After the unforgettable morning we had at Veuve Clicquot, an exceptional experience was waiting us at Ruinart: At the beginning of the visit, I was very excited; and at the end, very impressed. I can easily say that visiting Ruinart was an experience with full of emotions, there is definitely something special that touched to my hearth in this historical place. Let me share with you some of my memories from this visit.
If you happened to visit Ruinart, this is the door that will be opened to you at 4, Crayères Road in Reims. Once you are in, you will be walking through the trees and see the statue of Dom Ruinart in the end.
Dom Thierry Ruinart was a Benedictine monk who lived between 1657 and 1709. His interest in oenology and his visionary insights, he was able to foresee that the “wine with bubbles” will have a bright future. Therefore, he passed his vast oenology knowledge to his nephew, Nicolas Ruinart, who later founded Ruinart champagne house. House of Ruinart was established in 1729, currently being 290 years old, which makes it the oldest champagne house. Ruinart is counting down the days to celebrate its 300th anniversary in September 2029.
The visits at Ruinart are done for small groups, with a guide who walks through all the facility, and offers a private tasting. We were a group of 6 and our guide was so knowledgeable and were able to answer all our detailed questions about the history of the house and the wines.
We have started our tour at 38 meters underground, to visit the crayères – chalk caves, classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2015. These chalk caves were originally was carved as quarries, and it is still able to be seen the special architecture for this purpose.
Continued our route at the caves, we had chance to see this traditional method of stacking champagne bottles. As the first glance, it looked like a wall made from champagne bottles, and once I got closer I was able to see how perfectly they are lined. I can only imagine how much expertise would be required to be able to build this wall, along with a lot of patience to line the bottles one by one in their place. We learned from our guide, how these thousands of bottles are lined without any problems – as the pressure in a regular Champagne bottle is around 5 – 6 bars at the temperature of this caves around 12 – 15 °C, with this method of placing, they do not suffer from any extra pressure from the bottles on top during aging. I can only admire this ancient method stacking.
Following, we arrived to the most impressive view that I have seen in a cellar: I had to stop and capture this mesmerizing view to my mind, and then, we walked down descended even deeper. The riddling tables at the bottom were full of bottles with the lees on them, which are the yeast cells finished their duty of second fermentation in bottle. At this stage, the lees was sliding down towards neck of the bottle until all the particles are collected at the closure to be taken out.
Going out from the caves brought us to the real life was like a transition – we probably spend less than an hour down at the cellars, but it felt like we have been down there for days. There was definitely something special about this place that makes the visit even more impressive: Maybe the moist, cool air on my skin or the duskiness, or probably the combination of all these to reinforce the deep history of these caves.
The last part of the visit was the tasting of 4 different champagnes of Ruinart. We have started with Blanc de Blancs of Ruinart, which is the emblematic champagne of this house. It is made with Chardonnay grapes mostly harvested from Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims terroirs. As in Champagne appellation it is allowed to be used reserve wines (wines from previous vintages), in this blend 20 – 25 % of reserve wine is used. This reserve wine addition to the blend, help the champagne houses to keep their style and unique taste signature that they have. We also get to taste Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc of 2006 vintage. The first vintage of Dom Ruinart dates back to 1959 and since then it is produced in the exceptional vintages.
We continued the tasting with the rosés, both non-vintage and Dom Ruinart vintage 2004 rosé. In the following photo, you can see their difference in color, non-vintage being more in the pink scale while Dom Ruinart in the salmon scale with the effect of longer aging.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience that I would suggest to anyone interested in history, tradition, culture, art and wine – this visit had it all.
Champagne photo diary will continue…
All images © 2019 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.