30 November 2019
We travel to Champagne by both coach and Eurotunnel, staying in a central 4-star hotel in Reims. This stunning city is home to many of the great names in Champagne: Krug, Roederer, Cattier, Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Taittinger and Charles Heidsieck all have their cellars here.
This tour is operated by Arblaster & Clarke
For the last thirty years, Arblaster & Clarke have provided small group Wine Tours, offering the widest choice throughout Europe and the New World of any wine tour operator. We enjoy long-standing relationships with producers the world over, making for exclusive access to otherwise closed doors, and a great deal of knowledge on where to find the very best wines.
- Meals - as per the itinerary
- Wine Guide
Formerly a presenter of ITV’s ‘The Food Programme’, Conal is a Master of Wine and has written a number of fascinating books.
30 November 2019: Itinerary
We depart from London in the morning and stop off briefly on arrival in Calais, to allow you to stock up on French cheeses, wine and bread to enjoy en route – all of which will surely make the journey pass pleasantly and quickly! We arrive into Reims between 1600 and 1700 local time. This evening, your Wine Guide will choose a selection of champagnes in order to introduce us to the various styles, different houses and growers in what will be a fun and illuminating evening. No two of our tastings are alike and no two Wine Guides have the same approach to presenting them. However, you will always taste a diverse range of different champagnes. Most will be very much to your liking, but perhaps some less so as we like to seek out unusual wines along with those you may not be familiar with. Your evening will be spent at leisure.
Reims has a wealth of wonderful restaurants and bistros from those boasting two Michelin stars (early booking essential) to more reasonably priced gourmet restaurants along with traditional style brasseries. We will provide a list of all our tried and tested eateries before the trip, so you can book ahead if you wish. However, we will make a reservation at one of our favourite reasonably priced brasseries and you are more than welcome to join our Wine Guide or Tour Manager for dinner if you would like to.
Hotel: Hotel de la Paix, Reims
Start today with a glass of champagne to accompany your buffet breakfast – breakfast at home will never seem the same again! Afterwards, we depart for the first of our visits to a champagne house, Champagne Mailly. The Mailly co-operative draws its members from within the boundaries of the grand cru village of Mailly-Champagne and today has 70 members owning 70 hectares of vineyards. In the mid-80s the vines suffered from a great frost and the wines lost their way for a few years. However they are back on form now and producing excellent wine which have a high Pinot Noir content.
After our visit, you will have free time to explore Reims. Why not choose a café table to sit at and people watch while you enjoy some local food and perhaps a glass of champagne? In the First World War, Reims was besieged and partially destroyed thankfully, however, some of the most beautiful and impressive buildings – such as the Cathedral and the Palais de Vergeur – remain. The rebuilding process resulted in many fine buildings with extra ‘art nouveau’ touches. Reims today is a lively commercial centre and University City. It was very important in the latter Roman Empire and there are several monuments still in evidence dating back to that era, including a Triumphal Arch, the Forum and the stone quarries or crayères, which are still used as cellars by many champagne houses. The 13th century cathedral has wonderful gargoyles and statues, such as ‘the Smiling Angel’; and there are fine stained glass windows, including a spectacular piece by Marc Chagall. The early Frankish Kings were all crowned here and the Kings of France continued this tradition.
This afternoon, we visit the great Taittinger. Champagne Taittinger remains one of the few top houses owned and actively run by the family named on the label, and their significant vineyard ownership makes them the second largest domaine holder in the Champagne region, providing them with uninterrupted quality control from vine to bottle. Many of their champagnes, such as their top prestige cuvée Comtes de Champagne, are matured in Taittinger’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed, 4th century Roman cellars. The hallmark of their wines is the high percentage of Chardonnay used, which gives them elegance, delicacy and – of course – finesse.
Meals include: Breakfast
Hotel: Hotel de la Paix, Reims
After our second champagne breakfast today we check out of the hotel and have a morning visit to Cattier. The family firm of Cattier based in Chigny-Les-Roses make excellent champagnes with a distinct Montagne de Reims character. The crown jewel is the single vineyard ‘Clos du Moulin’, a complex champagne with a fine balance of pinot noir and chardonnay. This is a firm that is definitely ‘on the move’, whose quality is ever increasing and quantity too! They now produce the historic ‘Maximes’ brand in conjunction with Maximes of Paris. In 2014, rapper Jay-Z purchased global distribution rights for Armand de Brignac, a champagne brand produced by Cattier colloquially known as ‘Ace of Spades’.
For lunch, we dine at Champagne Canard Duchêne is in Ludes. The Champagne is perhaps simple, but has a very accessible fruit-driven style. We will be given a guided tour of the cellars, which contain an interesting and unusual exhibition. This will be followed by a spectacular demonstration of opening a champagne bottle (sabrage), a tasting and the opportunity to visit their great shop where you can stock up on champagne related gifts.. Departing here, we make our way back to Calais for our return journey to the UK, arriving in London at around 2200h.
Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch
30 November 2019: Additional Info
30 November 2019: Accommodation