Following our visit to Veuve Clicquot, we walked back into the centre of Reims where we ate lunch and visited the famous cathedral. We then wandered back to Ruinart, the oldest of the Champagne houses in Reims, in time for our 4:00pm guided visit.
A visit to Ruinart is by appointment only, and payment is required at the time of booking. Unfortunately, the online payment method available is not particularly secure, which may be off-putting to some potential guests.
But that point aside, the booking method did ensure that the Ruinart team definitely knew we were coming – there was a security guard awaiting our arrival at the main gate. Once we’d had our names ticked off the guest list we were able to take in the sight of the gorgeous, aristocratic buildings which sat very comfortably on perfectly manicured grounds.
We were promptly met by our guide and ushered into a formally decorated waiting room. Ruinart guided visits are limited to a maximum of eight people, so it didn’t take long for all the guests to arrive.
While we lounged on plush furnishings, our guide explained the history of the house and the region before we climbed down the numerous stairs to the Ruinart crayeres.
Ruinart have access to eight kilometres of crayeres (or chalk mines in English), compared with Veuve Clicquot’s 24 kilometres. While they also use them store champagne – in impressively large stacks – the structure of the Ruinart chalk caves are quite unique.
Although I am completely aware that the word amphitheatre is completely inappropriate in this context, it is the word that keeps springing to my mind. Some of the Ruinart crayeres are impressively cavernous. One was even used as a ‘cathedral’ during the World War Two, when the crayeres were used to protect the locals from the perils of war.
Once our tour of the crayeres was completed, we returned to our plush lounges for a champagne tasting. The Ruinart tasting consisted of two glasses each – and guests get to choose their two tastings from four champagnes, two of which are rosés.
The entire Ruinart visit lasted around an hour and a half and it certainly offered a taste of class that you’d expect from a luxury champagne house.
All in all, I have to say that we were really pleased with our decision to visit both the Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart champagne houses in the one day. Not only do I feel like we got a really extensive insight into the whole champagne making process as well as the crayeres, our decision also gave us a chance to compare and contrast two very famous champagne houses.
But, in all honesty, you probably only need to visit one or the other. So, if I could only visit one Champagne house, which one would I recommend?
Well, both visits offer a great insight into whole business of champagne and they deliver it via knowledgeable and friendly guides. And they both ensured that visitors got a real feel for the amazing chalk mines. And, I have to tell you that both houses make truly tasty champagne.
However, while it is definitely more expensive and started a smidgen too early for my taste, I can’t help but decide that the Veuve Clicquot ‘Aromatically Yours’ guided visit provided the best insights as well as value for money.
The tour ran for the perfect length of time, it was innovative and it was completely engaging throughout. The aroma garden was beautiful, and the time spent trying to memorise the scents and flavours was both fun and valuable. Finally, the tastings were generous – and the fact that they were matched with yummy cheeses made them even more special.
Have you visited any of the Reims Champagne houses? Do you have a favourite house? If so, I’d love for you to share in the comments below.
And until next time – au revoir.