To celebrate Global Champagne Day, I’m sharing my most recent trip to Champagne and Paris, France.
After a quick flight from JFK, I landed in Paris at 1:30pm and drove straight Veuve Clicquot. My international champagne crew had already arrived: 2 from Taipei, 1 from Hong Kong, 1 from France and one other from New York. I missed the tour of the “crayères” or old quarries, important relics of the region’s rich past but arrived in time to toast with my friends over a glass of rosé champagne.
All of us were happy to be reunited, and I wondered how the hell did we get so lucky! Since it was harvest season, it was more impossible to get reservations in the region but we lucked out with some super VIP treatment for two days of private tours and tastings.
After Veuve Clicquot, we took a break to check into our hotel for a quick shower and change and then headed to a private dinner at Veuve Clicquot’s private mansion, L’Hotel du Marc. The residence is for privately invited guests and the chef prepares meals specifically to enhance the taste of champagne and wine. The setting was immaculate – a perfect balance between elegance and fun. We enjoyed a delicious 3-course dinner. My favorite was Tête de Moine, a cheese from Switzerland (ironically not from France) that was shaped like a flower and tasted out of this world. After that, we headed to the back room for more great champagne and to see their mascot, Ostrich. We went to bed feeling bubbly and awesome!
The next day, we started our morning at Moët & Chandon in Epernay, home to Moët Chandon and of course, Dom Perignon. Quickly, I learned the youngest Dom Perignon champagne starts at first plenitude (aging) of 7 years. A second plénitude is 12 to 15 years after the vintage (first Œnothèque release) and a third plénitude after 30 to 40 years. So much art and work goes into the production of these fine champagnes. I can’t imagine creating something for which you cannot see the result of until 7 years later. I have a whole new appreciation for these vintage wine and champagne makers. It is so much work!!!! Now I need to work hard to afford to only drink vintage champagne!
As if the cellar tour was not impressive enough, we walked over to massive gates to enter Maison Trianon. I pinched myself when the gate slowly opened to reveal the gardens of the Trianon filled with beautiful fountains. And yes, the lunch was also super private and invite only. You felt like a rock star walking in and being greeted with a glass of DP in the Trianon’s Golden Room. We were lucky to meet Chef Pascal who prepared our 3 course lunch paired with various champagnes, bien sur! My favorite was the chocolate sorbet paired with rosé champagne.
After lunch, we drove through the vineyards, where they harvest the perfect balance of white and black grapes. We drove up the hill overlooking the vineyards and ended up at Abbey d’Hautvillers for a private tour of the grounds. After being completely wowed, we ended the tour with a once-in a lifetime tasting with Richard Geoffroy, aka “God of Champagne”. There were spit bucket, but believe me, nobody was spitting out even a drop of the $500-$2000 Euro bottles of champagne.
Our group was extremely well behaved and paid careful attention, taking in every bit of champagne-making knowledge. We tasted champagnes from 1971, 1998, and 2002-2006. We heard how the rain and temperature had affected the grapes, as well as how the decision making process happened each year. Apparently, the champagne-makers have to work with whatever they are given by that year’s harvest, and continue to maintain vintage quality. Bravo, Dom Perignon! I am never drinking any other champagne again. (Give me a week to rethink my budget).
Our night ended at the restaurant Brasserie Le Jardin pairing done with Krug and other amazing wines. This dinner was a bit blurry since all the bubbles and food finally got to me. Also, all this eating and drink made my dress so tight and made my buttons pop like a champagne cork. Vintage of course!
This trip can be only described as a Cinderella experience. I felt like a New York City “hillbilly” wandering amongst the castles in Reims, I’ll cherish this magical fairy tale experience forever.