Reims is an ideal home base for a trip to Champagne. Planning a wine trip in one of France’s wine regions can be overwhelming due to the amount of wineries available to visit. Not only is Reims extremely walkable, but many of the major Maisons are there, such as Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Taittinger, and Lanson. Épernay, Champagne’s other major city, is home to several well-known maisons as well. Épernay is only a 30 minute drive from Reims, with many other domains in between.
If you’re looking for a central, chic, and luxurious-feeling place to stay in Reims that won’t break the bank, the Hôtel de la Paix is the place for your next Champagne excursion. Right in centre-ville Reims, the Hôtel de la Paix gives you access to all of the bars and restaurants in downtown Reims. In addition, it’s just a 12 minute walk from the famous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims.
I recently began a new position as a food, wine and education assistant for Veuve Clicquot. Although my job is based in Paris, the Maison has (beautiful) headquarters in Reims which is where the house was founded by Madame Clicquot’s father-in-law in 1772.
Fun fact - Madame Clicquot took over the champagne company in the 1800s after her husband passed away. At only 27 years old, she took over the business during a time when a woman owning and running a company was unheard of. She not only brought the champagne house to the prestige we know today but also revolutionized champagne production by inventing the riddling table and other winemaking techniques.
I had the opportunity to travel to Reims and spend two amazing days in the town getting to know the Reims team and even getting to participate in the Champagne Immersion Week hosted by Veuve Clicquot. The program for Wednesday of Champagne Immersion Week was:
9a.m. – Meet at the luxury invite-only Veuve Clicquot hotel, Hôtel du Marc, for a marketing and communications training on the brand and heritage
10:30a.m. – Tour of the famous Veuve Clicquot crayères (caves) at the winery property in Reims
11:30a.m. – Intensive tasting with the winemaking team at the production facility
1 p.m. – Specialty lunch at the Hôtel du Marc prepared by Veuve Clicquot’s chef Christophe Pannetier
We started the day off with a training on Veuve Clicquot – the history, codes of the brand, missions, etc. After, we transferred to the winery property where we were guided through a visit of the world-famous crayères, the chalk caves. The soil of champagne is special because it’s chalky, which helps make champagne what it is. The chalk and limestone soils provide the ideal growing conditions for the vines in Champagne. The chalk actually comes from what is known as the Paris Basin. 90 million years ago, oceans covered every surface of the land in the northern half of France where Champagne is situated. Eventually the basin sank under the weight of various types of rocks that had accumulated on the seabed, leaving behind soil rich in various types of sediment perfect for grape vines today. This is why the soil in Champagne is so rich in minerals and also sometimes salinity. The soil is chalky because of the fragments of marine micro-organisms deposited millions of years ago. You can even find fossils of crustaceans and sea creatures in the chalky soils today.
After visiting the crayèrs we visited the production facility where we had an immersive tasting with a winemaker. We blind-tasted 6 base wine cuvées, all 100% pinot noir: 2022, 2019, 2008, 2014, the blended base wine for the flagship Yellow Label cuvée, and the red wine from the Clos Colin parcel, which is red wine used for blending La Grande Dame Rosé.
I’m extremely grateful for getting to discover Reims with the company and I can’t wait for more adventures to come!