If last weekend’s free-flowing champagne has you craving a journey straight to its source, we’ve found just the man to direct you to the very best of France’s storied Champagne region. Thirteenth-generation winemaker Jonathan Sacy – of the family-owned Louis de Sacy Champagne house (it’s produced Grand Crus since 1663, so they know a thing or two about bubbly) – is on hand to point travelers in the right direction in his French homeland.
If you could recommend one restaurant, one hotel, and one attraction to visitors to the Champagne region, what would they be?
I’d recommend you dine at L’Assiette Champenoise, a haven for gourmets. It’s a two Michelin star, delightful restaurant, amidst the calm of a four-acre park just a few miles from the Champagne vineyards and within minutes of Reims. Guests are welcomed into refined luxury, and invited to sample truly outstanding cuisine by Chef Arnaud Lallement.
You should stay at Chateau Les Crayères. For more than a century, the château has been the very symbol of French-style art de vivre in the heart of Reims, a city of art and history. When you stay here, you’ll receive dedicated, caring service in a warm, intimate atmosphere.
And you should check out the Cathedral of Reims, where the Kings of France were once crowned. This piece of history is a place full of spirit and history, and a source of pride for Reims’ locals.
At what time of year do you recommend visitors come to the Champagne houses of France?
Autumn is the best period to come to the Champagne houses. The vineyards and the surrounding landscape look absolutely amazing – you’ll see all the different types of colors, from yellow to red, across the trees. It is also one of the best periods to come and visit because the harvest is just over, so you can see all the steps that the houses are completing to turn their grapes into bottles – their Champagne into champagne!
Of the public events that you have hosted at the Louis de Sacy vineyard, what is your favorite?
Every year, the harvest is the best public event we host. The vineyard is really dynamic, and all the villages throughout the Champagne region are alive with anticipation for this year’s bottles. You can really feel the joy and the excitement in the street, all over. Everyone in the region is waiting, even if they don’t work in the vineyards.
At Louis de Sacy, visitors can come to the vineyard to see how "sparkling" this year’s harvest is. Or they can come and pick some grapes from the vineyards to experience something truly traditional. Our Grand Cru Champagnes are 100 percent hand-cultivated, and so guests can pick the grapes themselves and experience a great piece of Champagne culture firsthand.
Do you have any first-time tips for the novice champagne taster looking to maximize their experience?
Start with the visual aspects: color and bubbles. Take in the degree of effervescence with your eyes first. Then smell, to sense the different scents and flavors the champagne will have. And then, finally, taste.
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Want more? Visit Jonathan's 50-acre family vineyard at the Louis de Sacy Champagne house (website is in French only) in Verzy, France (set just under a two-hour drive from Paris), which has been maintained by thirteen generations now and is open for tastings year-round. They produce 270,000 bottles of artisanal champagne derived from hand-picked grapes each year – if you can't get to Champagne to sample it at its source, their top-ranked, small-production brand is in the midst of bringing four bottles to select U.S. markets (the Louis de Sacy Grand Cru starts at a highly reasonable $40 per bottle) this year, with a fifth to follow suit in 2012.
See our French Wine Regions Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more travel deals.