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Epernay

Written on: Saturday March 31st, 2007

A journal entry from: Rouen

Today Beth and I took a train to Epernay which is in the Champagne region of France.  It was a rainy saturday, so travelling on the train wasnt all that bad, Epernay is about an hour and a half outside of Paris.  We arrived around 2pm and navigated around the town to find the Tourist office and our Hotel.  The town is very small and wasnt too crowded.  The buildings seemed relatively new, and I figured this was to accomodate to the tourist who come to visit the several Champagne houses in the town.  We dropped our bags off at the Hotel (only 24 euro for both of us!!!) and went to avenue Champagne where the avenue is lined with Champagne houses including Moet & Chandon and others.  Mercier was located at the end, and though the building was as ornate as the Moet&Chandon, the complex was much larger.  As soon as we walked in there was a HUGE wooden vat built in the 1870's which holds up to 200,000 bottles of Champagne at a time.  We waited in the reception until our English tour guide met us and brought us to a mini auditorium to watch a film on the history of the Mercier house which was founded in 1858 and the founder's, Eugene Mercier, main goul was to bring the high-quality luxury champagne to the general public.  The tour was a little bit of a let down because I thought it would be more extensive. We mainly went to the Mercier cellars and rode around on the train.  The cellar was very large and in all covers 18 kilometers below the building.  The cellar even connects with the Paris-Strasbourg line for easy transportation of bottles.  The tour and the booklet that we received was very informative.  Though I am the daughter of parents who are obsessed with wine and port and champagne, I know very little about it.  Visiting this cellar reminded me of all those times when I was younger when I would visit port vineyards and cellars in Portugal, breweries in Denmark and vineyards in France with my family. Mainly i looked forward to the snacks at the end rather than the information or the free drink samples!  However, I learned tons about Champagne that I did not know.  For example, contrary to popular belief the Monk Dom Perignon did not invent Champagne, he merely established advances in the production such as using wire to encase the cork in the bottle to prevent pressure building up from the fermentation process. Also I learned that there are three grape varieties that are used for champagne; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.  After the tour, Beth and I chose to pay a little more to receive three chapagne tastings rather than the standard one glass included in the tour fee.  We were given two Brut's from different years and one rose.  My favorite was the sweeter brut.  Beth and I were both surprised that there was no food to tide us over and we got a little worried because we both didnt have lunch so we were drinking three tulip glasses of champagne on empty stomachs!   After the tasting, we went to the gift shop and both bought a half bottle.


Afterwards, we went to a degustation house which is basically just a tasting of a range of champagne from a house.  We found one on avenue Champagne for 4 euros at Lang Biemont.  Here we basically tried the same assortment as the ones at Mercier.  This house was much drier and less sweet than Mercier.  The man was very nice and he explained to Beth and I about the three main regions of Champagne where the grapes are grown.  He spoke all in French, and I was surprised on how much I understood, and I even asked him questions in French.  Here I also bought another half bottle.  In retrospect I didnt need another bottle, but after six glasses of champagne within basically an hour and a half.... I was easily influenced by the nice, old man.

Afterwards Beth and I roamed around the town and ate our dinner's we packed.  Eventually we headed back to th hotel and called it a day because we had to catch a 5:25 train the next morning for Paris for the free museum visits!