventures in Reims tasting Champagne and touring cellars.

For those who know me well, you know that Champagne is the most symbolic wine of my personality – classy, elegant, and bubbly. That’s why I LOVE Champagne and made a point to visit there on my travels. In July, after my time at Château Coliving in Normandy, I made a brief stop at Strasbourg, then Reims – the main area of the Champagne region. Reims is an old, historic town in the French northeastern countryside with lots of cobblestone streets. What’s great about this town is that it’s an hour train ride from Paris, so you can easily visit for a day trip.

If you're ever really into a certain type of wine, visiting its place of origin is a MUST because you get to learn about it's long history into becoming known worldwide, get to explore all the different styles of the wine, and purchase it at an affordable rate (because we all know wine in Canada is expensive). Here, I'll tell you the back story of how Champagne peaked my interest and all the discoveries I found during my travels in France. As well, I've included some fun facts that I learned on my wine tours to entice you to take a trip to Champagne or open a bottle at home.

How I Grew My Interest In Champagne

Tattinger Champagne House

My interest in Champagne really evolved when I took a course in Brand Development and Value Creation in Wine and Spirits for my exchange program in Bordeaux in 2019. I chose the course because there was no course on that subject at my university and I had some interest in wine at the time. The biggest gift to me from that course was my French professor. She was absolutely the most passionate professor I ever had. Her talks about how Champagne developed its status symbol in society through its symbolism and country of origin really piqued my interest in this wine. As I mentioned in my travel diary about my time in Porto, learning the history behind the wine really gave me a greater appreciation for it. Because of this course, I made it a point to add a visit to Champagne on my bucket list, and I’m glad that I was able to check it off.

Champagne is SO AFFORDABLE!

Now, that's a saying you never hear in Canada. As you may know, the average brut Champagne in Canada starts at $70CAD! One of the reasons for this is that only the big brands like Moët et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, and Pierre Jouët have distribution channels to Canada. When I went to France, I found a family boutique Champagne at a farmer’s market for 15€, equivalent to $20CAD. I was shocked at how affordable it was, and it was more or less the same quality as the average brut Champagne from one of the big brands. Clearly, I need to move to France if I want to be enjoying Champagne on the regular.

My Wine Tours in Reims

Maison Pommery Champagne Tasting

Let’s get into it - how did I spend my time in Reims? The day I got there, it was 40°C! Luckily, I booked a self-guided tour at La Maison Pommery, which was all inside and allowed me to hide in the cellar (great timing for the heat). La Maison Pommery is a UNESCO Heritage Site with a cellar 30 meters below ground that’s been transformed into a contemporary art gallery. The gallery contained art pieces that were symbolic to the history of Champagne while speaking to the history of Champagne and Madame Pommery’s impact on Champagne throuugh their audio guide. Fun fact - Champagne was historically a sweet wine and treated as a dessert, then Madame Pommery made the first brut Champagne - now it’s the most common style of Champagne. As well, the tour went through every major city in chronological order that the Pommery Champagne was distributed to and showed how they built a worldwide recognized brand. After the tour, I got two tastings of their Brut Royal and Grand Cru Royal 2009. The Brut Royal was their common style of Champagne – pale yellow colour, soft nose with notes of green apple and stone fruit, hints of butter, and a crisp, mineral mouthfeel. The Grand Cru Royal 2009 was a gold amber colour with a fragrant nose, had vibrant notes of dried fruit like prunes and raisins, and a lively, smooth mouthfeel. Overall, they were both great wines, but I was a bigger fan of the Brut Royal since the dried fruit notes of the Grand Cru Royal weren't something my palate liked. I always go by the phrase "good wine is what your palate likes, not what's most expensive."

Canada on the Wine Map

The next day, I went on an Airbnb experience Champagne tour with my American friend that I met at Château Coliving. Our tour guide drove us in a van around town to pass by some monuments while giving us some history of the town, then stopped at the Tattinger cellars. Fun fact – the Tattinger Champagne House is still a family-run business. We went down to the cellars, checked out some winemaking machines, and learned some fun facts about Champagne (find them at the end of the blog). After the tour, we had two tastings of their Brut Réserve and Prestige Rosé. Their Brut Réserve is Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier dominant containing light aromas of cream, notes of peach and honey with hints of floral and a delicate, lively mouthfeel. The Prestige Rosé is Chardonnay dominant with a pink colour, fresh notes of raspberry and cherry, and an elegant mouthfeel. Both wines were very delicious. To finish off our time, there was lovely artwork displayed in the lobby to look at. My favourite was the wall of wine regions around the world, and guess what - Canada made it on the map!

Michel Fagot Wines (left to right): Clos de Marzilly 2009, Blanc de Blancs, Millésime 2006 Brut Premier Cru

After Tattinger, we drove to the outskirts of town where the vineyards lay and visited a small boutique Champagne house, Maison Michel Fagot. Our group checked out their prop winemaking machines and cellar, then got tastings of 3 champagnes – Clos de Marzilly 2009, Blanc de Blancs, and Millésime 2006 Brut Premier Cru. Clos de Marzilly 2009 is made purely from Pinot Meunier grapes with a golden yellow colour, soft aromas, and notes of apricot, passionfruit, honey and almond. The Blanc de Blancs (my favourite of the three) had a golden yellow colour with notes of stone fruit and florals, and a light, elegant mouthfeel. The Millésime 2006 Brut Premier Cru is made of 50% Pinot Noir grapes and 50% Chardonnay grapes. It contains a golden amber colour with flavourful notes of tropical fruits like mango and pineapple with hints of honey, dried fruit and brioche.

Overall, the whole experience was quite educational and fascinating. The Tattinger cellar had a lot to see, while the Champagnes we tasted at Michel Fagot were very diverse and higher quality. In total, our group got 5 Champagne tastings, so what's not to love about this experience? When I purchased a 750mL bottle of the Blanc de Blancs at Michel Fagot, I was shocked that it was 27€, while my 375mL bottle of Brut Réserve at Tattinger was 20€. Talk about a huge difference in price between a big brand versus a boutique house. What was a bigger price difference was the shipping costs of a bottle to Canada. It was roughly 60€ to ship one bottle to Canada, and that only covered shipping. So I was like SCREW IT, I’ll lug my precious bottles home.

Fun Facts About Champagne

Tattinger Champagne House Art Gallery

To end off, here are three (more) of the best and most fascinating facts I learned about Champagne on my wine tours:

  • The biggest bottle of Champagne is the Melchizedek, holding 30L (equivalent to 400 75mL bottles) – you can buy one for approx. 205,000€

  • Champagne bottles can explode while aging in the cellar. While these wines are aging, they're stacked on top of one in batches of tens of hundreds of bottles. In order to prevent a chain reaction of exploding Champagne bottles, the cellarmasters stack them in a particular way, so the bottles remain in place if one explodes.

  • Champagne grapes are softly pressed three times. The first two presses are used to make Champagne. The third press can’t be used to make Champagne, so the grape juice is sold to companies like Caudalie to make products like skincare and cosmetics since grape juice has antioxidants. That’s why a lot of skincare and cosmetic brands originate from France. Cool isn’t it!

I'm so glad I've got to experience Champagne as a wine and region and hope you learned a lot about Champagne. Let me know in the comments if you’ve added a visit to Champagne to your bucket list.




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