Sunday, April 13, 2014
In the land of Champagne
Back in the early 2000's, I took a trip to London and Paris with my close friend David and we decided that while we were in Paris we should take a day trip to Reims and visit the home of our favorite champagne, Veuve Clicquot. It was David who introduce me to Veuve and it immediately became my favorite champagne too. Clicquot Cellars is open for tours by appointment only so arrangements to visit were made long before we left on this trip. We asked for a specific day and then they gave us a time to be there. We arrived in plenty of time, stopped for lunch in the heart of the city and then took a taxi to the cellars.
The enterprise was founded by Phillippe Clicquot in 1772 and taken over by the son Francois who married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798. Francois died in 1805 leaving his entire enterprise to his widow. Madame Clicquot was the first woman to take over and run a champagne house and she was only 27 years old at the time. The word Veuve means "widow" in French and the official name of the company became Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.
Behind the gates, we found showroom and the start of our tour.
In 1816, Madame Clicquot invented the first "riddling" table which makes it possible to ensure a crystal-clear wine and this process continues today. Riddling is done by turning and moving the bottles once every day to dislodge the solids in the wine so they settle at the top of the bottle. When this process is done, the cork is carefully removed, the solids removed and then the bottle is re-corked.
You can see some of these riddling tables in the photo to the left.
In 1909, Veuve Clicquot moved to it's present location in Reims and took full advantage of the chalk cellars created from a former quarry. Our tour took us to many locations inside the cellar where we saw bottles and wine casks and even a locked area with some very, very old bottles that have been preserved.
Of course, there was the possibility of buying some to take with us which we did and there were a few gift items that could also be purchased. I still have the silk scarf I purchased that features depictions of the various labels that have adorned the bottles over the years.
If a tour of the Veuve Clicquot cellars interests you, you can request a tour on their website.