The unofficial capital of the
Champagne wine-growing region
Situated in the heart of the Champagne region is Reims – the city of kings – where for more than 1,000 years, French monarchs were crowned at its Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. This grand landmark is known for its stained-glass windows and Gothic carved portals, including the Smiling Angel. Along with the cathedral and the city’s striking Art Deco architecture are sun-baked vineyards, so distinguished that many of the world renowned champagne houses are headquartered in Reims.
Before champagne, it was chalk that put Reims on the map. The ground under the city has been mined for hundreds of years but little recognise how beneficial it is to the production of sparkling wine.
The Gallo-Roman chalk quarries, known as ‘crayeres’ in France, have been converted into cellars for the ageing of champagne following a lightbulb moment by Nicolas Ruinart in the mid-eighteenth century.
Nicolas Ruinart was the first wine-merchant to understand why these damp quarried underground cellars were perfectly suited to the creation of sparkling wine and became the trailblazer for many of the world’s favourite fizzes, including Veuve Clicquot, Pommery and Taittinger. Today, there are therefore no fewer than 200 km of cellars stretching out under Reims, protecting millions of bottles of champagne slowly developing to perfection ready to be popped and enjoyed.