I’ve loved Champagne since I was 18 years old when a boyfriend whose middle name was Rutherford gave me a bottle of Moët et Chandon for my birthday.
I thought I was sophisticated, elegant and oh so posh with my heavy green bottle and its iconic label. I kept it in a cupboard in my bedroom. I dreamed about the day I would pop the cork and enjoy the taste of the bubbles in my mouth. I would share it with someone special on a special occasion, perhaps my next birthday or if I passed my college exams the next year.
But oh no… and if you want to insert the sound of an old vinyl record screeching here then please do.
What happened was 3 months later, my younger sister who was much less easily impressed than me, took the bottle, popped the cork and shared it with her school friends in a park.
I was heart-broken and my sister was made to buy me another bottle with her pocket money. This time I opened it straight away and I drank it with my best friend on a Saturday night in her mum’s kitchen, I wasn’t taking any chances. It was delicious and so began a life-long love of Champagne – especially Moët et Chandon.
Over the years I’ve tried lots of Champagnes and on really special occasions indulged in one or two of what’s considered the best – Dom Perignon for instance. Dom Perignon is not an every week drink, to be honest in my case it’s not even an every year drink as its frightfully expensive, but it really is lush and divinely (well it was invented by a monk) good.
So, when I found out I was going to visit Moët et Chandon in Epernay, Champagne – I was effervescent with delight.
It’s actually so easy to get to, I’m really not sure why I’ve never been before.
From Paris to Epernay takes about an hour by train. From here it’s a short walk to the Avenue de Champagne and Moët et Chandon’s headquarters and what is called by the locals the capital of Champagne (wine). The real capital of Champagne (the region) is Reims, just 27 minutes away by train.
Moët et Chandon actually have lots of buildings in this famous avenue. Claude Moët, the founder, built a house for his daughter, there are reception buildings and offices and it’s all done in the best possible taste. Refined, elegant buildings, views over the mountains of Champagne, an immaculately coiffed boulevard – it’s all very classy.
Into Moët et Chandon I went. Anyone can take a tour, just buy a ticket at the desk and take a trip into the cellars to view the mile after mile of galleries containing millions of bottles of Champagne.
It was a dream come true. To see the amazing stained glass window over the cellar entrance, watch the workers stacking bottles against the cold cellar walls, wander the elegant building with its art deco lights and objets d’art, see the offices of the founders – it was superb. Afterwards I enjoyed a tasting – several Champagnes and a great explanation of the differences which set me up for a visit to the Moët et Chandon shop nicely.
Now here is where, if you are bling fan, you will find Champagne heaven. Sparkling, shiny and lustrous – this is luxury marketing at its very slick best. If you can resist the beautifully embossed Moët et Chandon glasses, the Dom Perignon USB stick and cufflinks, a bottle of Champagne from the place of legends… well it’s more than I could!
My Moët et Chandon moment was everything I’d dreamed of and more… totally bubblicious.
Details of train travel: voyages-sncf.com. From London to Paris by Eurostar takes just over 2 hours. It’s a ten minute walk from Gare du Nord to Gare de l’Est to catch the train to Epernay.
Epernay tourist office website.