Our recent experiment ‘48 hours in Champagne’ was a most successful one! There is no better way to spend a weekend away from London and there is no other destination that goes better with visiting Paris as does Champagne!
After taking the Eurostar at 5.45 in the morning (we promise it sounds a lot worse on paper than in real life!) and stopping for a coffee break with a delicious croissant in Paris, we arrive in Reims, Champagne at 11.45am, local time. This is a beautiful city to explore as it breathes so much history.
History & Architecture
We started with a visit to Notre Dame de Reims – a most fascinating building where the Kings of France were once crowned. More than 60% of beautiful Reims was destroyed during WWI and the cathedral front had to be rebuilt in entirety to reflect its beauty. Today it sits proud in the square sheltered by the Palace of Tau, the Carnegie Library, the Justice Palace and the statue of Jeanne d’Arc. There are some great spots for people watching too, so you can have a coffee or champagne break and take in the views. If you have time, another great place for a WWI, WWII and French history lesson is the Hotel le Vergeur Museum.
Lunch started with a glass of Duntze Champagne – a glass from the first vintage as this is Champagne House which is not yet open to the public. Keep an eye on this producer, we think it has a lot of potential. The food in Champagne is hearty and takes you back to home cooking in many ways. We had a lard salad (not for the faint hearted) and a generous portion of boeuf bourguignon. The starter of salty and honey preserved salmon was delicious too. We also cheated slightly and ate our food with some red wine from Domaine Berthaut, but since Burgundy is only down the road, it felt just right!
We heard great things about Taittinger Champagne and were very eager to visit. Aside from the fact that this Champagne House produces some fantastic vintages, the tour here is one of the best we have ever experienced. The flagship wines of the house are the Comtes de Champagne - 100% Chardonnay and Comtes de Champagne Rosé - 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.
In 1932 Pierre Taittinger bought Chateau de la Marqueterie from Forest-Fourneau. The chateau was subsequently used as a command post during the WWI and although Pierre passed away, the family continued the production of champagne nurturing the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines. From 1945 to 1960 the business was run by Pierre's third son François. Under his direction, the Taittinger cellars were established in the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, a stunning cathedral built in the thirteenth century in Gallo-Roman chalk pits dating from the fourth century. The cathedral was destroyed like most of Reims, but Taittinger has made great use of the underground cellars. Francois passed away in a tragic accident and it was his brother Claude who took over and directed the business from 1960 to 2005. Claude gave Taittinger the great name it is today and thanks to him and his team, this is one of the world’s most recognised and loved names.
As you descend more than 20 meters underground, the chalk layers become increasingly visible. The cone shaped cellars reach high creating an ethereal, magical feeling. The bottles are asleep in these beautiful caves and the old Cathedral doors are preserved to this date creating a sense of secrecy as you walk past them.
There are several kilometres of galleries, including a staircase which was used by the monks once to access the cellars. The tour is sublime and the tasting at the end is most certainly worth the 16 EUR you will pay for the visit.
Clos des Terres Soudees is the perfect Winerist experience. The hotel is attached to the Roger Coulon Champagne House – the same couple runs both estates. The hotel's 5 rooms tell the story of wine making: the first one is called The Vignes, exemplifying the champagne vines through symbols such as vine shaped lights. The last room, called the Dream of the Bubbles unveils the luxury and pleasure in drinking champagne. Divided in 3 large spaces: a reception, an en suite with shower and an en suite with a bath, this is a perfect room for a family.
We arrived at Clos des Terres Soudees in time for sunset. Situated in La Montagne de Reims region, in Verzy, this is such a great place for relaxation. Views of the auburn vines at this time of the day are stunning. Wonderful Laurence, the hotel manager, welcomed us with a glass of Champagne Roger Coulon – the perfect finish to our day.
We started at 9am after a delicious French breakfast and a walk in the vines – bring comfortable shoes as these are hills you will want to explore and there is plenty of space for hiking, golf and strolls in the sun. Close to Vrigny there is a famous golf course, popular with the locals and travellers. It’s the perfect way to start or end the day.
Situated only 5 minutes away from the hotel, this is truly a boutique winery. We meet Alexandre, the wine maker – a great and knowledgeable young man who speaks of champagne with much passion and insight. He loves his vines and is buzzing with excitement about the new vintage. We do a visit of the cellar and a wine tasting and take off to Vrigny with a few bottles of champagne in our suitcase – one of the benefits of travelling on the Eurostar!
La Maison Penet
This champagne house is a new addition to Winerist and we were so very excited to visit the Penet family. Located in the grand cru village of Verzy, this is one of our favourite stops. Alexandre Penet is one of the warmest and most intelligent wine makers we have come across. He is the fifth generation of wine makers and with his wife, they are bringing a different edge to a champagne house which shows so much potential! Alexandre owns 6 hectares of vines which stretch across the Grand Cru villages of Verzy and Verzenay on the Montagne de Reims; famous for the exceptional quality of the Grand Cru pinot noir grapes grown there and across the road from Veuve Cliquot.
We come into the house which the family has restored to its glory once Alexander inherited it from his grandmother. To the right is the family home, to the left the cellar and press room and in the centre a beautiful house which is used as the VIP tasting area and office by Alexandre and his team.
La Maison Penet visits are now available through Winerist and can be booked by contacting our team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We enjoyed every second of our stay in Champagne. From here you can head back to Paris for a late dinner and a stroll on Champs Elysees. The train journey is short and simple and this is most certainly one of the easiest ways we have ever travelled to a wine region!
If you want us to help you with your future visit to Champagne, why not drop us an email to email@example.com.
Written by Diana Isac, Winerist Co-Founder