Pippa Mistry-Norman takes us through a visit of the sights and sounds of Champagne, courtesy of Taittinger.
The forecast in Champagne was ideal for the Jeroboams retail team trip hosted by Taittinger (Official Champagne of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia) this past week: 30ºC and a high chance of bubbles! After an early Eurostar to Paris, we began our midweek exploration into Reims and one of the last family-run champagne houses: Taittinger.
After decompressing and having a pootle through the cobbled streets of Reims, our first day ended in style with everyone dressed up to the nines for supper at the Ancien Hotel des Comtes de Champagne – an historic landmark of Reims that traces its history back to Thibault the Troubadour (great name!), which is now owned by the Taittinger family. While the Château de la Marquetterie (Taittinger’s usual venue) was sadly closed for renovation, we were treated to our champagne and supper at a generally unseen treasure in Taittinger’s trove. The champagne selection to accompany our meal was a true homage to the higher echelons of champagne, which for the majority of maisons, are the blanc de blancs, their single vintage, single vineyard and the very pinnacle of winemaking in champagne: the elusive but exceptional, vintage rosé champagne! Such was our supper in that order, no less.
Once we checked out of our hotel the following morning, we were escorted on a visit to the world-famous Nôtre-Dame Cathedral of Reims. As the coronation site of French kings dating back to the middle ages and Jeanne d’Arc, the fame and prestige of sparkling wine from the region that has lasted centuries owes its presence at royal tables and celebrations to the church at the heart of Reims.
From the gothic cathedral, we headed to the Abbey of Saint Nicaise – or as it is today – the Taittinger Champagne House and the cellars for the Comtes de Champagne and its rosé tasted the night before. Beneath the vestiges of the abbey is a maze of tunnels, vaults and caverns hewn from the chalk bedrock used to perfect the prestige cuvées. The chalk covered bottles of all sizes (ranging from the standard to the Biblical – in every sense – Methuselahs) sitting in the pupitres (riddling racks) as they are turned a fraction each day to usher the yeast into the bottle’s neck pre-disgorgement – a sight worthy of its UNESCO world heritage site status.
In the scorching heat, we then drove out of the city to Murigny, where the 1er Cru vineyards of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier lie for a champagne luncheon overlooking the rows of vines before heading to Paris and back to Blighty.