In 1871, Mercier decided to build an authentic underground town and, never a man to do anything by half, instructed his architect to count in kilometres, not metres.
Six years later, the champagne production facility boasted 47 tunnels, covering 18 kilometres, a direct rail connection to the Paris-Strasbourg rail network and later became a popular public attraction when Mercier began running guided tours for the public - something that continues to this day. In the spirit of Mercier, a ‘Champagne Rally’ was even held in the cellars in the 1950s to launch Renault's 4CV and not a single bottle was smashed.
From cellars to cinema, Mercier joined up with the Lumière brothers, the legendary filmmakers, to make the very first documentary charting the two-year champagne process - precisely 3,723,821 visitors queued to see the end result - but even that was eclipsed by the ‘Cathedral of Champagne’, arguably one of Mercier's greatest publicity stunts. It was the world’s biggest wine barrel, weighing in at 20-tonnes, and constructed over 15 years from 150 one-hundred year-old Hungarian oak trees, but Eugène Mercier didn't stop there.
The ‘Cathedral of Champagne’ was completed in time for the 1889 World Exhibition and this provided Mercier with the chance to attempt his most breathtaking piece of showmanship: transporting the cask almost 90-miles from Épernay to Paris. It took eight days and nights, 24 oxen and 18 horses to transport the 200,000 bottle capacity wine cask. Two bridges collapsed under its weight, several others required major repairs and five houses were bought and demolished, but the publicity was priceless, even though the cask was eventually overshadowed by the main attraction, the Eiffel Tower.