On Wednesday 4 May 2022, we set off on our inaugural OS Corkscrew trip to the Champagne region in France, guided by Guy Boursot from ‘Over the Top Tours’, and it did not disappoint!
We greeted our guests near Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment and once the coffees, bacon rolls and pastries were handed out, our superstar of a coach driver, David, headed south for Folkstone and the Eurotunnel.
Once in France, we had a short journey before arriving in Ardres to collect our guide, Guy, and enjoy a delicious lunch at La Bonne Auberge. With everybody back on board, we set off for Reims and the House of Taittinger.
Champagne Taittinger is a medium sized, high-quality producer located on the outskirts of Reims, in Old Saint Nicaise Abbey dating back to the 13th century but, of course, the real interest lies beneath, where there are cavernous cellars carved out of the local chalk. Once inside, we met up with the remainder of our group, who had travelled independently, and were greeted by our tour guide. Leaving the brightness of the day behind, we worked our way down, approximately 66ft under the Abbey down a winding staircase into the cellars. Surprisingly, the caves were vast and high and not what we were expecting. The tour guide gave a fascinating account of the Taittinger history and champagne production. After the tour, our guests were more than ready to partake in some tasting. Two different varieties of champagne were served so that we could appreciate the different flavours.
On Thursday morning, we made our way to the small but very prestigious house of Champagne Pol Roger located on the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay. We were incredibly privileged to be able to visit Pol Roger, as the House is not open to the public. The cellars of Pol Roger are located 38 feet underground and span over 10km. The Épernay cellars are more like tunnels than those in Reims. Our tour concluded in the tasting room of the Main House. Sylvia had arranged a tasting of some of Pol Roger’s different cuvées, including the exquisite Sir Winston Churchill (definitely a firm favourite for most on the tour!).
After lunch at Le Bois Joli, Saint-Imoges, we travelled southwards to the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger in Côte des Blancs, which is Chardonnay countryside. Here, we visited Champagne Launois.
By early evening we were back in Reims, which allowed our guests some free time to explore the shops, visit the cathedral or enjoy a few drinks in the local bars.
After vacating the hotel on Friday morning, we headed to the Premier Cru village of Hautvillers, which is best known as where the famous monk Dom Pérignon lived, stopping at some grapevines on the way to enjoy the picturesque countryside. Once we arrived at Hautvillers, we headed to Champagne G. Tribaut, a thriving house that produces small volumes of high-quality champagne.
With everyone making considerable purchases at Tribaut, it was time for our last lunch of the trip at Chez Max, before heading back northwards to Calais.
Before reaching Calais, we were able to indulge in some last-minute wine shopping at Guy’s lavish shop, Boursot located in Ardres. It was here we said goodbye to Guy, who was the most wonderful guide. From the champagne houses to the delicious food and wine, Guy ensured that we received a full fun-packed, detailed experience over a short time.
We hope to run this trip again in a few years’ time. If you are interested in attending, please contact the OS Office.
Sasha Moss, Former Old Stoic Events Coordinator