Design, Interiors & Lifestyle Blog
Design, Interiors & Lifestyle Blog

Champagne tour and tasting at Taittinger in Reims, France.

On our recent drive home from Grasse to Calais, we decided to stop over at Reims. Here’s a photo of the beautiful Reims cathedral.

I was last in Reims more than 10 years ago for a French wedding, and all I could remember was a small quaint town, lots of feasting and the customary champagne sampling.

Well, how times have changed. Reims is now bustling with shops and restaurants. One thing has remained the same though, and that is the Champagne. champagne tour in Reims We were kindly invited to tour the major Champagne house Taittinger, and to sample their champagne. Taittinger is one of only five Champagne houses to cellar its wines in the famous “Crayères” of Reims – chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans.

Champagne merchants found that the caves provided the perfect conditions for aging wine. The Taittinger cellars are located in the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, built in the 13th century in Gallo-Roman chalk pits that dated back to the 4th century.

The Abbey was destroyed during the French revolution, and all that now remains are the cellars.

Above is a reconstructed model of the Abbey. It’s now the location of Taittinger champagne house.

The Taittinger Champagne house did not exist until 1932. champagne tour It was originally founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux, then his grandson Jérôme and Antoine Forest started the business, and finally, Pierre Taittinger bought it over.

Today Taittinger is one of the most famous and largest family run Champagne Houses in Reims.  The vines that make Taittinger Champagne cover 712 acres distributed among some of the best 34 villages in the Champagne appelation area. I was interested to read that Taittinger extends the aging time of their champagnes beyond the legal minimum time, with three to four years for the Brut Réserve and nearly ten for its prestige cuvée Comtes de Champagne. champagne tour taittinger During the tour we descended deep into the caves. The lower we went the colder it got. champagne tour The caves were previously used as air raid shelters during the war. You can still see the etchings and carvings on the chalk walls,  made by people who sheltered there. champagne tour Can you spot a face amongst those chalk walls? The tour was so informative,

Did you know that the names on the labels indicated the sweetness and dryness of the Champagne?

‘Brut’ refers to dry Champagne with low residual sugar. ‘Brut Nature” champagne has the least amount of sugar.

I also learned that “Sec” indicated the sweetness of the Champagne, with ‘extra Sec,’ ‘Sec’ and ‘demi-sec’

Extra Sec is the driest of Champagnes with a sugar content of 12-17 g/l, Sec contains 17-32 g/l and demi-sec is the sweetest with a sugar content of 32 – 50 g/l. champagne tour How many bottles of champagne do you think are in this tunnel?

Well, the answer is 100,000. Scroll down to see the mirror image of this tunnel, so you can appreciate its depth. champagne tour Amazing right? Imagine, making so many bottles of champagne to fill up this void. Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne is one of their most recognized and premium Champagnes, and we were lucky to sample it after our tour.

Made from top quality Chardonnay grapes grown in ‘Grand Cru’ vineyards, Comtes de Champagne is one of the greatest Blanc de Blancs champagnes.

Comtes was first produced in 1952. A Champagne with the potential to age for decades. It was absolutely delicious with light sparkling bubbles and floral citrus notes. We bought a few bottles.

Finally, I leave you with another fun fact:

Did you know that Champagne bottles have names according to their sizes? For example, a Magnum is 1.5 litres, a Jeroboam is 3 litres and a standard bottle or Champenoise is 75cl.

If you fancy a short break, then I recommend a visit to Reims and a tour of Taittinger.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

A trip to Devon staying at Kentisbury Grange.

Happy September.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful break with the family in Devon.

We were kindly invited to stay at Kentisbury Grange, a luxury hotel at the edge of Exmoor National Park in North Devon. Kentisbury Grange is located in an idyllic English countryside location, within a short driving distance of some of Devon’s most beautiful beaches.

This is the hotel’s main house, with its beautiful stone walls. The main house was built in 1894 by Lancashire cotton merchant Oliver Openshaw.  Its architecture combined a mix of understated Regency and Victorian Gothic. Behind the main building was the Coach house, a renowned restaurant by top Michelin starred chef Michael Caines.

We were very fortunate to have been able to sample the food there. 

The dishes served up were both a visual feast and treat to the palette.

We ate from the set à la carte menu, and here are a few of what we loved: For starters we tried the Cured Mackerel with fennel, dill, avocado and lime.

It was delicious and almost too pretty to eat. For the main course, I had this pan fried bream with caramelised cauliflower, raisin and a split chicken jus.

I loved the contrast of textures between the fish and its crisp fried skin. This Beetroot risotto was as tasty as it was vibrant . Dessert was also a triumph, with this light and fluffy Banana soufflé and Black Forest treat. Michael Caines also offers a 6 course tasting menu for dinner at his restaurant.

This Exmoor beef fillet, watercress , ox cheek with beef red wine sauce was one of my favourites from the tasting menu.  

The beef was melt in your mouth tender and delicious.  We got to stay at one of the newly built Cottage suites at Kentisbury Grange. The bedroom had been beautifully decorated by local interior designer, Karen Grey. The style of the bedroom was contemporary, and the bathroom was luxurious, with its own walk in shower and roll top bath. There was so much to explore locally. 

On the first day, we visited Woolacombe beach. It was a beautiful sandy beach, with rolling waves that were perfect for surfing. On our second day, we stopped over at the coastal town of Lynton, where we also had some amazing fish and chips.

We later burned off those calories with a scenic creekside walk at Watersmeet.

All in all, it was a wonderful end of Summer holiday break for the whole family. 

We had a brilliant time exploring Devon, and enjoyed our stay at Kentisbury Grange.

( all my own photography. Our stay at Kentisbury grange was complimentary but all opinions here are my own).

Acqua di Parma Home collection.

I have been a fan of Acqua di Parma for many years now, so I was super excited when invited to the launch of their Home scent collection in Milan.

If you are new to Acqua di Parma, then let me give you a little introduction : It’s a scent that was conceived by Carlo Magnani, heir of one of Parma’s aristocratic families in 1916.

The first and original scent was called Colonia, a fresh citrus signature classic which up till today, has a loyal and growing fan base, amongst which are many famous A-listers.

Acqua di Parma has always been synonymous with luxury and sophistication. It’s one of those scents which will instantly transport you to the warmth of Italy. I stayed at the beautiful Principe di Savoia, part of the Dorchester Collection hotels in Milan.

Here’s a look at my elegant room, and unsurprisingly, there were Acqua di Parma products in the bathroom too.

I could seriously get used to this luxury lifestyle. Before the evening’s festivities, we went for a short walk to soak up the Milan vibe and have coffee. Can’t go to Italy and not try their delicious coffee right?

On our way to coffee, we stumbled upon Acqua di Parma’s store. I didn’t go in, as I would be back there the next day to interview Acqua di Parma’s CEO Laura Burdese and product development and innovation director Paola Paganini. Now, to the party. It was a spectacular event.

I just adore that yellow, the colour of Acqua di Parma’s packaging. The colour was a homage to the beautiful yellow houses of Parma, a city that I would love to visit one day. This imposing arch of peace was our view at the party venue in Dazi arco della pace.

It’s so impressive and steeped in history, just like the Acqua di Parma brand itself. The beautiful yet subtle scent from the new Home collection pervaded the event space and greeted us as we entered.

So, I can finally reveal that Acqua di Parma has launched 10 new scents for their Home range in candles and scent diffusers. Five of the new fragrances were developed to capture the typical moments of Italian living and they are called Luce di Colonia, Buongiorno, La Casa sul Lago, Caffè in Piazza and Oh, L’amore. The other 5 Home scents were inspired by Acqua di Parma’s Blu Mediterraneo line that recreates the feel of the Italian mediterranean. They are Arancia di Capri, Fico di Amalfi, Bergamotto di Calabria, Chinotto di Liguria and Mirto di Panarea. Acqua di Parma Home candle It was fascinating to talk to Paola Paganini, the product development and innovation director of Acqua di Parma Home range.

I learned that it could take up to at least 2 years from product conception to production with many fine tuning along the way.

She said the paper label took many trials, as they had to find the right quality paper that could withstand the heat from the glass.

The Luce di Colonia scented candle above is a light and sunny aroma that celebrates Acqua di Parma’s classic scent Colonia.

There are citrus notes of orange and lemon, combine with delicate floral and wood notes that evoke the sun drenched landscape of Italy.

They decided to keep the wax as natural as possible, so coloured the glass yellow instead.

The wax is a mixture of soy and paraffin and the glass moulded in the signature shape of the classic Colonia scent bottle. Acqua di Parma home These candles are called Buongiorno, a scent to reflect a sunny Italian morning.

Acqua di Parma describes it as the first rays of sunlight coming through the windows, as the breeze rustles against the light curtains.

It brings with it the scent of mint, lavender, Rosemary and newly cut grass.

Sounds divine right? In fact, this is one of my favourites.

The Buongiorno scent diffuser now sits proudly in my living room, injecting a dose of happiness each time I enter. This is Oh L’amore and it’s all about Italian passion and emotion, a part of Italy’s DNA.

I love its intense spicy notes of black pepper, cloves, and amber, just perfect for a romantic evening. Here’s the La Casa sul Lago scent diffuser, a scent to evoke an Italian villa sitting by the silent rippling waters of a lake.

I was keen to relive those happy memories from our family holiday at Lake Como, and its calm floral and musk fragrance didn’t disappoint. These Mirto di Panarea candles inspired by Acqua di Parma’s Blu Mediterraneo range, are a restorative blend of myrtle, basil, lemon and bergamot.

Its meditative scent calms and sooth, so perfect for burning in the bedroom. Here is the beautiful Laura Burdese, president and CEO of Acqua di Parma, addressing the launch party.

It was such an honour to meet and interview her.

Laura has worked in roles from L’Oreal, to Swatch and later as CEO of Calvin Klein watches and jewellery.

She joined Acqua di Parma in 2016, a return to her roots in the beauty industry.

She brought with her a fresh and innovative approach to Acqua di Parma.

I asked her why the Home scent market?

She told me that it was an opportunity to bring into people’s homes those unmistakable moments of Italian life.

I asked if the home scent market was any different to the beauty fragrance market?

Laura alluded to the Home scent market being a slightly different target market.

She said candles were more for gifting, whereas perfumes were a more personal choice.

I guess women who already love the Acqua di Parma perfumes would be the natural purchasers of the home scents.

However, those who don’t buy perfumes for themselves may be that untapped market with the home products.

She told me that a typical Home scent buyer is a woman, who loves to decorate her home.

Laura told me that contrary to the belief that the brand was male centric, buyers were mainly women. In fact users were a balanced 55% men and 45% women.

Finally, no interview ends without asking what’s next on the horizon.

Hot off the press, Laura told me that there will be an upcoming new Signature collection. It will come in stunning black and transparent bottles with a gold finish. Sounds amazing! I can’t wait to see that design element.

I was also excited to learn that they will also be adding 5 new Asian inspired scents such as Yuzu, Sakura, Vanille, Camellia and Osmanthus. ( Bearing in mind that the Chinese market for Acqua di Parma is huge and growing, this is a brilliant strategy). Anyway, the evening drew to an end after a fabulous Acqua di Parma inspired 3 course menu.

I had a brilliant time in Milan. It’s always wonderful to learn about what goes on behind the scenes.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post on the Acqua di Parma Home range. I will be showing you more of the Acqua di Parma candles in my next post. This time you will be seeing it in my home setting.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

( All photography are by Geraldine Tan, editor of Little Big Bell. The Acqua di Parma Home launch event was part of a press trip).

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