Day trip to Champagne (In search of RM)
I am living in Paris for the next year and am hoping to take a drive to Champagne one of these days. I want to visit a few small grower producers in the region. I am passionate about drinking RM champagne but know very little about it besides what I have read in Terry Thiese's catalouges. Im considering visitng Gimmonet or Aubrey Fils. I would be spending 1 or 2 days at the most.
Does anyone have any advice, suggestions, contacts, or otherwise useful information on my planned excursion?Is it neccesary to make bookings at vineyards in Champagne?
I'm sorry... I know I'm being completely dense, but what is RM?
I hear that Bruno Paillard's family is incredibly warm and welcoming (and that he has a very cute 20ish daughter).
I'm quite familiar with Gimmonet's wines. I like them. I do not think they are the end-all-be-all of grower-producer. But deffinitely quality.
I have no idea if Selosse is open to the public, but that is the very first winery I would contact, if I were you. (Actually, the first would be Billecart-Salmon, but that is deffinitely not grower-producer.)
Terry Thiese's catalogue is a GREAT place to start.
But RMs are (generally) rather small, and unlike the Grand Marques, most do not have readily staffed visiting salons and tours, so -- YES -- call first.
In addition to Jason's advice about calling ahead (an absolute necessity -- take it from one who has visited RM houses), you will also need to speak French. Since you will be living in Paris, I assume you already have that covered. If not, you can wait until the summer. Students are back home at that time, and if an RM producer has a student-age son or daughter, that person will be your contact.
You will also find that there are about 5 different drivng routes in the Champagne area that highlight nearly all the producers (RM, CM, and NM).
Two splurge-worthy places for an overnight (if you are looking at a 2 day total trip) are Boyer Les Crayeres in Reims and Chateau de Fere in Fere-en-Tardenois. Both have top restaurants, too.
re: Brad Ballinger
I had the unquestionably greatest meal of my life at Les Crayeres - but it should be noted that Boyer is retired. Thierry Voisin, I believe, is now at the helm - and he was when they provided me with the perfect meal. It lost its third Michelin star in the transition, but you wouldn't notice, believe me...
How lovely it will be for you to visit Champagne. The train from Paris is quite good now, but you may need a car for getting from one winery to another, and for touring the countryside.
Even though you will focus on RM (grower) houses -- I love Bonville in particular -- a couple of the large houses offer significant beauty and history, and I would urge you to visit them for that.
First, Pommery. The beauty of the caves cannot be underestimated. About two hundred steps down below the surface of the earth, they resemble catacombs more than caves. Lit by old gas lamps, with their flickering orange flame.Bas relief sculptures and some jarring, semi-frightening sculptures that eerily jut out from the limestone walls. In addition, Louise Pommery was a widow who took over her husband's Champagne winery after he died in 1858. She was a formidable woman, with bold business plans and marketing savvy, who also established a number of unheard-of social programs at the time for her workers, on-site child care being one of the most interesting. She turned what had been a small red-wine house into a gangbuster, hugely profitable Champagne house. She introduced the first brut Champagne. Nice great hall.
Similar to Pommery is the oldest (I believe) Champagne house — Ruinart. Lovely old caves as well, perhaps not as resplendent as Pommery. (You really shouldn’t miss the Chagall windows in the cathedral in Reims.) If Mumm is of interest, the Germans took their tanks into their caves (and hid them there) during WWII, and I understand there was a fair amount of bubbly drunk during that time. Reims was where the Germans unofficially surrendered to the Allies, before the formal surrender days later. BTW, the Champagne region can get especially chilly,
but probably already know that.
You may want to go to the sweet, dear village of Hautvilliers and see where Dom Perignon hung out… the church and grave are charming. Lots of good bistros all around the region — I prefer these to the starred Michelin restos in the area.
Bonne chance, tout le meilleure, and please report back…
(God, I miss Paris. I lived there in the late 70s - early 80s.)
I went to school in Reims more than 40 years ago, so much of what
I knew is certainly out of date. However, certain things never change.
The key fact you need to know is that while the big Champagne houses are
based in Reims, the real heart of the Champagne region is in Epernay,
South of Reims, where quite a few smaller champagne companies are
based. So I would certainly recommend visiting Epernay. As you go
from Reims to Epernay, you will cross what is called the "montagne
de Reims" which is a beatufiful hilly area. In fact it is a wonderful
bike ride back and forth, if you have a whole day to waste (which I
I visited Reims and it was beautiful. Stayed at Crayeres and hired a car to take us all to the big and small vineyards. The smaller ones since they are more personal will let you taste grapes and be a part of the process. Make sure to visit Dom Perignon's coffin and take a tour of Moet. The food is as fabulous as the champagne in this area.
What state are you in? Your best strategy is to contact the entity that distributes the Terry Theise Estate Selections (Skurnik) in your state, then contact them and ask about site visits. You may also be able to arrange this through a retailer near you that sells their wines, but they would be doing essentially the same thing.
Lack of French need not necessarily be an obstacle - I have been to Gimmonet, e.g., and Didier speaks very sufficient English. Just mention the language issue to whomever you're dealing with in making the arrangements.
But yes - certainly arrange visits in advance - this is not Napa.
Congrats! I love Milan, and wrote a feature article on them a few years ago. Furthermore, I have been to Geoffroy, and it was an unforgettable experience.
Do you have the Terry Theise Champagne catalog? If not, go to:
And email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like a copy of my article on Milan.