Pommery The Pommery cellars offer one of the best visiting experiences.
The fairy-tale castle complex that Madame Pommery had built in 1868 is simply charming. Built over a massive area of 50 hectares, the cellars exude the magnificence of the late nineteenth century. More than 100 Gallo-Roman crayères (chalk quarries) are joined together in an 18-kilometre labyrinthine network that houses 25 million bottles of champagne. Anyone interested in art will love the changing exhibition of art installations, from which the Vrankens choose their favourites each year to permanently decorate the cellars. The artworks even make a visit to the cellars entertaining for families with children.
The legacy of the world’s second most famous champagne widow, Madame Pommery, was immense. Her husband, Louis Alexandre Pommery, passed away just two years after entering Narcisse Greno’s champagne business in 1856. Despite having two babies to take care of, Jeanne-Alexandrine Pommery took the reins of the small business and turned it into a major Grande Marque. Madame Pommery was greatly inspired by her contemporary, the widow Clicquot, despite the fact that the two women apparently did not get on at all. In addition to creating the Pommery brand and building the monumental cellars, Madame Pommery is credited with producing the first dry champagne. The 1874 vintage of Pommery Nature was the first champagne that we would today call dry, and it immediately captivated the British market. It would pave the way for the champagne style of the future. One of these historic bottles can be seen in the Pommery cellars to this day.
Madame Pommery had a fabulous mansion built for her daughter Louise close to the champagne headquarters, and today it houses the finest hotel in Champagne, Les Crayères. Louise was married off to Prince Guy de Polignac, and the house remained in the hands of that renowned aristocratic family until 1979. The final representative of the family, Prince Alain de Polignac, was for a long time a highly regarded cellar master of Pommery, acting as an ambassador for the house until the turn of the millennium. Despite Prince Alain’s contribution, the loss of the family’s holding in the business has proven fateful for Pommery. After a few changes of hands, Moët Hennessy took over Pommery in 1994 and started to turn it into a volume brand by exponentially increasing production. This significantly lowered quality.
The final blow for Pommery, however, came when Moët Hennessy sold the house to Vranken but kept all of the best vineyards for itself. This act surely made Madame Pommery turn in her grave, as it made it very difficult for the house to stick to her motto, Qualité d’abord: Quality First. In spite of the difficult circumstances, the estate’s valued cellar master Thierry Gasco has stayed on board and done all he can for quality. Sustainable development is particularly close to Gasco’s heart and he worked towards Pommery becoming the first house of wine to achieve the ISO 14001 environmental certificate in 1996.