France 2000
Day 10 - Visiting Champagne Mercier
We spent our last night in France on the outskirts of Epernay, one of the two main cities in the Champagne region and in the champagne trade.  So we had to visit a Champagne house.  The one we chose was Mercier, located in the city of Epernay itself.


We spent the night at the Hostellerie la Briqueterie, a fine hotel with a fine restaurant.  It will soon have its own web-site.  In the meantime try this review.  There was an enormous storm, which did considerable damage to the vineyards around as we discovered when we were leaving the area later.  The rain was torrential and kept us trapped in our car for a while at the Mercier car park. It rains in France too

The tour included a film about champagne, a ride around the cellars and a tasting.

On the train Cellars disappearing into the distance More artwork
Champagne maturing We were told not to use flash in the cellars so it was difficult to take good photographs on the moving "train".  The bottles start vertical and then are gradually taken horizontal and, during the same period, they are continually turned to displace the sediments.  There were lots of friezes and sculpture decorating the cellars. Art work decorates the cellars

After the ride, we ended up in an area with various exhibits, the wine to taste and things to buy.  Jackie enjoyed tasting three champagnes, preferring the most expensive - of course !  The exhibition area was beautifully designed and executed, built around the old cask, more of which below.

Bottles of champagne Bottles of champagne Jackie enjoying her tasting

How to make champagne This display was part of the exhibition.  
It explains how to make champagne.  Each plaque describes one variety of grapes that is used: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Champagne is made from a blend of these grapes, different houses using different blends.
The roof over the cask
In 1877 a gigantic cask, called Le Foudre, is finished, taking 250 oak trees and over ten years to build. This is filled with 1600 hectolitres of grape juice to combine into wine.  It is transported to the 
1889 Great Exhibition in Paris. 
Eugene Mercier used this and other innovations, 
including an advertising film and rides in hot air balloons, to market his wine
In 1989 Le Foudre was moved from the cellars to take pride of place in the new visitors' centre.
The end of the cask, showing the carving The cask in its exhibition place

While we were inside, the sun came out, 
shining on our car in the car park.  

We went back to the hotel and checked out 
then drove North on the motorway and 
took the Channel Tunnel home to England.
Our car