UNESCO Champagne: In July 2015, the French region producing the world’s most famous sparkling wine, Champagne, was awarded the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage status for its ‘Hillsides, Houses and Cellars’.The ten year campaign was led by Monsieur Pierre Cheval, owner of boutique Champagne House Gatinois – available from London wine merchant, Hayes Hanson Clark.
A visit to the region this week showed the diversity of Champagne styles and size of producer, from large, globally recognised Houses such as Dom Perignon to small, highly acclaimed Growers like Tarlant.
Tarlant owner Benoit specialises in Brut Nature, that is no sugar added (Zero Dosé), which gives a clean, precise style. Benoit also champions single varietal Champagnes, such as his sublime Pinot Meunier, Vigne D’Or. Tarlant Champagne is available from London wine merchant Charles Taylor. London wine shop Bottle Apostle is holding an evening with Tarlant in December.
Key features of the Champagne region include the chalk cellars, called crayeres. Ruinart has 80km of underground tunnels, formerly disused mine excavations, then utilised during the war and now a visitor attraction. The disconcerting depth and slightly surreal atmosphere is lightened by a fun selfie photo machine at the bottom, suggested by a visit from the founder of Instagram. Elegant and stylish, Ruinart is available in the UK from Majestic.
The Champagne region is an easy visit, with new hotels and restaurants opening over the next two years to meet the increasing wine tourism from the UNESCO World Heritage listing. One bar recommendation in Reims is The Glue Pot, with a superb list of Grower Champagnes and a good range of artisan beers. A great restaurant is Le Jardin Les Crayeres, in a lovely park with a smart hotel. Also in Reims, the Hotel De La Paix is a sound hotel choice, with WiFi, good breakfast and small indoor swimming pool.
Champagne is straightforward to get to from the UK by Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, then train from nearby Gare de l’Est (or approx 2 hour taxi) to Reims. Many Champagne Houses are in and around Reims and Epernay. For more information see the Champagne Tourist website.
The visit was organised by Champagne Bureau UK and the CIVC – many thanks to all and to Ailsa Cargill for leading the visit. The other wine writers, bloggers and Champagne specialists were Jamie Goode of Wine Anorak, Holly Motion of Drinks International, Simon Walkey of Glass of Bubbly, Dan Rosnov of Champagne Spy and Colin Harkness of Colin on Wine.