As you may know, I love travel, live for chocolate and adore wine.When I can bring these things together, then it's nirvana for Jana!My next favorite thing is cooking this kind of experience up into a special event to share with our loyal RTT customers. So, I journeyed into France to scout out a very special idea I've had for quite some time, and bring a champagne fantasy to life!
My first stop was to Xavier Thibault to sample his handcrafted chocolates and ensure he had the skills to impress the discerning RTT customers that would be returning with me. He was, indeed, a master chocolatier and went about wooing me with his exquisite sweets and absolutely slayed me with his champagne infused chocolates… the rich chocolate bubble burst with luxurious champagne as soon as I bit into it, filling my mouth with an extraordinary alchemy of flavor, wonder and delight that could only be created by these two ingredients. Having completely won me over, he showed me his production facilities that belonged to his father before him, and explained how his mission and passion has been a long standing quest to master the dark art of chocolate. From the amazing sweet samples he shared with me, I would say he certainly had achieved his goal and I indulged in purchasing some goodies for the road, with the promise to return!
With my chocolate in tow, I traveled along the country roads that weave through the vineyards where some of the most expensive grapes for the most exclusive champagne houses are grown, up to the quaint village of Hautvillers. I took my time exploring here and made a stop at the Abbey Saint-Pierre, to pay homage to the famous Monk, Dom Perignon, where he first made Champagne. Behind every corner I found another local Champagne maker with vintages and a family history even grander than the last.When I asked if I could do a tasting, I was kindly welcomed and enjoyed listening to the winemakers proudly explain about the special blend of grapes they used to make each of their Champagnes unique. Much to my delight, I quickly discovered that the purchase of a few bottles of bubbly to take home and stock up my collection, resulted in my tasting at that location being on the "House". I sampled to my heart's content and am happy to report that my collection at home is now the envy of all my friends, for a price that makes me smile almost as much as my visit to Hautvillers and sampling the champagnes!
Before we left this magical town, I stood overlooking the lush vineyards and walked over to the edge of one of the carefully manicured rows of grapes. I crouched down and gently held a bunch of grapes in my hands and imagined a few weeks from now, harvest would begin. The swollen grapes would be pressed, releasing their exquisite juice, which would then be bottled into the famous and expensive Moet & Chandon Champagne. It was truly a grand moment to feel such a deep connection with the history, tradition and natural ingredients of this amazing wine and region.
The last stop of the day was the nearby bustling town of Reims for a visit to the Grand House of Champagne Vranken Pommery, a premium brand with a very special cellar and accompanying history. In 1860, upon the death of her husband, Louise Pommery assumed control of the business and purchased 120 underground limestone pits and commissioned artists to carve beautiful depictions that celebrated wine culture into the walls. This temperature-controlled environment provided her with the ideal place to store and age thousands of bottles of wine and was later duplicated by many other champagne houses in the region, though none are as magnificent as the Pommery. It was a joy to see the fingerprints of Madame Pommery throughout the cellar, knowing the vast and beautiful place had been created by a brave and visionary woman, well ahead of her times, over 150 years ago.During the tour, the Pommery guide explained many things about champagne making, from bottling to aging, and of course the role the cellar plays in the process. A glass of premium Pommery bubbly was waiting to be tasted at the end of the cellar tour, and was one of my favorites of the day. We finished up in the center of Reims with a stroll and a quick peak at the cathedral, but cut that short so we could dig into more culture of the edible kind.My perfect French Champagne Fantasy day ended with a three-course French dinner and more champagne at a restaurant I know and love.
RTT will be offering a limited edition trip based my experience.For trip details or to arrange this outing for your Private Group see our French Champagne Fantasy Tour.
RTT Tour Director