Went on a tour of the Champagne region of France today. Began with a visit to the city of Reims (pronounced as if you were saying the word 'rinse') and the home of Taittinger. We had a tour of their cellars where the temperature must remain at either 10 or 12 degrees at all times. As it was such a beautifully sunny day outside, none of us were suitably dressed and it was rather chilly down there. They store about 95 million bottles of champagne.
After the explanation of how it's made, its consistency, and how the weather determines whether it'll be a vintage year or not, we got to have a drink of the stuff. I was expecting a bit of a tasting. Maybe of about 3 or 4 different varieties. And as I'd only recently watched Sideways for the 4th or 5th time, I was really looking forward to this bit. But, disappointingly, we were only given 1 glass to drink. No vivid explanation, no champagne-induced lingo, no beautiful alliteration. Still, it was fantastic stuff. Definitely the best champagne I'd ever drunk. Far less fizzy than the plonk I'm used to and extremely smooth.
We then had a couple of hours for lunch where we both had the usual typically crap meal I've come to expect in France. C's steak was far too fatty and tasted like something you'd get in a gastro pub in England. The chips were anaemic and tasteless. You can't beat a Belgian steak-frites. But, the sun shone and it was lovely to be in short sleeves in the second week of October.
Our tour then took us to Hautvillers, birth and deathplace of one Dom Pérignon. An absolutely adorable and quintessentially French little village with stunning views in all directions. Nothing like a tour party and their huge noisy coach to spoil the tranquility.
We ended with a tour of the cellars of Mercier in the town of Epernay. This time our tour took place on an electrically powered little train. The kind of thing you see kids riding on in theme parks. Again, no tasting, but a glass of Mercier instead. We bought 3 bottles of the stuff. Half the price of Taittinger and not as sweet.
The tour whetted my appetite for future excursions in France. I just love the place.