The day between final exams and graduation we took a day trip to the Champagne-Ardenne region to visit G.H. Mumm in Reims and Moët & Chandon in Épernay for tours and tastings. Unfortunately both tours presented pretty much identical information, but here’s a recap of interesting things I learned.
1. Champagne in Champagne is only made from three grape varieties (either alone or together in varying proportions): chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
2. After fermentation there are sediments that are ultimately expelled through a long process of gradually turning the bottle until the particles collect in the neck, which is then dipped in a -20 degree solution, freezing it. The bottle is then quickly inverted, and the pressure expels the sediment-containing ice cube.
3. There are people whose job it is to turn the bottles by hand for the first part of the process. They can turn up to 50,000 bottles in a single day. I wish I had asked how much these people get paid for this.
4. Standard champagnes are stored in the cellar for a minimum of 2-3 years (maybe it was months…by this point I was too focused on getting to the tasting to pay much attention to the guide) before being sold. Vintages can stay much longer. At Moët & Chandon they had two bottles of ‘69 left, which can be purchased for just over 2000 euros!
5. Tastings in Champagne are much stingier and less efficient than in Napa. We went with an organized tour, but generally you have to call ahead and make appointments at each winery/champagne house. Additionally (though maybe because we were with such a large group) they only give you one glass of one product. Having been tasting in Napa I was expecting 4-5. I mean, how do you know what to buy afterwards unless you’ve tried them all?