Websters defines spelunking as “the hobby or practice of exploring caves”.
Well, we are adventurous, but also a bit soft.
So for our soft spelunking adventure, we explored the chalk caves at Domaine Pommery in Rheims, France. Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Melin was born in the Ardennes area of France in 1819. She married Alexandre Pommery in 1839. When Alexandre passed away in 1860 she assumed full control of their wine business. Madame Pommery went about establishing the reputation of Pommery as a force to be reckoned with. She commissioned a grand property in Rheims with an eclectic mix of architectural styles. Built in 1863 the estate covers 120 acres and sits on top of 11 miles of Gallo-Roman chalk caves.
Pommery Champagne House
The entrance hall is also where the tasting room and gift shop is located.
Known as “le Grand Foudre”, the Pommery blending barrel in the tasting room is one of the largest in the world and holds the equivalent of 100,000 bottles. The barrel was made to celebrate the friendship by Pommery between France and America and was sent to St. Louis for exhibition at the World’s Fair of 1904. The sculptures represent France in the form of a young woman offering a glass of Pommery to America (yeah!). She is astride a sphinx like creature with the head of an Indian. On the top is the Statue of Liberty (also a gift from France).
le Grand Foudre
Detail on le Grand Foudre
You didn’t drink too much yet – it is an elephant standing on its nose at Pommery.
The ancient chalk caves became a unique cellar which allowed Pommery to story over 20 million bottles in a temperature controlled environment.
No ropes needed for our spelunking adventure, we simply walk down the stairs.
Entrance (and exit) stairs to Champagne caves
OK, we are getting just a bit thirsty, but these bottles are not ready
We selected our bottles, but realize there will be some problems getting them in our suitcases without going over the airlines weight limit. Probably best to just drink them here.
Chalk wall carving
Pommery is well-known for hosting on-going art exhibits. You will find temporary art installations everywhere on the property. Also there are these amazing wall carvings which are etched directly into the walls of the caves.
Louise Pommery ran the wine house after Madame Pommery died.
Behind a locked gate and easy to see why – amazing stuff!
Just a small fraction of the millions of bottles aging in the cellars.
Our most artistic shot
It’s art – the boots actually move, sorry did not have video going.
The signature “Louise”
Thanks for joining us on our spelunking adventure in Champagne!
When you are done with your Champagne tastings, have some dinner and then walk over to the Rheims Cathedral for a night-time spectacular.