I’ve returned from France after skiing the Alps in Chamonix, sight-seeing in Paris and touring WWII museums in Normandy. But a visit to France would not be complete without a stop in wine country (especially for a WineGuy)! Bordeaux… Burgundy… the Rhone… Loire Valley… the marquee names of France’s wine regions are not in northern France.
But a 45-minute train ride from Paris is Reims, the center of Champagne region and a historic city of 200,000 people. In the 19th century German immigrants began developing sparkling wine and became the founding fathers of Champagne. The German influence remains with house names like Krug, Heidsieck, Mumm as well as the German pronunciation of many words such as Reims (pronounced rrr-ahms).
Champagne, the most famous sparkling wine in the world, can be considered champagne ONLY if it comes from this region in France – otherwise, it is simply sparkling wine. And Pinot Noir (red), Pinot Meunier (red) and Chardonnay (white) are the ONLY grapes allowed in Champagne. The vineyards thrive in limestone-chalk soil producing grapes with an extraordinary balance of acidity, body and richness unlike anywhere in the world. The region is one of the most northern areas for growing world-class grapes but global warming has increased sugar levels and alcohol content in recent harvests.
While in Reims, I toured one of the major champagne houses (maisons), GH Mumm (pronounced Moom). In addition to owning 690 acres of vineyards, Maison Mumm sources grapes from another 1,500 acres to satisfy their annual production. The Maison tour includes its underground caves, a vast network below city streets. Dating back to Roman times, the caves are carved from chalk and hold 25 million bottles of champagne for aging.
DID YOU KNOW?
Mumm Cordon Rouge champagne has become a tradition for celebration with their sponsorship of Formula I auto racing and other major sporting events. The red silk ribbon, a reference to France’s Legion of Honor, is a symbol of Maison Mumm’s excellence and expertise.
The ideal champagne glass is NOT a flute. The tulip glass has slim base with wider bowl to release aromas, then narrowing at top for bubbles.
Cheers, Bob the WineGuy
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