Trip to Champagne? If I must…..

Rebecca, our brilliant and unflappable front of house manager has had a busy year. Months have passed in a whirlwind of coffee beans, shift requests and stock sheets, and we thought she deserved to put her feet up. A long train trip seemed in order, so we sent her to Champagne, where the sounds of tinkling cutlery could no longer reach her….

Reims Cathedral

“Would you like to come on an all expenses paid overnight trip to the Ruinart Chateau for dinner and champagne tasting?”  When faced with this question over the phone, mid service on a busy September afternoon in the Café, my answer was easy!  And so after a mere twelve hours train travel from St.Ives, I arrived in Reims, a city of traditions and centuries-old know-how, and one of the main gastronomic centers of France.

The Champagne region is a very ancient province of France, consisting of 319 villages or vineyards, each one having its own characteristics and in total possessing an incredible 250km of cellars.

Prized stocks of past vintages

Ruinart is the oldest established champagne house, exclusively producing champagne since 1729.  Founded by Nicolas Ruinart, the house is today owned by the parent company LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton SA.

Ruinart cellars are among the largest in the region, and are Gallo-Roman in origin.  Like most cellars, they are the product of chalk mining, and extend 38 meters below ground and are 8km long.  The chalk helps to keep the cellars at a constant 11 degrees celcius.

Exploring the maze of ancient cellars

As we shivered our way through a fraction of the maze of ancient cellars, we were told how Nicolas Ruinart, an entrepreneur, came to make Ruinart an authentic champagne house.  In the period immediately following the 1728 edict of Louis XV, which authorized the transportation of wine in bottles, the house was established.  Prior to this edict, wine could only be transported in barrels, which made it impossible to transport wine to distant markets, and confined consumption primarily to its area of production.  Nicolas Ruinart founded the house of Ruinart in 1729.  The first delivery of ‘wine with bubbles’ went out in January 1730. At first the sparkling wine was a business gift for cloth purchasers, as Dom Ruinart’s brother was a cloth merchant, but six years later Maison Ruinart terminated its cloth selling activities due to its success in the champagne business.  Since then the house has kept the standards of excellence of its founders.

Tasting and food matches

After a chilly but fascinating cellar tour came the best bit, the champagne reception and dinner!  Ruinart has a long standing relationship with the Arts and its recently and beautifully renovated reception bar and dining hall holds some stunning art work to enjoy whilst sipping a glass of their Blanc de Blanc and enjoying a canapé or two!

At dinner each of the five courses were perfectly matched with one of their five champagnes, Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, Dom Ruinart, Dom Ruinart Rose, “R” de Ruinart and Ruinart Rose and each enjoyed all the more knowing the time and effort that goes into the production of each and every bottle at Ruinart.”

Too many bubbles Rebecca?!

We currently serve “R” de Ruinart Brut by the glass at the Café and Blanc de Blanc by the bottle. The latter goes spectacularly well with our Fish and Chips as well as the current new season oysters.

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