A Couple of Words on Champagne

A Couple of Words on Champagne


Years ago at a team-building exercise, I had to come up with a surprising fact about myself. I hate these kinds of activities and couldn’t deliver anything remotely interesting. Or surprising, for that matter. I’ve given it some thought afterwards and analysed empirical evidence. Based on that I now believe I should have said: I don’t really care much for Champagne.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t MIND champagne. Anything that combines nerdiness and glamour is generally good in my book. It’s just that taste-wise, I prefer other beverages and when it comes to champagne-appreciation more generally, it often veers too close to snobbishness for my liking. That said, when a two-day trip to Champagne became feasible, I was not going to say no.

The good thing about physically going there (it only takes two and a half hours by car from Brussels) is that you’re not stuck with the big houses like Veuve Clicqot or Ruinart. In fact, I would suggest you avoid Veuve Cliqcot, if at all possible (incredibly boring!). There are many smaller houses that produce Champagne that is cheaper and often more interesting than the rather mainstream offerings by the giants. The catch is that you need to educate yourself and try things to find out where your preferences lie.

Reims and Epernay are full of options for tastings and tours. We didn’t attend many, as the first day of our trip was a public holiday, but if you’d like to see traditional cellars, even I had to I admit that Taittinger’s caves were impressive. If you want to see any of the smaller houses, I recommend making an appointment – otherwise you risk not getting in (we missed out on Jacquesson for that very reason). Driving around through the hilly landscape where every inch is covered by grape vines is a lovely experience in itself, however, and autumn is a good time to do that.

In the end, we did most of our buying at Cave des Sacres, a wonderful Champagne shop next to the cathedral of Reims. They have an amazing selection from the famous brands to less well known but very high quality bubbly to some very rare and obscure bottles. When you’re in a hurry, this is a good option compared to trying to visit all houses yourself. The downside is of course that you have to buy without tasting.

Even if Champagne is not your favourite drink, Reims is very much worth a visit also for the cathedral. I think I’ve been imprinted since childhood and still think that nothing suits churches better than the Gothic style. I prefer them slightly smaller than this particular cathedral, but its majestically austere interior is beautiful and the exterior is a positively crazy explosion of hundreds of sculptures. I’ve just finished Reza Aslan’s God, where he talks about Lord of the Beasts as the first god humans worshipped. I was therefore especially glad to see the outer walls decorated with many exotic animals, including a cow.

7 Comments

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  1. 1
    Liina

    Such beautiful photos, Annikky! I can’t drink bubbly alcohol cos of my stomach but I still think the champagne buzz is the bestest of buzzes 🙂 and agreed about the Gothic churches.

  2. 3
    Piia

    Anyone who has a preference in the size of churches is a cool person in my books! And yes, dreaming of seeing those grand gothic churches I’ve seen in art history books has been a dream of mine too. Actually, the one in Antwerpen is pretty gorgeous and the Brussels St. Michael cathedral also left me pretty speechless. (Recommending churches like cleansers here 😀 )

    • 4
      Ykkinna

      Hahahaa, morning churches and evening churches (and one has to have two for evenings)! And I agree, Belgium as many beautiful churches. I’m repeating myself, but the one on Sablon is lovely.

      Also, one should have preferences, it makes for better conversation.

  3. 5
    Austenfan

    I love Reims Cathedral especially because of the Chagall windows. I make a point of visiting as many cathedrals as I can and have so far covered most of the famous French ones of the Gothique flamboyante period. I love Reims, but I think Bourges has the best cathedral, beautiful and harmonious. Laon’s is great as well and is quite accessible from Brussels.

    • 6
      Ykkinna

      Of course you’d be able to rank all French cathedrals… I may have told you already, but I really like the Church of our Blessed Lady on Sablon in Brussels. And I loved the Chagall windows, too: one of those cases where (relatively) modern art in an old setting truly works. (Good to see you, by the way!)

  4. 7
    Austenfan

    The Sablon church is very lovely. I often go in there when I’ve stocked up on tea. It’s close to l’Univers du Thé which has brilliant Earl Greys!
    And thanks! I often read your posts but as fashion and high end beauty care is terra incognita for me I tend not to comment. Hope you are bearing up!

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