I’ve always had a special interest in Champagne, even before knowing how it was produced. Since I’ve started to lead my career in wine sector, I’ve learned more and more about it, from the history to the production. Of course reading about a wine and a region can give you an introduction about it, but you basically know almost nothing about it, before you actually visit the place! That is why I was very excited about this trip. I knew that to see what is happening in Champagne and to breathe the atmosphere of its cellars, would give me another perspective of it – and it definitely did! That is why I’ve decided to share with you my “Champagne Photo Diary”, to make you feel the atmosphere.
After spending some time in Bordeaux, we took the train from Bordeaux to Paris Est, changed the train to Reims Center. Arrived in Reims, left the luggage and started immediately discover the Champagne houses, because we didn’t have a minute to lose.
Our first visit was to G.H.Mumm, which is in the center of Reims – it was actually around 15 minute walk from the city center. Generally Champagne houses has their cellars in the city – however most of them produce their wines out of the city closer to the vineyards.
Here is the building of Maison Mumm, and making me excited to visit inside:
Then we entered and took our tickets for the tour:
The visit starts in the production area, these large wooden vats, also known as foudre, were designed specifically to keep the wine coming from each vineyard: each designated for a specific plot. After foudres, we passed from the concrete tanks, again designated for each vineyard. These tanks were used for the fermentation of the still wines, which will then used for the second fermentation in the bottle.
We went down to see the cellars. Underground cellars are just endless, they were using small vehicles to move – cannot imagine walking from one side to another!
After the still wine production, the wines are bottles and inoculated again for second fermentation in bottle – this stage is also called “pris de mousse”, literally translated as foam formation. After this second fermentation, the yeast sediments, also called lees, settles down as in the photo and the wine is aged staying in contact with the lees. In the second photo, it shows the minimum legal aging times for different types of Champagne versus what is actually done in Maison Mumm.
After the aging process completed, riddling takes place. Riddling, when done manually in the past, involves rotating the bottles and gradually collecting the sediments in the neck of the bottle, to be able to finally remove them. In the first photo you can see an empty “pupitre” which is a wooden riddling rack, while a full one on the second photo.
In their cellar, they put a part where you can see a demonstration of “vieillissement sur lattes”, literally translated as aging on laths and “remouage” which is riddling:
A demonstration of sizes of the Champagne bottles. Salmanazar (9 liters), Mathusalem (6 liters), Jeroboam (3 liters), Magnum (1.5 liters), bouteille (classic bottle of 75 cl), la demie (37,5 cl) and finally la quart (18.75 cl).
The tour finished in the museum of winemaking, where there was old machinery that were used to produce Champagne in the past. It’s impressive how they were so sophisticated considering the era.
Carrying bottles of Champagne from caves to the ground.
Rotary labelling process:
After the tour, we made a tasting of Champagnes of Maison Mumm:
Champagne photo diary will continue…
All images © 2019 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.