If YOU GO
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Jean Moet, Epernay. This charming property has 11 guest rooms in an 18th-century building. Hoteljeanmoet. com. La Maison de Rhodes, Troyes. Nestled in the shadows of the cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, it dates back to the 12th century and once belonged to the Knights Templar Order of Malta. Has 21st-century amenities. Maisonderhodes. com. Hotel Keppler, Paris. A short walk from the Champs-Elysees, this former aristocrat’s townhouse is peppered with little nooks and crannies where you can relax with a good book or a glass of wine. Keppler. fr. cellar master, and St patron saint of wine.
Hautvillers is one leg of the socalled Champagne Triangle, which includes Reims and Epernay.
Even without the champagne, Reims is a city well worth a visit, primarily because of the importance of its Cathedrale Notre Dame de Reims and the Saint-Remi Basilica.
The cathedral could be described as France’s version of England’s Westminster Abbey – the traditional coronation site of all French kings.
The 13th-century cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, with its rose window; its statue of Clovis, the 6th-century Frankish king credited with unifying France; a n d p a i n t i n g s b y T i n t o r e t t o , Poussin and Chagall.
The basilica, a short walk from the cathedral, conserves the relics of Saint Remi, the bishop of Reims w h o c o n v e r t e d C l o v i s t o Christianity.
But Reims does have the champagne: the famous houses of Louis Ro e d e r e r , T a i t t i n g e r , Mumm, Krug, Piper-Heidsieck, Pommery a n d V e u v e C l i c q u o t a r e a l l headquartered here, with their bottles ageing in the miles of caverns and tunnels below the city centre.
Most are open for tours and tastings, but if you have time for only one, I suggest Veuve Clicquot, ‘‘ the champagne of royalty’’.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Madame Clicquot, something of a marketing guru, made her wine indispensable in the royal courts throughout Europe.