I arrived at the grand courtyard outside Ruinart (“ree-u-nah”) and out walked Domenico. Domenico, my guide for this visit, is a trilingual lawyer in training, with perfect Italian English accent and an impressive memory for details. He and the entrance of Ruinart seemed more like a scene from a movie. But this is Champagne after all, and grandeur is to be expected. The courtyard is an appropriate entrance for a visit to the first established champagne house.
On this cold February day it was just me and Domenico as the weather had obviously put off a lot of visitors. I think winter can be one of the best times to visit for this reason. It is quite magical to see the caves when noone else is there. If no one else books at your time then you get a private tour, lucky me!
Before my visit I learned that Ruinart is home to the oldest and deepest chalk caves (or crayères) in Champagne so I knew it would be worthwhile to see it. Actually, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen other champagne houses, you won’t see caves so big and vast as you will here.
You might not recognize the name Ruinart. It’s not a brand that is marketed heavily in the US. In France it is very well known and 58% of their sales are domestic. Ruinart is part of the LVMH champagne family along with Moët & Chandon (and Dom Pérignon), Veuve Clicquot and Krug.
Ruinart is known for making their champagne from 100% chardonnay grapes – and you’ll see it labeled as Blanc de Blancs Brut. Most champagnes you’ll taste are made from a blend of three grape varieties, so Ruinart’s straight up chardonnay is different.
They also make a Brut Rosé by adding a small amount of Pinot Noir into the wine. In US wine stores the Blanc de Blancs retails for about $59 and I’ve seen the Brut Rosé for $69. The distinctive bottle is what makes them stand out on the shelves from all other champagnes.
The caves are so big and impressive – but so hard to take photos of due to the lighting. Even online it is hard to find photos of the caves. It is something you have to see for yourself. After the tour, Domenico and I sat down in their comfy leather sofas in the private lounge surrounded by historic portraits for a special tasting of two fantastic vintage wines. I cannot think of a better way to end the day, and study for my sparkling wine exams by quizzing Domenico on winemaking details.
I was really impressed by not only the caves, but the personalized tour. You may end up joining a group tour but the maximum is 8 people so it is still small. Domenico was excellent and there really wasn’t anything he couldn’t answer. You truly feel like a VIP when you arrive, the tour is professional and customized to your knowledge. The small tasting lounge is lovely and a tasting here is the perfect end to the tour.
Expert tip: You must make an appointment and prepay in advance. If you are traveling in summer definitely make your appointment well in advance. The tour costs 35 Euro. For the overall experience and time of the tour, and a tasting I think it is money well spent. Taking the payment in advance actually turns out to be a good idea. From the moment you arrive you feel more like a VIP, and they have very little no-shows with this policy. Making your appointment is easy to do on their website. Reims is very easy to get to from Paris by train. It only takes 45 minutes from Gare de l’Est to Reims train station.
4 Rue des Crayères