I didn’t know my dream was to be driven around Champagne, but it has come true at last. My husband and I ventured out of Paris by train to Reims. We met our guides, Maëva and Léa of My Vintage Tour Company, a short distance from the cathedral that has seen the crowning of countless French kings. After introductions, the four of us piled into Jeannette, a sky-blue, vintage Renault 4L. The pearly gates of Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, and other famous houses dotted the route to the highway ramp. Within 20 minutes, we were among the vine-covered plots of la campagne.
Jeannette creaked as she rounded corners and switched gears. We stopped on top of a hill in Sacy to observe the vines up close and the Château de Sacy in the distance. Maëva, who established the tour company with her brother Romain in 2018, shared her extensive knowledge of the tedious Champagne-making process. Even vine growing is regimented.
At our next stop, an open field in Chamery, Maëva taught my husband how to open a bottle of Champagne with a saber, which he executed like a somm. Steps for sabrage success: (1) Remove the foil and turn the bottle so that the vertical seam is facing upward at a 45-degree angle; (2) Place the saber on the shoulder of the bottle; (3) Swipe the saber upward so that it comes into contact with the base of the rim (at the top of the neck). This motion requires swiftness and commitment, not a sharp blade. In this case, the saber was of the Laguiole variety, and the Champagne was Jean-Jacques Hyest Réserve Brut, which paired perfectly with Fossier rose biscuits.
Then, on to Rilly-la-Montagne to visit Champagne Michel Fagot, where we had the opportunity to see rows and rows of bottles in riddling racks, bottles piled high on palettes, outdated production equipment, a giant grape press, and Olivier Fagot, head of the estate. It was here, in the tasting room of chez Fagot, that we discovered our favorite Champagne to date, the 1999 vintage. If it’s in stock on a future visit, we’ll interpret that as a sign and purchase a bottle then.
After spending four hours with Maëva, Léa, and trusty Jeannette, the time came for us to part ways where we’d been retrieved in beautiful Reims. I would have welcomed more time in Champagne with our guides, but Paris called us home. Our introductory visit to Champagne exceeded expectations. My Vintage Tour Company offers a harvest tour and another that’s tailor-made. I see them in our future.