Reims, the capital of Champagne is small enough to walk everywhere, big enough to offer something to suit just about everyone. And, of course, it’s a place where the bubbles pop!
Stellar Cellars in Reims
You can’t go to Reims and not visit a Champagne house and the biggest and one of the best in town is Champagne GH Mumm & Co. (pronounced “moom” as in “took”). Walk through their hallowed doors and you’ll enter the world of myth, celebrity and champagne glory. It began in 1827, a company of three brothers whose legacy is a legend. George Hermann, the son of one of the brothers, gave the company his name: ‘GH’, and its motto “only the best”. GH may be long gone, but his philosophy lives on. Take a tour to discover the history of the company and of Champagne.
Head a little way out of the centre to visit Champagne Ruinart, the oldest Champagne house in existence. They also offer a tour which is fascinating and takes you under Reims into the chalk quarries where the Champagne matures. They don’t have a shop as such but a boutique where you can order from an iPad and someone will nip to the cellar and bring your bottles up – superb!
There are thousands of different flavours to Champagne - some might only be subtle, but others are really widely different. It depends on the blend, the terroir, that impossible to explain French word that means soil, climate, and a few other things. It depends on the ageing and the cellar master and experts who decide how much sugar, yeast and wine to add. It’s complicated and rigorously controlled for the hundreds of Champagne houses who produce around 320 million bottles each year.
Taking a tour will enable you to learn fascinating facts and of course get to taste the results of hundreds of years of perfecting the drink that has become synonymous with luxury, celebration, love and happiness.
Raise your glass in Reims
At the Boutique Tresors de Champagne (2, rue Olivier Métra), artisan Champagne producers club together to provide the most delicious fizz, more than 170 varieties. It’s the perfect place for a Champagne tasting, workshop. to buy bottles to take home and to discover more about the bubbles and the provenance of the production.
Visit Pol Couronne’s Champagne shop and tasting bar in the shadow of the cathedral (11 Cours Jean-Baptiste Langlet). Utterly delicious bubbles in a fabulous location where you can also learn the art of sabrage (opening a bottle with a sword), take a workshop and learn about the fizzx.
Culture Vulture in Reims
The best place to start is at the UNESCO listed Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims. You can’t overestimate the importance of this gothic masterpiece, it’s a truly symbolic emblem of France and a place of enormous history. This is the place where Christian France is said to have begun. A plaque inside the church marks the spot where on Christmas Day in 496 AD bishop Remi baptised Clovis, King of the Franks.
Dining out in Reims
Foodies should head to rue Porte du Champ de Mars (a nod to the city’s Roman past and the huge Roman triumphal arch which remains, an incredible monument) for fabulous gourmet food shops and the covered market Halles du Boulingrin (open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings). If you’re there on a weekend or peak visiting season, try to book in advance as the best restaurants get booked up quickly.
Champagne is enjoyed with lunch, dinner, supper, as an aperitif and a digestif!