The 2016 Fabulous Ladies Champagne Tour was another brilliant success! All our guests have now returned with a new love and appreciation of the world’s most fabulous beverage.
Our fearless champagne tour leaders kept a travel diary during the week. Forget Bridget Jones. The only love anyone is looking for here is where the next bottle of champagne is coming from! And we’ve published the diary here for your eyes only….
Day One: Sunday 9 October 2016
Cocktail Party – Met the Fabulous Ladies for the first time in the private lounge at Sofitel Arc de Triomphe. We bonded over Moet et Chandon, then moved on to a beautiful dinner at Cocotte restaurant with vintage 02 from Arteis & Co. Great group. Great Vibe.
Number of bottles: 5
Day Two: Monday 10 October 2016
Up and ready by 9.30am to head off to our private perfume masterclass at Maison Guerlain at 68 Champs Elysée. Obligatory stop along the way for the group Arc de Triomphe selfie.
Masterclass was so informative. The lovely Pauline, a perfume master, talked us through the history of perfume making at Guerlain and the similarities between wine blending and perfume blending. We all got to make our own perfumes. Three blends each. Pauline said there were no errors, all combinations are great. Some of us disagreed….
Back in the hotel lobby drank a bottle of Moet et Chandon Rosé while waiting for our chauffeur to whisk us away to the Montagne de Reims.
Arrived at Chateau de Rilly in time for a quick freshen up and off to Le Jardin des Crayéres for a three course dinner with champagnes personally matched by head sommelier Philippe Jamesse. Ladies still reminiscing about perfume class – all want to order a special perfume with ‘Fab Ladies 2016’ engraved as a memory. Must contact Guerlain to organize.
Number of bottles: 5
Day Three: Tuesday 11 October 2016
Started the day at Veuve Clicquot – was fab. Ladies in awe of first big cellar and whole Veuve Clicquot story. Lovely tour guide – she took us to a beautiful sun room for our tasting after the cellar visit. We were a bit spoilt with La Grande Dame 2006. Unfortunately, she miscalculated the pours and came up short and had to open another bottle, so we all got a second glass.
Then off to Jacquart. Entertained by the lovely Karine and Stephanie. Sat in the chateau’s beautiful salon with copious canapes to match the 6 different cuvées in the range. Thoroughly spoilt. Some extra bottles needed to be opened to check the food matches. Left feeling extremely happy.
Finished our visits with a stop at Vilmart & Cie, a smaller biodynamic grower in Rilly, just near the Chateau. Had a lovely chat and tasting with the very charming and talented Laurent Champs. Tasted four of his cuvees. They all have a little crush.
Dinner at the chateau with beautiful matching champagnes. Everyone tired but happy. Ready for more fabulousness tomorrow.
Number of bottles: 18 (must try harder)
Day Four: Wednesday 12 October 2016
Exciting day at Canard Duchene – full of surprises! Got taken around the bottling facility to see the whole process from disgorging to labeling to packaging. Fascinating. Was beautiful weather and we did some sabrage in the garden before heading inside to lunch. Second surprise was their new Extra Brut Cuvée, that has only just been released on the market (5 weeks ago). Third surprise – their latest vintage 2009, which has also just been released. Also had new Smooth Rosé with dessert.
Afternoon spent with Vincent Brochet – a small and very dapper grower in Ecueil. Spoilt us with three of his better vintages and a recently disgorged 1990 vintage. Quite a tasting experience. His 93 year old maman wanted to make us feel welcome, so whipped up some cheese puffs for us to eat while we were tasting! Extraordinary woman who worked with the resistance in the War to help save Australian soldiers from capture.
Then Party night! Went to the home of the very delightful and welcoming Caroline Brun. Surely one of the most fabulous women in Champagne. Played a guessing game of scents that are found in champagne. Most of us, including Caroline by that stage, just wanted to drink the champagne. We started with a magnum of Ayala to relax after the end of a busy day. We then had a Brut nature, Ayala, then a Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir and Blanc de Meunier from smaller growers, then a rose and then her own Brun de Fllle. Lots to drink, lots to eat and lots to learn! Lots of smiles, too. Girl crushes all round. Everyone wants Caroline’s life!
Number of bottles: 15
Day 5: Thursday 13 October 2016
Lovely day at Veuve Fourny et Fils in the company of the charming Charles Fourny. Was freezing. After cellar visit went inside and tasted his range sitting in comfy Chesterfields in front of a cosy fire, then enjoyed them all throughout lunch. Charles told us he grows roses at the end of each row of vines so that he can pick one and give it to his wife every day. Aww.
Afternoon spent at Pol Roger with the delightful Sylviane. Such a contrast to some of the other cellars we have been to with their enormous stainless steel vats. Very spoilt with tasting of vintages and even the Winston Churchill 2004. Sylviane gave us all a parting gift of a monogramed makeup mirror, and a couple of extra 2006 to have before dinner. All feeling very posh now.
Checked into the fairytale Chateau d’Etoge with real life moat. Everyone feels like a Princess. Had a degustation dinner with fabulously matched wines at their award winning restaurant. Am feeling the size of a house.
Number of bottles: 15
Day 6: Friday 14 October 2o16
Champagne Fri-yay started out at the hallowed grounds of Bollinger. Were looked after by the charming Bastien who had just got off a plane from Dubai. (Ladies now think all French men are charming and charismatic.) Lead us through a tasting in the gorgeous tasting room with a beautiful view over Ay, then down to lunch. Five courses beautifully paired with five champagnes including RD 02. V. Spoilt. Again.
Lastly Ruinart. ‘Received’ by one of their brand ambassadors, Cedric, who was also very charming. Really. He took as into a living room, so we could relax, have some water and ‘freshen up’ before the visit. Told us all the history of the house and magnificent heritage listed crayéres. Said he would leave the technicalities of champagne making out because we should know it by now. And anyway, it Friday afternoon, so time to relax and drink champagne! Ladies loved him.
Quick speed stop/shop/cathedral visit in Reims before heading back to the Chateau for another degustation dinner. Excess luggage is all around my waist.
Number of bottles: 13
Day 7: Saturday 15 October 2016
Last day in champagne! Had to end fabulously with a meet and greet with Les FA’Bulleuses – a group of 7 female champagne makers. Met at De Sousa in Avize – it was an early start and they had baskets of croissants and all sorts of naughty pastries waiting for us. Because. We needed to eat.
They had just won an award at the big champagne awards the night before for ‘Best Innovative Packaging’. They were up against the big houses, so it was a real honour and they were very excited. The packaging was like a big paint tin, that had 7 bottles inside (one from each of them). It could be an ice bucket, but also the lid was a cushion so it turns into a chair. Everyone wants one! It was really, really interesting and such a ‘fabulous’ synergy in values.
Hard to believe it was time to go back to Paris. All very quiet in the van on the way back. No-one wanted it to end. Back to Paris and back to Guerlain to pick up all our engraved perfumes. Very spesh. Time for some last minute shopping on ‘The Champs’ and then met again for our farewell cocktail party. Was only supposed to involve two bottles of Moet and last for an hour, but ended up back in my room for the ‘after party’ and several more bottles. Didn’t want it to end.
Number of bottles: 11 (or was it 12?) (No, maybe 13…)