If you ever find yourself for a day, or, better yet, a weekend, in Champagne during the Autumn season, use this as a sample daytripping itinerary and you won’t go wrong.
Make your main destination Champagne Ernest Remy which is a long-held family champagne house located in Mailly, in the heart of the gracefully sloping hills of the Montagne de Reims. During the Fall, the play of colors – auburns, oranges, eggplants, deep reds, rusts, yellows, golds – is breathtaking so be sure to stop along the way and take pictures of the fleeting richness of nature while you’re witness to it.
The Montagne de Reims is one of the most classical viticutural areas in France, famous for its Pinot Noir. The house of Ernest Remy Champagne makes its champagnes using only Grand Cru Pinot Noir from Mailly, harvested from their 15 hectares. Interestingly, for this harvest year 2012, Mailly enjoyed an abundant harvest, according to Ernest Remy’s Tarek Berrada, who explained that it was perhaps due to the village vineyards’ north- northwest sun exposure. In any event, they did not experience the limited harvest that most of the rest of Champagne did this year.
As with many wineries, this is a husband-wife team who have taken up the family business. But here is where any “typical” winemaker background ends, as both husband and wife come from the world of Art and Art history. It just so happens that she was born into a land-owning Champenoise family.
Evidence of these artistic leanings can be discovered in the labeling, packaging and design of their champagnes. For example, when you buy a bottle of their Rosé de Saignée Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru there is a small pink metallic medallion embedded into the top of the cork, hidden just under the champagne cap. A keepsake and a souvenir – for a memorable champagne whose hints of violet reveals itself on the long finish, after it has flirted its delicate wild strawberry and raspberry aromas before you. This Mailly rosé has a mere 6g. of sugar for its dosage and is aged a minimum of 20 mos. It is a rosé that could accompany meals, such as roast chicken, duck, lightly spicy asian dishes as well as red fruit desserts. It’s available in Magnums and bottles, and in cases of 3 Magnums and cases of 6 bottles. *Tip: “Saignée” in French means that this rose has acquired its color through maceration and not blending.
With the rest of the day ahead of you, you have any number of wonderful restaurants nearby, all located in storybook beautiful little Champagne villages, one as lovely as the next. Top choices for lunch (or dinner) are L’Assiette Champenoise in Tinqueux, a two-Michelin starred restaurant that has a set menu starting at about 150 per person. Champagne Ernest Remy is on their menu.
Other choices in the vicinity include Le Relais de Sillery, Le Grand Cerf (Michelin starred), Le Château de Rilly (also a hotel) and then there’s the small local favorite that you can easily pass if you drive along the Route du Champagne just a bit too fast – so be sure to keep a scenic pace and watch out for Le Mont Joly in Rilly, big steaks served on wooden cutting boards and very reasonable prices.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a trip to this Montagne de Reims region if you didn’t stop in at Le Phare de Verzenay, an old windmill that has since been turned into a museum. But I’ll let you do your Tourist Office legwork for this one as it’s one of those sites you’ll see displayed and described in most guidebooks and certainly at all the tourist offices.