A cellar-by-cellar tour of Reims
Just 600m from Tattinger, the 24km chalk caves at Veuve Clicquot were first excavated during Roman times. The pioneering matriarch of the house, Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, took over the family Champagne business at the age of 27, after her husband passed away in 1805. As one of the few businesswomen of the time, she developed the bottle’s signature gold label and exported her wines to royal courts all over world. (Veuve Clicquot remains more popular abroad than in France.) She also invented “riddling”, a process many Champagne producers still use to remove sediment and improve wine clarity. Choose from various guided packages (by appointment only), ranging from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours, followed by tastings. Also be sure to stop by the souvenir shop, swathed in the brand’s signature golden colour, for the best selection of souvenirs of any Champagne house.
Best bottle to buy: La Grande Dame is drier — and pricier — than the brand’s most popular bottle, Brut Yellow Label. But it is full-bodied, with incredibly fine bubbles and a smooth, creamy finish.
GH Mumm and Cie
The brand is now the third-largest producer of bubbly in the world. And while it might not have the most stunning cellar, GH Mumm and Cie is the most convenient in Reims, since it is a 14-minute walk from the train station and 21-minute walk from the cathedral. Visits begin with a 10-minute film about how Champagne is made, then a guide leads though a labyrinth of tunnels and cellars, pointing out that the estate houses about 25 million bottles. A small museum in the cellar showcases antique tools, machinery and casks that were traditionally used in the Champagne-making process. The tour ends with three tastings.
Best bottle to buy: Brut Cordon Rouge, a non-vintage Champagne, undergoes a longer-than-usual aging process, allowing its vanilla, roasted nuts and bread flavours to deepen.