Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Tom hosts Tuesday's Treasures.
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday

Guest post by John, photos by us!
On our tour of France we visited champagne, wine and cognac producers where John took notes and offered to do these posts.

May 2019 - Epernay France


Centered on the towns of Reims (Rheims) and Epernay, is the most northern of France's major vineyards.


Unlike most of the best French wines, champagnes are blended in order to produce either non vintage champagnes (blended from different years) or vintage champagne, blended from wines of the same harvest. 

Consequently, since the quality of the champagne ultimately depends on a balance between the quality of the grapes and the skill of the blenders, champagnes are also ranked and promoted by producer not by any more finely delimited appellations.

Many people use the term Champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine but in some countries, it is illegal to label any product Champagne unless it both comes from the Champagne region and is produced under the rules of the appellation. Specifically, in the EU countries, only sparkling wine which comes from the Champagne region of France can be legally labelled as Champagne. 

Where EU law applies, this alcoholic drink is produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand, among other things, secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation, specific vineyard practices, sourcing of grapes exclusively from specific parcels in the Champagne appellation and specific pressing regimes unique to the region. Primarily, the grapes Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay are used in the production of almost all Champagne, but a tiny amount of pinot blanc, pinot gris, arbane, and petit meslier are vinified as well. Champagne appellation law allows only grapes grown according to appellation rules in specifically designated plots within the appellation to be used in the production of Champagne.

Definition of “BRUT”

The ripeness of the grapes and the amount of sugar added after the second fermentation—dosage—varies and will affect the amount of sugar remaining in the Champagne when bottled for sale, and hence the sweetness of the finished wine. Wines labeled Brut Zero, more common among smaller producers, have no added sugar and will usually be very dry, with less than 3 grams of residual sugar per litre in the finished wine. The following terms are used to describe the sweetness of the bottled wine:

  • Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of residual sugar per litre
  • Brut (less than 12 grams)
  • Extra Dry (between 12 and 17 grams
  • Sec (between 17 and 32 grams)
  • Demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams)
  • Doux (50 grams)

The most common style today is Brut, although throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is and drank as dessert wines.


Épernay is a commune in the Marne department in northern France. Épernay is located some 130 km north-east of Paris on the main line of the Eastern railway to Strasbourg. The town sits on the left bank of the Marne at the extremity of the Cubry valley which crosses it. It is a sub-prefecture of the department and seat of an arrondissement.

Épernay is best known as the principal "entrepôt" for champagne wines, which are bottled and kept in large cellars built into the limestone rock on which the town is built. The production of the equipment and raw materials used in the champagne industry is a major source of local employment.

Brewing and sugar refinery and the production of hats and caps, are also major industries.

Mercier Champagne Vineyards in Eparnay

In the heart of France’s Champagne country, Mercier has always had strong ties to Paris. In 1871, as soon as the cellars were built, a direct railway line transported the wine to the City of Light. And the connection went both ways, as Mercier’s reputation meant that it was always welcoming champagne lovers to the rolling hills of its vineyards. In 1904 a Paris-to-Epernay auto race was established, with the spectacular finish line located on the Avenue de Champagne, right in front of Mercier’s doorstep.

In 1871 Eugène Mercier began the construction of his cellars in Epernay. It took six years to build the 18 kilometers of impressive underground tunnels that are home to the Mercier heritage. 

Once the immense cellars were open, Eugène Mercier, who always had an eye for creating significant events, had visitors tour the tunnels in carriages pulled by four horses. The tour was even taken by the President of France, Sadi Carnot, when he called at Mercier in 1891.

Designed and decorated to impress, to this day the Mercier cellars are among the most often toured cellars in Champagne and receive over 100,000 visitors every year. 

Along the 18 km of Mercier’s underground wine cellars, everything has been designed to impress the visitor: a panoramic elevator, huge low-relief sculptures carved into the wall, and statues.

To promote his brand, Mercier staged many events to attract publicity: a floating bar attached to a hot-air balloon and anchored to the foot of the Chateau de Vincennes (which strong winds transported as far away as Belgium).

One of the most remarkable objects to be seen on the Mercier tour is the “giant wine cask,” which bears witness to another of the founder’s flashes of genius. Eugène Mercier arranged the building of the world’s biggest wine barrel, which was designed for assemblage. 

His genius for communications inspired him to surmount every obstacle to have his exceptional cask displayed at the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris.

 A massive 20-ton champagne barrel was hauled through the streets of Paris by 24 bulls and 18 horses. 

It’s so big that five nearby buildings had to be demolished just so it could get through. A gigantic crowd has gathered around this barrel that contained the equivalent of 200,000 bottles of bubbly. And plastered across this entire event is the name: Champagne Mercier. The Mercier cask even won first prize at the Paris Exposition.

Following the tour, we were treated to a tasting of the Mercier champagne “Brut” with its sparkling effervescence.


To illustrate its positioning as an easy-going champagne for a target market of urban consumers, Mercier commissioned self-taught graphic designer and illustrator David Lanaspa. This inspiring encounter led to an inspired partnership. The illustrations used for the marketing campaign reflect the lifestyles of our time and reinterpret the House’s traditions in a contemporary spirit. A simple and elegant style for a champagne to be shared at home with friends in a convivial atmosphere.


  1. ...I love your 'portrait!' There's a lot of history in this bubbly area, it's serious business. Thanks Jackie for sharing a part of your recent holiday. I hope that you are enjoying your wee.

  2. Well, I think you probably know I love wine -- and champagne. This is one thing we didn't get to do when we were in France and it looks like it's worth a visit back to do this if nothing else! Love the glass portrait! Must see what all else you've been up to over there!

  3. That's a whole lot of wine cellar space.

  4. We in Australia aren't allowed to call it champagne any more and there is the name of an Italian food we can't use, but I can't remember what it is now. Of course the general public doesn't takes much notice. Eighteen kilometres of tunnels is a lot of wine.

  5. Definitely learned way more about wines from this post than I knew before! I've done wine tours in the US, Slovenia, and Italy but never in France. I had heard that some places say you can't label something champagne unless it's from the wine region. I'm not sure what the laws are in the states, though.

  6. This is a trip I'd LOVE to do next spring! Going to bookmark this to keep when the time comes around! And love that first photo- so funny :)


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