Champagne ! The best known local product even if Reims fights with Epernay for the title of wine capital.
The area has always been a wine producer but those wines were difficult to preserve because they had a tendency to become foaming (like many wines produced relatively north).
This used to be considered a problem - until Dom Perignon, abbey of Hautvillers got some genial ideas:
The first was to assemble only black grapes to produce the white wine (no white grape is ever used in a real Champagne).
Then, he delt with the foaming matter and transformed this defect into a quality : he introduced a new process: After a quick grapes' pressurization, the juice was preserved in barrels; a first fermentation occured when the sugar transformed itself into alcohol. The harsh cold of Champagne's winter stopped this phenomenon (wich would resume in the spring).
Dom Pérignon introduced the idea of bottling the wine at this point (before the second fermentation), thus allowing the second fermentation to occur in the bottle.
Another improvement was to close the bottles with a cork maintained with a link withstooding the pressure.
The Champagne wine as we know it was born.
The Champagne houses you can visit in Reims are :
- Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin
- Ruinart (on apointment only)
the other big ones are in Epernay or in the surroundings.
The Village de Noel had some cages with animals in them which we couldn't help thinking must've been a crappy experience for them. In fact, we joked about setting them free. They also had a carousel of baby donkeys(?) for kids to ride. However, I found this to be the worst. You can't really tell from this picture, but this poor animal was frightened out of it's wits with everyone just standing around gawking at it.
This person sells artificial flowers, sitting alone in the middle of the square. I don't know if it was a man or a woman and he or she did look quite homeless.
The city is full of wine cellars and shops. Here Champagne wine is a religion. Prices are high, but it is one of France's major contributions to the world gastronomy and to the 'savoir vivre'.