Mar 9th, 2020, 02:31 AM

A Day of Champagne

By Veronica Reyes
Champagne Pommery in Reims, France. Image Credit: Veronica Reyes
Champagne Pommery in Reims, France. Image Credit: Veronica Reyes
Ever wonder what it’s like to attend a champagne tasting in France? Follow my journey to Champagne Pommery.

Champagne: a classy beverage beloved by the French. As the world's largest producer by far, France is probably one of the first places that pops into your head when you think of champagne, right? Well, it’s one thing to come to France and drink the finest champagne anywhere has to offer, but it’s another to go behind the scenes to learn about its history and the process of creating a bottle. And what better way than on a tour of a French champagne house?

Last month, I attended a class trip to Champagne Pommery in Reims, France. I'm not gonna lie — at Pommery, I felt like a Kardashian for the day. Sitting in this beautiful establishment sipping free champagne was very luxurious, a day fit for a queen some may say. This was definitely something I could get used to. However, all good things must come to an end, and although I dream of living such a glamorous, champagne-filled lifestyle, I still remember the trip as an extraordinary memory and learning experience. 

When we first arrived at Pommery, I was sure we were in the wrong place — it was as if we had been transported to a French palace of the 1800s. The grounds consisted of buildings adorned in magnificent detail, looking like castles fit for royalty. The buildings were designed to resemble Elizabethan neo-gothic architecture, which was popular in England in the 18th century. 

Architecture at the Champagne Pommery. Image Credit: Veronica Reyes

The mind behind Pommery was Madame Pommery herself, who took over the business in July of 1868 after her husband died. Over time, she was able to create one of the most outstanding champagne houses in the region of Champagne. It was very rare to find a woman of such independence during this time period, so her ability to sustain such a successful business in spite of the many obstacles thrown at her is all the more impressive. 

The tour itself was 60 minutes and packed full. Our guide had never given a tour in English and no one in our group could speak French, so it was a new experience for all of us. The guide walked us into a pitch-black cellar that looked as if it had been untouched since the day it was built. We were led through its twists and turns until we made our way out and into the light.

On the other side, we were greeted by the wondrous sight of where the champagne was made and stored. Each wall in the room was covered with breathtaking sculptures and paintings dedicated to Madame Pommery and the history of champagne. While we all oohed and awed at the artwork and ginormous bottles of champagne stacked from floor to ceiling, the guide explained how champagne is made. 

Champagne at the Pommery. Image Credit: Veronica Reyes

Without boring you with too many details, it begins with a wine base that goes through a two-step fermentation process. The first fermentation consists of years of aging, during which the wine needs to be at a constant temperature of exactly 10 degrees Celsius to prevent it from not aging properly. After the first session, the second fermentation begins.

As the Pommery website outlines, “the second alcoholic fermentation process results in foam development. Having consumed all of the sugar to produce the bubbles, the yeast settles along the side of the bottle.”  This process can take an additional several years, and we were even shown bottles that had been fermenting for decades. The guide explained that the reason Pommery has such amazing champagne is due to the amount of sugar put into the mixture — more is added than to the average bottle, making it sweeter, more delicious, but sadly, more expensive. 

Champagne bottles at the Pommery. Image Credit: Veronica Reyes

Although the tour was very interesting, next came my favorite part: it was time for the tastings. To put it simply, this was the best champagne I'd ever had. This sweet bubbly drink made the two-hour bus ride and the day full of walking all worth it. Now when I drink champagne (even if on a student budget), I'll know how much time and effort went into making it. It’s fascinating to think that a glass of champagne that took me five minutes to finish may have taken over five years to produce. 

Overall, this magical experience left me in awe. Unfortunately, I do not live in a beautiful castle where I can drink champagne all day overlooking the town of Reims. I did, however, manage to buy a bottle to take home, so some of the luxury of the trip could live on back in my studio apartment. I would encourage anyone interested in champagne to further delve into its history. As I found out, there's more that goes into a bottle than meets the eye.