We are back from two days in Champagne organized by Benedicte with mostly people attending the CIDD wine courses . [ Note (dec 2004) : The CIDD is not operating anymore , but those interested in Alain Segelle wine courses or wine tasting events can contact him at [email protected] or call him ( evening french time: 7pm-10.30 pm) at 33 (0)6 25 73 89 45 ]. A group of wine amateurs , professionals , men and women , very international atmosphere , with people from Canada , Japan and the UK also present . We set off for Reims in two cars , stayed a night in "chambres d'hotes" and had our schedules arranged to visit Champagne producers.
We began with Ruinart , the oldest Champagne maison . It is now part of the LVMH (Louis Vuitton ) group , since the 1970's . Ruinart is located in Reims ( 4 rue des crayieres , near other major Champagne names )
It sits on deep underground chalk quarries that were used at the beginning of Ruinart Champagne business . Originally in the textile industry , the Ruinart family reconverted in 1729 in the " vin qui mousse" ("sparkling wine") as it was called at the time . The elaboration of Champagne sparkling wine , wich was accidental the first time ,found its way to a larger audience . It was made possible by the may 25 1728 Royal Decree that allowed wines to be transported in bottles instead of casks only as before . As this "sparkling wine" can only be transported in bottles due to its elaboration process , it opened the door to commerce to far away places .
At the beginning , the Ruinart family used the bell shaped quarries that abound in the vicinity . Access was uneasy at the time , needing ropes & pulleys to bring down and up the wine . Some are 35 meters deep , like in this lower left picture . First sales were in 1730 , and also many bottles produced were gifts to textile business customers of the Ruinart family .
The young woman who toured us showed us several of the "crayieres" , the exploitation of wich began in the roman era , when the Romans founded a city in what was to become Reims , at a crossroad of their Empire . To reach the bottom , stairs were dug in the 19th century . Now of course they added elevators . Very impressive view in each of them . She said Ruinart has 24 of these bell shaped caves . Cool temperature all year round : 11° C . The chalk walls at this depth have a greasy touch as it is very humid . Complementary horizontal cellars and galleries were dug in 1825-1850 . This Champagne producer sells 2 to 2.5 millions bottles a year , wich is moderate compared to other big Champagne names in Reims .