A day in Champagne
September 30, 2021
World-famous Champagne houses
Champagne boasts at least 260 Champagne houses – most of them prestigious – producing around 300 million bottles every year. Ruinart, which was set up in 1729, is the longest-established Champagne house and was inspired by a monk, Dom Thierry Ruinart. He left his home in Champagne for the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where he discovered a new kind of wine with bubbles. This ‘maison’ is located at the top of a hill on rue des Crayères and features ancient chalk cellars from the mid-18th century. Other gold standard houses include Taittinger, known for its star champagne Comtes de Champagne, and Veuve Clicquot, with its 24km/15 mile-long subterranean tunnels.
Fascinating historic sites
The Champagne region has a storied history of wine-making, an area so blessed that it even inspired Winston Churchill’s wartime rally cry, “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” Journey through the region of this famous drink at its fascinating historic sites, including the UNESCO listed Reims Cathedral, a masterpiece of classic Gothic architecture. Another must-see is the Memorial at Dormans, built to commemorate the Battles of the Marne. Inside there’s a haunting ossuary containing the remains of over a thousand soldiers, a poignant reminder of Champagne’s role during the First World War.
Intimate cellars of Champagne
The fascinating world of bubbly is perhaps best experienced at the smaller cellars, where you can meet the Champagne makers themselves. In Hautvillers, known as the birthplace of Champagne and where the tomb of Dom Pérignon (a monk famous for contributing to the development of Champagne) lies, you’ll find Champagne Tribaut, overlooking the Marne River. Here, guests are greeted by Ghislain and Marie-José Tribaut and taken to a sun-drenched terrace or a cool salon for a tasting that will linger long on the tongue and memory. Cuvée de Réserve and Grande Cuvée Spéciale are among their most outstanding bottles.
Champagne Gardet, in Chigny-les-Roses, which was founded in 1895 and supplies Britain’s House of Commons, also provides an intimate experience. It’s known for its Pinot-driven style and has a charming Art Nouveau glass veranda overflowing with tropical plants.
Fine regional cuisine
Champagne simply tastes better with accompaniments, so pair regional specialities, such as pink biscuits of Reims or creamy Chaource cheese for the perfect tasting. Or for something more substantial, there are plenty of excellent restaurants nearby, including Michelin-starred Racine in Reims, serving a fusion of French and Japanese cuisine.
Le Grand Cerf, a stone’s throw away, has a special truffle menu during the winter season and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to a lush garden. For a taste of local Reims ham, you’ll find the best at Café du Palais, an authentic and hearty bistro with a beautiful Art Deco-stained glass ceiling.
Cathedral of Reims
Reims Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims), saw the coronations of 25 kings of France – almost every monarch since the 13th century. It was later turned into an infirmary during the First World War, when its medieval gargoyles were damaged by German shelling. When you visit, be sure to look up at the ornate sculptures and spectacular stained-glass windows – perfect examples of the French High Gothic period. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, its wonders include the former Abbey of Saint-Rémi and the baroque Palace of Tau.
The original palace hotel in the heart of historic Paris, Le Meurice with its splendid newly-restored rooms and suites is the very epitome of quiet elegance and is alive with the artist's soul of wit and magic.
Hôtel Plaza Athénée
True to its extraordinary city, Hôtel Plaza Athénée is no ordinary hotel. Here, on the prestigious avenue Montaigne, the tree-lined boulevard of French fashion, our hotel proudly offers guests the very best of Paris.
View the latest issue of Collect, our bi-annual magazine featuring a curated mix of culture, art and lifestyle, together with the latest news from Dorchester Collection hotels.