I work also for a wine imported and exported here in the UK, where we have now an office in Hong Kong as well. The reason why I associated myself with this company was for its several assets it had.
The Company is called Eminent Wines, www.eminentwines.com
One of the assets or departments of the company is wine Tourism. Even so that we all might think that France should be ways ahead of its competitors, actually it has only really began fully to take the bug since a couple of years seriously.
There are so many mazing places popping up all around France and in every department where wine is produced.
So me and my boss headed to the region of Champagne-Ardennes and Epernay in particular where there was the 1st fair on wine tourism for the region, called "vins et passion" in other words wine and passion.
We stayed in Reims at one of the most prestigious places "Les Crayeres" or in English something like the chalks. www.lescrayeres.com
As one says prestigious means also heavy on the wallet. One night stay starts high and low season combined from about €345 and goes up to €700. But you will be pampered and stay in a magnificent building dating from early 20th Century. It was Madame Pommery how build it for her daughter, as you do and has been bought later by the Gardinier family who own Phelan Segur in Bordeaux.
There is attention to detail and a service where no fuss and huss, peep and weep is to much to ask. The rooms have all their individual touch and character, all dating back to the early 20th century. In the heart of Reims and close to the houses of Pommery, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot and placed in a garden of 7 hectares, it is the perfect place to start your trip in discovering Champagne.
The salon or fair had many things to offer and another place need to be mentioned is "La Brigueterie" www.labriqueterie.fr
The only luxe hotel with spa treatment facilities in the region so far. Placed in the middle of the vines where you are close to nature and close the essential product itself "Champagne". Here as well the style is classic but less in opulence than Les Crayeres. Once again the service is to its up-most and no detail is left aside, it is also here that you will find one of the biggest references in choice of Champagne, over 300 different brands. Rooms here are from €180 to €290, which is already more reasonable in some ways but you can't compare Les Crayeres with this one here different animal i would say.
So here totally in the country side, no honking or stuck traffic, no here it is the birds the bees and the vines.
Of course there are many other places with less steeper prices all info is given at the office of tourism the Reims. www.reims-tourisme.com.
The region is absolute adorable especially around the Town of Epernay which is the epi center of the word of Champagne. Around it, many little grand cru and premier cru villages.
One last place I have to mention if you are a big champagne fan is soon to be open and I talk in the next couple of weeks, so I will come back with all the info available is the house/hotel of Jacque Selosse now taken in hand by the son, Anselme Selosse which I had the great privilege to meet and for the first time in my life i was really star struck. As this gentleman has talent at his finger tips and ideas that revolutionized the brand Champagne.
The hotel is like a house full of all the needs and luxe you expect, only 10 rooms, so 20 people max. You enter into the world of Anselme and Corinne Selosse. Tranquil, comfortable, relaxing, harmonious, indulging, rechargeable, encounter. All the elements to create a place of heaven, placed in the village of Avize which is a grand cru, the hotel is placed at the entrance of the village. As I said once they are open and up and running I will let you know more about it. Keep this spot in mind.
Of course being here in Champagne some tastings were a must. As i was at the London wine fair a couple days before and had tasted the Champagne Henri Giraud , a visit to the house was not to be missed. www.champagne-giraud.com
A house with about a 250.000 production, which is fairly small compared to some houses. I like the philosophy of this house the way they approach the identity of their champagnes. They use wooden barrels for pretty much all their champagnes and wow what a result. The range Esprit is where you start, you get hit with amazing sensations when you taste the hommage to Francois Hemard, superb and thrilling. Setting you straight in line for the rest to come. Before the Hommage we had the Esprit Blanc de Blance and the Brut NV which again both where playing with your taste buds and emotions.
The two code, champagnes the Noir and Rose are something of a novelty as they are the decoding of the grape Pinot Noir. As you may know there are many different Pinot Noir created, clones to adapt at various different soils and climates. But the original Pinot has its roots steeped in the history of champagne and so Code Noir and Rose both 100% Pinot Noir taking you into an experience very few champagnes will take you and you will find back memories you thought never to have remembered.
Of course you always end your tasting with the top cuvee, well I thought i had already tasted a few of their top cuvees.
The Henri Giraud Fut de Chene 2002 simply knocked me of my feet, shook the earth and i felt like reborn again. It is so powerful in emotions, character and craft that I had to say that this is now amongst one of the best champagnes ever tasted.
The other house we tasted was Champagne house Gardet. www.champagne-gardet.com
A much bigger house but relatively small still compared to Moet and company.
This house produces 1.2 million bottles, but has a range of champagnes absolutely crafted with identity.
We started with the Brut tradition nv, which was light and delightful perfect as an aperitif drink, to start of an evening to celebrate an occasion
Than we had the Brut Premier cru nv, Here already you we welcomed with deeper aromas and more intenser characters. Delightful on the palate and definitely a champagne asking for food the be served with, white meats and fish salads or dishes.
The Blanc de Blanc was so soft and elegant, which was a surprise as this house is more of a Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier producer and so to bring this fruitful and joyful champagne was a delight. White fruits and zesty elements with some undertones of bread notes.
We had than the first rose of the family, which was well crafted lots of red fruits and structure, but did not struck me a cord, nevertheless this is still a well made champagne.
The Brut Reserve nv, was compared to the brut traditions a total different beast, here there was more cream to the palate and intenser fruits, felt more like concentrated but than reserves are part of the production kept aside and maintained to be revealed at the right time so a total different character.
The brut selected reserve, is barrel fermented and plunging you into a wine so personal and identified, it requires reflection and appreciation. Beautifully crafted. Don't forget that Gardet ferment most of its champagnes as many houses in steel vats, so to have the combination of the two is a very good asset to have.
Here we arrive to the top cuvees of Charles Gardet.
Cuvee Charles Gardet 2002, what a delight, what a joy, fully focused and totally in control, the house has been working hard to get back the recognition it deserves and i can only say, you need to taste it to believe it.
The second top cuvee is of course the Charles Gardet cuvee Rose 2005, as in the village Chigny-Les_Roses, there are hints of rose petals and red fruits surging through properties of this champagne.
Lamb, wild , some desserts work perfectly with this champagne. This cuvee was such a nice ending to this tasting that i asked to taste it again and again. A pure joy.
I will write a separate article soon on champagne but to com to a conclusion Wine tourism is a fine fun educative new way of taking a holiday.
One thing you need to assure is to find a driver or hire one otherwise it will spoil the fun.
Till next time be safe, drink responsible and keep on discovering.