Lise Legrand of Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa shares expert advice for a visit to vineyard country.
Lise Legrand helps guests at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in Champillon, France, uncork the best of the Champagne region through hot-air ballooning above grand cru estates, exclusive tastings, and even proposals among the grapevines.
Best advice for first-time visitors: Everyone knows Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon, but there’s a lot to discover with small producers who really love their jobs. I recommend that guests visit two houses per day, since visits usually take about two hours.
Estimated Champagne makers in the region: A lot! We have 16,000 growers and 320 houses.
Faux pas to avoid: Don’t wear perfume for tastings at Champagne houses, and never take a sip before everyone is served – or before toasting (santé!).
Vineyards near Reims, France.
Besides Champagne, make sure to try: Reims’ pink biscuits, called biscuits roses. My grandparents used to dip them in their Champagne.
Favorite day-off activity: Walking in the vineyards. They aren’t private – you can walk through them, just like a forest.
Fun fact about harvest season: Trucks are full of grapes, and the roads get very sticky with grape juice.
If not Champagne, what’s in your glass? I love ratafia, a sweet liqueur made with Champagne grapes. Be careful: More than one can give you a hangover.
... which in French is: Gueule de bois, which translates roughly to “wooden mouth.”
What’s this about an in-room “Champagne Please!” call button? Press it at any hour, and within minutes a server will be at your door with three cuvées for you to choose from.
Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a Champagne-and-cheese tasting for two.