Anyone for Champagne?
"It smells a bit like cat food.”
This was my initial thought upon being handing my glass of champagne during a tour at the famous champagne producer, Mercier, in Epernay, a town in the Champagne region in France. However, I didn’t voice this thought, as there were lots of sophisticated people around who seemed to be enjoying their champagne, and probably wouldn’t have appreciated my “cat food” comment.
Not knowing much about champagne, the tour which had preceded the tasting was more interesting to me. Along with a group of friends, I went on a little train deep into the Mercier cellars (or caves as they are called in French) where the champagne is kept in bottles over a period of years until it matures.
In 1858, Eugène Mercier founded his champagne house, and from the beginning he embraced new technologies and ideas. Famously he built a huge barrel, the equivalent to 200,000 bottles, to take his new champagne to Paris. This caused quite a stir, as did his films about his champagne made by the Lumière brothers, who were first film makers in history. Both of these helped Mercier to expand his champagne business and become more well known and established as one of the finest champagne producers in the region.
Yet finest champagne producer or not, I still couldn’t help but think that this champagne was very expensive for something that smelt a bit odd. It tasted ok, quite fizzy and similar to wine and some people really enjoyed it. I think I’ll stick to other drinks from now on, but I’m glad I did the champagne tasting – tasting true French champagne in the Champagne region is an opportunity not to be missed.
There is, however, lots of other traditional French produce that doesn’t smell like cat food, that I would happily sit down and eat... pastries and cheese, anyone?