The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

The Veuve Clicquot Tour – #MWWC 25

How convenient is this? I’m right smack in the middle of posts about our recent trip to Paris and Amsterdam and the theme for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #25 is TRAVEL.

 MWWC

 

 

MWWC started a couple years ago to promote wine writing (duh) and I had a couple entries near the beginning.    Despite my writing a post with a semi-nude Sarah McLachlan and monkeys doing disgusting things,   Jeff the Drunken Cyclist keeps goading me on to participate.   I think he secretly wants to see what levels of depravity I’m willing to sink to.

Not this time, Jeff …

 

I know you’re dying to know about what kind of hijinx one of the world’s greatest hedonists – moi – got into in one of the world’s greatest cities for hedonists – Amsterdam.    I couldn’t wait to find out, too.   But first there was some wine to drink.

While I’m using superlatives, is it safe to say that France has the greatest wine in the world?   It may not have been invented there, but they sure did perfect it.   And while other areas of the world are doing very interesting and excellent things with wine, you can’t beat the classics.

However with kids going to college in a couple years, I knew I realistically wouldn’t be coming back to France any time soon.    AND we had a sweet rental…

Eur car

 

So visiting some wineries was a must.   But where to go?

I’m not sure I have a favorite French wine.  I love the robustness and all the varied flavors of Bordeaux.   The beautiful perfumed wines of Cotes du Rhone – especially Chateauneuf du Pape – are as alluring as the scenic southern countryside.  Burgundy would be a double pleasure as it has the best versions of two grapes I enjoy – haunting, earthy Pinot Noir and crisp, minerally Chardonnay.   Oh, and Alsace…

There were so many factors to consider for choosing where to go.    Would we go for the wine?    Would we go for natural beauty of the area?   Historical sites?   All of the above?

The one factor that beat out all the others was….Geography.

We were going straight north to Amsterdam and the only wine region anywhere near our path was Champagne.  Like many other familial decisions, Dad got overruled when it came to a multi-day wine excursion.   So we went with convenience, though I can think of a thousand worse places to have as our default.   Like Cozad, Nebraska.

It didn’t take us very long to drive the 90 miles to Reims, the heart of the region.   We quickly stopped by the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims…

Reims 2

Reims 5

 

 

The  stunning Cathedral was where the French kings were crowned and the site of heavy fighting in World War I.   It was also where the Germans officially surrendered in World War II.

Reims is also the home to many of the great Champagne houses, including the one we chose to visit

 

veuve outdoor

 

I’m a big fan of  Veuve Clicquot.   There are other Champagnes that are certainly better – hello Krug – but they are also quite expensive.    At around $40 a bottle, not many beat its body and balance.   Plus, Rick Steves’ guidebook said they had a good tour.

 

veuve tix

 

The tour we were on was called “On the Footsteps of Madame Clicquot”   and was focused more on the history of the house and of it’s iconic leader – the widow (“veuve” in French) Barbe-Nicole Clicquot.   It turned out to be a better fit for us as the wine-making process would’ve bored the kids (and I could probably teach it myself).     This was more of a history lesson – and a good one at that.      The story of how a young French woman, widowed at 27, went on to perfect the method of making Champagne and built the largest house was inspirational.

It took place in the massive underground system of caves, or crayeres.

Veuve stairs to cave

 

 

Everywhere we looked were racks of wine, and I was tempted to conveniently get lost while trying to find a bathroom.

veuve cave rack 2

 

We also learned about the riddling process where wines on the riddling racks are turned frequently to get all the yeast and sediment to the neck of the bottle.

Veuve riddling

 

It was refreshing to hear the tour guide mention that they don’t riddle by hand any more.   Rather, hundreds of bottles are loaded on special racks that are turned by giant machines.   I’ve heard of other houses trying to tell people they still do it manually – an impossibility considering their overall production volumes.

What was really fascinating were the small tidbits of information throughout the tour that gave it a personal touch.    Like how employees with over 40 years of service are honored in each of the crayeres.

veuve cave name

 

And, since Reims was the site of many battles in World War I, residents lived in the relative safety of the caves.   We got to see a lot of the graffiti people carved into the chalky walls.

veuve cave graffiti

 

Finally, we got to hear the story of how in 2010 several bottles of their Champagne were found in a shipwreck dating back to the 1840s.

Veuve ship bottle 3

 

It turns out that total darkness and frigid waters provided the perfect environment to preserve the wine.   Those who were fortunate enough to sample it were astounded on how good it was. More on the story here.

Speaking of sampling…

veuve tasting

 

The tour ended in tasting room where we got to taste their standard “Yellow Label” and the 2006 Grande Dame.   They only make vintage Champagnes in exceptional years and being able to taste it side-by-side with their “regular” version really highlighted the differences.    It was richer, fuller, silkier, and had more toasty aromas.   Fantastic.

Of course, this one wasn’t very happy that they had a minimum age requirement for the tasting.    This is her “please can haz somez??” face….

veuve agg

 

Or is it her “heh heh, I just had somez” face?

 

Make sure to check out the other posts for this month’s challenge at the MWWC site .   And if you liked my post enough, make sure to vote for it at the end of the month.   Hell, if you hated my post, just vote for it anyway. 

 

 

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

15 comments on “The Veuve Clicquot Tour – #MWWC 25

  1. The Wine Culturist
    May 18, 2016

    Great story! Sounds like a fantastic visit, did you visit any other champagne houses?

  2. nickisalwaysonholidays
    May 18, 2016

    Great post and good luck in the monthly writing challenge!

  3. anotherfoodieblogger
    May 18, 2016

    How timely for the contest theme! I think you ended up with a very good choice of winery to visit.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      May 20, 2016

      I could certainly think of worse. We would’ve loved a small, intimate, family-owned thing but our lack of French speaking skills made that hard.

  4. thewineraconteur
    May 18, 2016

    It sounds like a tour that I would enjoy. I do hope the tour price included the tastings at the end. John, you always give a great read.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      May 20, 2016

      Thanks, John. Tasting was extra, which is good in our case because the kids wouldn’t have been able to sample what we paid for. I suppose it would’ve been more for mom and dad, but we had a long drive to Amsterdam.

  5. the drunken cyclist
    May 19, 2016

    Reblogged this on mwwcblog.

  6. Pingback: #MWWC25 Time to vote! | the drunken cyclist

  7. Cheap Wine Curious
    May 31, 2016

    I’ve been there but I took the cheapie tour….great stories and delish wine. Cheers!🍷😘🍾

  8. Pingback: Amsterdam Gets Hedonized | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  9. lcdorkin
    January 20, 2017

    I didn’t get to try Veuve when we went to Reims but this is such a lovely review of it! Will definitely go next time we visit 🙂

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This entry was posted on May 18, 2016 by in Drinking, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , .
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