MUMM’S CHAMPAGNE CELLARS, REIMS, FRANCE: The tour at Mumm’s in Reims is excellent. It’s centrally located, about a 5 minute drive from the Cathedral. Even in mid-summer, the deep chalk tunnels maintain their fairly constant 52F / 11C temperature. Like every well-run tour, it ends in the gift shop! Mumm’s shop has many logo’d items– from pens to Champagne stoppers– all reasonably priced. As for the bubbly on offer, the shop prices are not discounted. So the only advantage of buying there instead of near home is the thrill of getting it at the source. Fun Fact: Mumm’s is pronounced “Mooom’s”, not “Mum’s.” Shooting without flash in the dim tunnels is next to impossible. Shot handheld/braced, Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm lens at 65mm, f 5.6, 1/8 sec, ISO 4000. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
MOËT ET CHANDON, EPERNAY, CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE: The Moët et Chandon cellars are found in Épernay in the Champagne region of France. Tours are held daily and guides share their exuberant passion for the ‘Champagne method’. While much is made of the labour intensive methods of old, including hand riddling (turning bottles), that part of the process is now mostly mechanized. Their most popular label is the prestigious Dom Pérignon line of vintage Champagnes. Tour guides make it clear Moët is correctly pronounced “m-wett” (Dutch origin) not, “mo-way.” No matter how you say it, what matters most is what comes out of the bottle. Fun Fact: Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne 2000 was released in October 2010. The 1500 ml. bottle is $575.00 Cdn. The Robert Parker Guide gives it a score of 94.
Shot handheld, Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm lens at 225mm, f5.6, 1/30 sec, 1600 ISO. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CATHEDRAL OF NOTRE DAME, LAON, FRANCE: This beautiful early Gothic Cathedral in northern Champagne is visible from kilometres away. It sits on the highest point of the ancient town. The steep drive to the top is exhilarating in itself, via narrow roads with many switchbacks. We arrived late in the day and found the building was locked. We’d have to await the next day for a visit inside the massive cathedral. With the western sun on the massive red doors, the beauty of the steep gables and statuary were aglow like no other time of the day. Notre Dame was completed in 1225 after nearly seventy-five years of construction. The interior is magnificent. My favourite feature is the 13th century crossing lantern. And, on the west façade you can see the memorial to World War I Commonwealth war dead. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 16-85 mm at 39mm, f5, 1/50 sec., ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker