What’s a party without Champagne? As the world locked down because of the pandemic, and festive events were canceled, Champagne — the drink of celebration — witnessed a steep drop in sales. To meet the challenge, many Champagne houses opted to scale back production, instead focusing on quality with a smaller, highly selective choice of grapes. The pandemic year we’re all so eager to forget will actually produce top-notch vintages we’ll want to savor. In this famous wine region of France, the resilience and adaptability shown by vignerons during the COVID-19 crisis has also been echoed in the hotel industry.
The Royal Champagne is a prime example, getting creative with new offers and amenities. When it opened in summer 2018 as the region’s first destination retreat, the luxury hotel quickly won over the locals who were thrilled to see a historic place come back to life. It was at a coaching inn on this site where the kings of France used to stay overnight when traveling to their coronations at the Reims cathedral. For the age of COVID-19, the hotel has introduced a new and regal mode of transport: helicopter with the VIP company Helifirst. An exclusive and safe means to arrive from Paris, the 45-minute trip also lets guests admire the aerial views of the French countryside carved by the teal-colored Marne River. Previously, the hotel’s dedicated repeat guests had asked about an onsite helipad, so the Royal Champagne decided the moment was ripe to build one.
Perched on the vine-cloaked hills above Épernay, the hotel offers a luxury of space that’s ideal for the age of social distancing. General manager Vincent Parinaud explains that in his 30 years working in hospitality, space was always at a premium. Here it’s built into the very architectural layout. Designed as a curving arc integrated into the hillside, the hotel sprawls across 100,000 square feet, framing the views from multiple landscaped terraces. No matter your vantage point in the hotel, you’re privy to the sweeping vistas of Champagne country. Each of the 47 guestrooms, starting at 474 square feet, is also equipped with a terrace. The crème de la crème is the one-bedroom Josephine Suite, filled with light from panoramic windows and skylights.
Note that after guest check-out, the rooms are cleaned with an ozone purifier — a virus-eliminating technology originally developed by NASA for Space. For VIP bookings, reach out to Jennifer Delord ([email protected]), director of sales and marketing.
The hotel hosts tastings with winemakers every week.
The Royal Champagne has a deep sense of place, reflected in the interiors by designer Sybille de Margerie (who is from the Taittinger Champagne family) and the cuisine by chef Jean-Denis Rieubland. Ingredients for both the brasserie and gastronomic restaurant are selected from local producers and the Halles Saint-Thibault in Épernay. A sampling: Asparagus from Chalons, organic lentils, goat cheese from the Laluc family a few miles down the road, and meat from nearby Maison Lesage. Awarded a Michelin star, Le Royal pays homage to Napoleon, who used to stay at the former coaching inn here. The room design is a tribute to the emperor’s four lady loves, while the custom porcelain is illustrated with calligraphy from Napoleon’s letters.
The Royal Champagne hosts tastings with winemakers every week. With an extensive network of Champagne houses, the hotel also arranges insider winery tours, and can even pull strings at prestigious houses not usually open to the public. But this is not just a hotel for traveling oenophiles. The spa deserves a special shout-out. Overseen by Spa Director Anna Pierzak, who opened the spa at the Mandarin Oriental Paris, this two-level retreat has two glorious swimming pools and nine treatment rooms including two couple’s suites. Popular treatments include custom facials by cult brand Biologique Recherche, the intensive heavy leg wraps treatment by KOS Paris, and the sensory “candle massage,” using wax and organic ingredients from different parts of the world.
The Royal Champagne has 47 rooms, each equipped with a terrace.
Nearby in Épernay, the Leclerc Briant Champagne house opened a luxurious chambre d’hôtes (or guesthouse) in 2018 that offered a unique hospitality experience in the heart of the “Capital of Champagne.” The Avenue de Champagne, the region’s very own Champs-Élysées, is flanked by elegant mansions which serve as the headquarters for world-renowned Champagne houses. The riches aren’t just manifest in this beautiful architecture. Beneath this major artery, more than 200 million bottles of Champagne age in a labyrinth of chalk cellars.
Occupying an 18th-century residence that once belonged to a wine merchant, Le 25Bis comprises a popular tasting room, wine shop, and terrace, along with five suites decorated by the Ramsey Krause design agency.
The Royal Champagne has a two-level spa, above, that has two swimming pools and nine treatment rooms.
The ambiance is intimate and refined; it feels like staying in the home of a collector friend with exquisite taste. The décor is a melange of contemporary and antique pieces, many of which you’ll wish you could have in your own home, but what we love here are the historic details like the “Eldorado” wallpaper by Zuber, hand-painted on wood panels in 1848, found on the ground floor and classified as an official “historic monument.”
A Treatment Room at the spa at The Royal Champagne.
The suites are designed for two people. No. 1 is the largest at nearly 680 square feet and also has an extra convertible sofa to accommodate another guest. Located on the top floor under the eaves, No. 5 also has the possibility of an extra bed. Nice Touch: Le 25Bis has a partnership with Gallimard publishing, so each room is outfitted with an entire library of books from the “Blanche Collection.” Guests are encouraged to take a book with them when they check out. Note: The entire property can be privatized. There is no dedicated restaurant, but a personal chef can be arranged to prepare meals.
The hotel’s restaurant, Le Royal
A five-minute drive away, Leclerc Briant — an exclusively biodynamic Champagne house — offers tours by appointment ([email protected]).
Learn about the house’s innovations in biodynamic viticulture, alongside cool innovations like the Abyss cuvée, which is aged deep in Atlantic waters off the coast of Brittany, the bottles covered in barnacles and seaweed, the submersion enhancing the wine’s minerality.
View from one of the hotel’s rooms.
After visiting the press room, barrel house and the famous cellars, head to the rooftop. The terrace is a blissful spot for sipping Champagne while appreciating the views over Épernay.