If you’re spending time in Paris, take a quick 45 minute side trip by train to Reims, France. Reims, the center of champagne production, is a beautiful town and home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites – Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Tau and the Saint-Remi Museum (formerly a 17th and 18th century Benedictine Abbey.) If that doesn’t interest you, perhaps this will: Many of the largest champagne-producing houses, known as les grandes marques, have their headquarters in Reims, where for centuries, champagne has aged in the many caves and tunnels which form a sort of maze below the city.
Our destination was the Veuve Clicquot Tour at Veuve Clicquot Champagne House, founded by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron in 1772. Phillipe played an important role in establishing champagne as a favored drink of haute bourgeoisie and nobility throughout Europe. At the age of 21, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin married Francois Clicquot, Phillipe’s son. A short six years later, she was a widow. She took over the company and the name on the bottles became Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin. Veuve is “widow” in French. Madame Clicquot-Ponsardin is credited with revolutionizing the process that made mass production of champagne possible.
In 1972, an award was launched by the champagne house that was named after La Veuve Clicquot. The award recognizes exceptional female owners or managers of companies and is now awarded in 27 countries. Previous winners include Harriet Green, Dame Zaha Hadid DBE and Anya Hindmarch MBE. We were excited to take a quick trip out to see the vines named for our friend, Jan Fletcher OBE, who was named Veuve Clicquot’s Woman Business Owner of the year in 1994.
The cellars at Veuve Clicquot’s facilities are spectacular – huge chalk walled caves covered with carvings. If not for the presence of a guide, you might never find your way out.
The tasting rooms and visitor center are lovely and have both indoor and outdoor areas. The outdoor bar is whimsically made from a silver airstream trailer.
The indoor rooms are full of memorabilia, artwork and souvenirs, all in Veuve Clicquot’s signature yellow color.
If you do take a quick trip to Reims, or a longer one in which you tour the city, be sure to make reservations for the Veuve Clicquot Tour in advance! Cheers!