Champagne, a wine region in northeast France, is (unsurprisingly) known for its production of sparkling whites, and this château in Sacy might be the best place to stay while visiting.
When visiting Champagne, many will head to Epernay or Reims, both famous as homes to international champagne houses. But, if you head away from the main tourist centres and into the countryside, you’ll be able to stay – and pick up bubbles – in a more authentic setting.
WHAT TO PACK
A 20 minute drive from Reims, en route to Epernay, is Sacy: a tiny village that rises up among the surrounding hills and manicured vineyards. The star of the village is Château de Sacy (aptly pronounced ‘sassy’), a fairy-tale-like Napoleonic château with baby blue eaves.
Built by architect Pierre-Louis Gosset in 1850 as the private residence to the Monnesson family, wealthy cloth merchants from Reims, it was known as “Villa Maria”. After a brief stint as a hospital and a British military post during WWII, it was sold to the Mobillon family, who utilised the surrounding vineyards for their business. As with many of French châteaux, the family were unable to maintain the property, and in 2015 it was sold to the Milésime hotel group who painstakingly restored the property with a 3.6 million euros investment, into its current incarnation as Château de Sacy.
Stuffed full of artfully-curated antiques, which are mostly flea market finds, quirky details include a dapperly dressed deer that presides over the breakfast buffet, and towers of sugar pink biscuits de Reims piled under glass domes. With a vineyard location, design-led interiors and the best-of-the-best in terms of food and service, this may just be the best château hotel in Champagne.
Rooms are named with no evident congruous meaning, think Marie Antoinette and Happy Birthday. We were amused to be handed a hefty, tasselled, brass key engraved with the name Winston Churchill, but pleased to discover a luxurious suite with gunmetal hardware, sage green walls, and a melange of soft furnishings that could be likened to a gentlemen’s club. The antique leather-bound desk stood out while vintage, copper-plate artwork was given a modern twist; casually pinned to walls or gilt-framed without glass. In the tradition of French boudoirs there is no shower here, but instead a colossal bathtub. No television, but instead books and a magnifying glass.
Other rooms, including those named Divine Josephine, Madame de Pompadour, Le Salon d’Eugénie and Marie-Antoinette maintain a distinctly feminine and French feeling courtesy of powder-blue tones, draped fabrics, and free standing claw footed bath-tubs.
The Little Extras
The hotel’s wellness area includes a small gym with elegant wooden weight machines, alongside a sauna and two treatment rooms. The highlight here though, might just be the alfresco Norwegian-style hot tubs. Fashioned from wine barrels, they provide the ideal steamy spot to soak up the exceptional views with a glass of something cold and bubbly in hand, of course.
The Food + Drink
Naturellement the wine list is extensive. We recommend the champagne and dinner pairing menu, helping guests discover seasonal and regional delights. Dinner is a fizz-fuelled decadence, highlights including a creamy horseradish and sweet-beetroot Gravlax, a rich hay-smoked pork rib served sizzling in a pan, and fondant potatoes. Each course is served with a fresh tulip-shaped glass of lesser-known grand cru including Lamcelot Pienne, Jacques Picard, and Mobillion. The latter is a champagne from the previous property proprietor who still owns the working vineyard surrounding the hotel. For dessert, we’d suggest retreating to the sumptuous sofa for dessert: in our case this was poached pear with caramel, and a cep-mushroom ice cream served atop a dark chocolate mousse.
Breakfast is just as good and involves lashings of fresh coffee, baskets of flakey, buttery croissants, local cheese and charcuterie, and fresh juices. Fresh eggs and other à la carte dishes can be ordered and cooked to your liking.
The To-Do List
Ask the concierge for complimentary use of the Audi S; they’ll also be able to point you in the direction of where the best local places are for champagne tasting (note that not all are open on the weekends, and that you might not want to volunteer as the designated driver). Whizz past the picturesque vineyards as you load up on exceptional premier crus at very reasonable prices.
Another activity on offer at the property is sabering, a fantastic way to experience the art of cracking open a bottle of champagne from its lip by a sword. We enjoyed our freshly cracked bottle in the hotel’s Gatsby-esque lounge.
Away from the property, there’s plenty to do in the region, too. Champagne tasting is, unsurprisingly, a popular choice: visit Taittinger in Reims with its original Roman cellars, Pommery in a chateau that wouldn’t look out of place in Disneyland, or Epernay Mercier for an underground train tour. Also in Reims is Reims Cathedral. This masterpiece of Gothic architecture is dramatic under the light of the full moon or head inside – ideally on a Sunday morning – for a glimpse of the Sunday service with organ and choir. Over 800 years old, Reims Cathedral was the traditional location for the coronation of the kings of France and contains the world’s largest number of religious statues in any religious edifice.