Wine Shopping in Reims – Les Caves du Forum

I love wine shopping! These days, I can go on for days just touring wine boutiques and lugging around bottles in a backpack. Or usually it is M who does most of the heavy lifting, but I am there for moral support. As this is an activity we enjoy, we made some time, while in Reims last week, to go around browsing in a few boutiques. Our agenda was to find some nice souvenirs for taking home that could not be bought in Sweden, and also finding a wedding present for a couple who is getting married this Friday. Reims can be quite touristy when it comes to wine, but we got some nice tips from the staff at G.H. Mumm and found a place that well suited our consumption needs.

Les Caves du Forum is a large shop in an underground cellar next to the Reims Center (10 Rue Courmeaux). You need to first enter an inner yard before you see the entrance, but after that it is quite obvious, the red blinking arrow gives the location away. The wine shop is a few sets of stairs down in a cool cellar. The temperature and humidity are almost optimal for storing wines and the space gets no sunlight. Browsing around you can see that some of the bottles have been there for a while, judging from the amount of dust they have gathered. It is like a cave of treasures awaiting for the winecurious to rummage around.

The entrance
The entrance

Stairway to heaven
Stairway to heaven

Bottles gathering dust
Bottles gathering dust
Regardless of a great selection of French and other red and white wines, we headed directly towards the section for sparkling wines. We were in Reims and there to source champagne, so that was what we were there for. And my oh my, what a treat! The champagne room, located another set of stairs down from the main floor was big and plentiful. The big brands were of course represented, but the selection consisted mostly of small producers and grower champagnes. I am not sure, but I don’t think I saw one bottle of non vintage Möet or Veuev Cliquot on the shelves. Instead I saw names like Eric Rodez, Savart, Laherte & Fills, Marie-Noelle Ledru etc. Many of these producers we had just met at Terres & Vins de Champagne a few blocks away. It was truly an inspiring view.

The champagne room
The champagne room

Prices were marked on top of each bottle
SOme vintages – prices were marked on top of each bottle

Laherte & Fills and other treasures
Laherte & Fills and other treasures

In the champagne chamber
In the champagne chamber
We could have gone crazy in this store. I am sure it would have been no problem to find 20 or 30 bottles that we would have wanted  to bring home. However, that was not really an option. So we settled for a bottle of Savart and Francis Boulard and made our way to the cashier. We did not see that many vintages on the shelves, so the wedding present would have to be found somewhere else. But all in all a wonderful selection of grower champagnes for very affordable prices.

All in all a wonderful shop. I was not only impressed by the selection but also the conditions the wines where kept in. We did not have that much time to browse through the white and red wines, but we did see some interesting stuff peeking out from amongst the shelves. For example, the section for non-traditional wine countries, while small, featured not only Canada but also Slovakia and Palestine; this is really a shop to feed ones curiosity. The strength when it comes to reds and whites did however, understandably, appear to be to domestic French wines. So if in Reims and in the mood for some shopping, Les Caves du Forum is the place to go.

A Fresh Breeze for the Helsinki Wine-Scene – Sinne Helsinki

After visiting Helsinki over Easter, I said to M that perhaps the wine-scene is picking up enough to justify an honest consideration of Helsinki as a home city again. Since moving abroad in 2012 I have not longed back, although I have been missing my friends more than words can describe. Helsinki has felt too far away and small for my taste and the places to go for wine, coffee or whatever culinary experience could be counted with one, or to be less dramatic two hands; Finnair has been too dominant as an airline and the amount of patronizing the individual in the form of an abundance rules and regulations has often made me crazy. I am not saying things are much better anywhere else, Finland is a great country, but I needed to see the world to know what I am missing.

However, the scene is changing, not with regards to bureaucracy but at least the culinary experiences. Cozy Central-European influences are being drawn in and the offering for specialty coffee and wine is now pretty good. Perhaps this has been going on for a while, but now the selection really seems to be at a decent level. Sinne-Helsinki is just one example of something wonderful being set-up in the heart of the capital city. It is fresh and casual; and it would satisfy even the more demanding wine-geek with its selection of bottles.

The restaurant is located just off the main streets, behind Forum (big shopping mall) and Torni hotel. The space is divided into two parts: the Deli, where you can just pop in for a bite and a glass, and the ‘Garden room’ where they take reservations. The Garden room is built in an inner yard with a glass roof, so the space has a lot of light and a nice airy feel. The decoration of the space is nothing special, but there is some green (plants) in the middle of the room which created a nice ‘winter garden’ feel. Nothing special was needed to make it cozy.

Bulle de Rosé from Savart
Bulle de Rosé from Savart
Glass roof covering the inner yeard
Glass roof covering the inner yeard
The Deli
The Deli
The garden room at Sinne Helsinki
The garden room at Sinne Helsinki

The drinks list consisted of a decent selection by the glass. Three bubblies: one Austrian sparkling wine, a Janisson-Baradon Champagne (13€) and a Champagne of the day. Yes, a daily rotating Champagne (16€), this is what I’m talking about! The waiter offered for us to taste a small sip before deciding, so we sampled all three. The Champagne of the day was Bulle de Rosé from Savart, a wonderful aromatic bubbly with some berries and brioche. After declining the Austrian sparkling wine due to it’s sweetness (hey, if you would drink mostly zero dosage, you would probably think a Brut is sweet as well) M went for the Janisson-Baradon. For the drinks with our food, the Malaysian born sommelier, Edmund Liew, came over to our table to make recommendations. He was aware of our food orders (Asparagus for me and pork for M) and asked some questions to what kind of wine we would like. After that he sneaked into his wine room to bring out his suggestions. As I know wine, I am much more comfortable with browsing a proper list instead of someone choosing the wine for me but I must say he did a good job. I had a nice dry Riesling from Weegmüller and M had a Patrimonio Rouge 2010 from Corsica. Both well chosen to match the food, however I am still slightly annoyed that I could not see if there was something even more to my taste available nor was I made aware of the price prior to purchase (that is actually very annoying). There is a proper wine-list, but it was never brought to our table.

But when talking about the wine at this place, the list by the glass is only a scratch on the surface. The actual wine list (by the bottle) is amazing. It is 40 pages long, so I cannot really describe it to detail in this blog post, but browsing through the champagnes (now after our visit), I can already see many favorites, like Egly-Ouriet and Pierre Gimonet. They also offer a wide range from Selosse, this is stuff that you can’t even find in in the store (I don’t think there is any Selosse at Alko). Something that caught my eye as well were some of the prices for these bottles. A bottle of Selosse Brut Initial for 132€, that is a bargain! Normally I would expect the retail price to be well over a 100€, so to pay only 20-30€ more at a restaurant is fantastic. Finally a place that is offering a great selection of wine for an affordable margin. Other than Champagnes I noted some wonderful Rieslings from Nahe and a Castell d’Encus from Northern Spain. What I was left missing was a wider selection of other than Champagne sparklings, some premium Cavas for example. Ridgeview from the UK is old news and I have more than often been disappointed by Cremants from Loire. The prices from other sparklings were also close enough to some great Champagnes, so I would rather pay the extra 15-25€. All in all, a wonderful list, I really need to go with a group next time to be able to sample the amazing selection at hand.

Peach tart
Peach tart
Nöff, the pork dish
Nöff, the pork dish
The Asparagus
The Asparagus

The food was also wonderful. We had the glazed pork cheek with heart salad and Malmgård-emmer rice and the grilled asparagus with mushroom wild rice and pesto. Both dishes were awesome with full and balanced flavors. For dessert we had the peach-tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel-sauce to share.

All in all a great and refreshing experience in Helsinki! I would hope that they in the future show up with the wine-list though (so that I can see what I am paying). So all you wine-enthusiasts out there, this is the place to go if you are in town. The foodies won’t be too disappointed either.