I’ve had a good response to my piece on adding a glass or two of wine tourism to a golf visit to the Bordeaux area – so here’s a suggestion for a real touch of luxury for a golf trip at a surprisingly acceptable price.
Champagne is the most northerly wine-producing area of France and its capital Reims (pronounce it rance) is little more than two hours down Autoroute 26 from Calais. Stop off at Laon, 50km from Reims, on the way there or back, stroll through the cobbled streets of the medieval capital of France, play the very pleasant course of L’Ailette – but, most of all, enjoy the sparkle of wine, food and golf in and around Reims and Epernay.
The best of the golf there is Reims-Champagne in the village of Gueux. It’s never going to stage a Tour event but it’s a testing and attractive challenge to players of all levels, and you can celebrate your round (or console yourself) with a glass or two of bubbly from one of the 19 champagne houses which are partners of the golf club. In fact, there’s a story that Fontainebleau Golf Club won the four-day French National Team Scratch Championship here with champagne before and after each match and rounded their victory off with no fewer than 32 bottles shared between the team of six and the beaten finalists. Now that’s my kind of golf!
The clubhouse itself is worth a mention: it’s the Chateau des Dames de France, where the ladies of the great families used to stay while their husbands went off to war.
Most of the leading champagne houses in Reims and Epernay offer guided tours of their cellars with tastings (the charges vary from about €12 to €30 depending on how many vintages you wish to sample) and, of course, the chance to buy at as much as you can afford and/or carry away. It is important to book. My favourites for a tour are Ruinart, 4 rue des Crayeres, Reims (telephone 03 26 77 51 51) and Mumm, 34 rue de Champ de Mars, Reims (telephone 03 26 49 69 67).
However, the best experience is to have it all wrapped up in one tailor-made package such as the one at the quite sumptuous Royal Champagne Hotel at Champillon amid the vineyards in the countryside south of Reims and just a few kilometres north of Epernay.
Here’s an example: a glass of champagne on arrival, champagne breakfast, dinner served with champagne, a visit to one of the leading champagne houses plus a visit to a small family-run champagne producer – can there be such a thing as champagne-overload? Of course not!
French Golf Holidays does this – plus golf at Reims-Champagne and elsewhere if required at about £550 person for two nights, including cross-Channel travel, the golf and the champagne “feast” and tastings. Give FGH a call on 0845 6012175.