Although it wasn’t exactly a white Christmas this year, it sure was a bubbly one.
Reims, a city located around 80 miles outside of Paris in the heart of the champagne region, was the perfect holiday getaway. Combining the history and culture of a large metropolitan city with the charm of a smaller village, Reims was a welcome surprise amongst the more well-known tourist destinations in France.
The inhabitants of the city, referred to as Rémoises, surely know how to embrace the Christmas spirit. The large marché de noel was complete with dark peppermint chocolate, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, dessert crepes, hand-crafted trinkets and, of course, champagne.
As the region’s name would suggest, champagne is the city’s speciality. In fact, there are around 10 well-known champagne houses throughout Reims offering tours of the underground caves as well as tastings.
We chose to visit the Vranken Pommery cave and learned that three varieties of grapes are harvested for champagne production: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The initial alcoholic fermentation turns the grape juice into wine with the help of selected yeasts. Subsequently, malolactic fermentation reduces the wine’s acidity by turning the malic acid into lactic acid. During the racking process, blended wines are combined with sugar and yeasts. Once this occurs, the bottles are stopped and placed in a horizontal position to encourage foaming. During this time, more carbon dioxide is produced that becomes trapped in the bottle and ultimately released in the form of foam when the bottle is opened. The final step is riddling, which entails rotating and tilting the bottles to bring amalgamated yeasts towards the neck to enhance the wine’s clarity.
While champagne receives a lot of love in Reims (and for good reason!), the city boasts many culinary treasures in addition to this bubbly beverage such as pain d’épices (gingerbread), mustard, ham, and the biscuit rose (pink biscuit).
Dating back to the end of the 17th century, the biscuit rose is one of the oldest French biscuits. During that time, bakers decided to take advantage of the residual oven heat after the bread was baked to create sweet delicacies. In fact, the word “bis-cuit” itself means “twice-baked.” Pale pink and sprinkled with powdered sugar, these biscuits are surprisingly light and characteristically crunchy while sturdy enough to withstand a generous dip into a flute of champagne.
The best place to find these treats in Reims is Maison Fossier.
When we weren’t foraging through the market for chocolate bark or eating one too many slices of pain d’épices, we could be found tasting the plats du jour at local brasseries around the city. Here were some of our favorites:
Breakfast involved lots of fresh fruit (mostly winter citrus around this time of the year) and nuts from the local market at the Halles du Boulingrin.
For more adventures into the world of cuisine française, head over to one taste at a time’s instagram.