Champagne Pommery: A champagne cave…and an underground art exhibit
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to visit relatives who live in Reims, the heart of champagne country. The highlight of the trip was a visit to Champagne Pommery, one of the oldest and largest champagne brands in the world.
Pommery was founded in 1857 by Alexandre Pommery, but really started to thrive in 1858 after he passed away and his wife, Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin. In 1890, the daughter Louise took over management of the company. They were the first champagne producer to offer the brut style of champagne, and even today the company works to continually innovate their products.
Construction of the cave was started in 1868 with transforming a large chalk quarry into 18 km of underground wine cellar. And not only did they serve the practical purpose of aging and storing champagne, but Mdm. Pommery also commissioned sculptor Gustave Navlet to carve 4 metre long bas-reliefs of Bacchus celebrating wine into the walls.
Today, the cave is adorned with contemporary art installations that take advantage of the lighting and space.
I’ve visited a few wine caves in my day, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to one as big or as old as this one. In fact, they have bottles dating back to the late 1800s (which are under lock and key, of course). Each section is adorned with a code, which only the head cavist knows. This is to prevent theft and corporate espionage, though it’s fairly safe to assume that a bottle heavily covered in dust is worth something.
As you can see, several of the passages and nooks have names of cities or countries. This was a tradition started in the late 1800s as the Pommery brand expanded across the world.
As part of our tour, we received a glass of Brut Royal. Light and airy, yet still crisp, this champagne was refreshing and enjoyable (to be honest, I know very little about champagne). It wasn’t particularly dry, though, which I typically prefer. If you’re new to drinking champagne, but want to enjoy (or buy as a gift for someone) a nice bottle, Pommery is a good way to go.