With a jealously guarded reputation as the world’s most famous sparkling wine, Champagne has long been one of the most valuable assets of the global luxury goods industry. It can, however, be easy to forget that Champagne is a wine to be enjoyed rather than a passport to a more exclusive way of living.
How refreshing, then, to find a new hotel in the north-east French region that places the emphasis on landscape rather than luxury.
The Loisium Wine & Spa Hotel Champagne opened in August 2022 in the village of Mutigny, up the hill from Aÿ. It is the first French property for a Vienna-based hospitality group that already operates a pair of Loisium hotels in the Austrian wine country of Langenlois and Südsteiermark.
Here in Champagne, a 101-room hotel has been sensitively blended into the wooded slopes of the Montagne de Reims using natural materials, with oak walls and black marble floors inside. External walls are clad in poplar, while huge windows at every turn provide a panorama of the Marne Valley to the Côte des Blancs.
Exploring the region
Arriving by car is the obvious way to explore Champagne’s scattered villages and vineyards. But given Loisium’s emphasis on sustainability, don’t discount the train. Guests can be collected by the hotel’s limousine transfer (around €80) from Champagne-Ardenne TGV station 32km away in Reims, or take the more leisurely TER line to nearby Epernay. Both services depart from Paris Gare de l’Est, a five-minute walk from the Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord.
Once settled in at Loisium, it’s a gentle stroll downhill to the village of Avenay-Val-d’Or. Here you’ll have the opportunity to taste the wines of small maisons little-known outside France, such as the father-and-daughter owned Champagne Laurent-Gabriel.
Back at the hotel, chill any purchases in the ice bucket thoughtfully provided in each comfortably functional guest room. You can sip away on the window seat while gazing over a sea of vineyards (suites come with a balcony).
Tours and tastings
Visitors new to Champagne might try a two-hour food and wine pairing of three cuvées led by Loisium’s wine team. Though arguably the best place to learn about the history of this iconic sparkling wine is on the comprehensive tour of the cellars at Moët & Chandon on Epernay’s Avenue de Champagne. Break up a saunter along the grand 0.8km long street, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with tastings in the courtyards of some of the biggest names in Champagne.
To get more of a feel for how the wine connects to the vines, there are guided tours from Loisium in open-top electric SUVs. Explore the villages and vineyards of Mutigny and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, as well as the abbey of Hautvillers, where Dom Pérignon was a monk and cellar master.
For something more energetic, the hotel prepares picnics to fuel a bike ride along Véloroute 52, the Paris to Strasbourg cycle path that runs along the Marne river and through the Montagne de Reims Regional Natural Park.
If Champagne’s famously unpredictable weather puts pay to the exploring, the hotel’s spa has a pool with both indoor and outdoor access. It also boasts a sauna, steam room and treatment rooms for herbal face and body rituals from Saint Charles Apothecary. There are loads of loungers, too, both inside and out. Just the spot for a light bite from the spa bar and, of course, a glass of Champagne.
Wine and dine
Each of the three Loisium properties is designed to act as a showcase for local wine producers. With over 4,000 bottles of Champagne displayed throughout the hotel, this is somewhere that takes the wines of the region seriously. Start the evening (or afternoon) in the Champagne bar, Les Bulles, where 40% of the wines on the list come from smaller producers.
Wine and Champagne matching is the speciality of the hotel’s L’Horisium Brasserie, where ingredients are sourced from within a 65km radius – though without any sense of being slavishly tied to local tradition.
Ardennes pigs’ feet are turned into crispy cromesquis and served with grape mustard, tarragon and red cabbage. While to follow there might be Reims ham cooked au gratin and accompanied by a salad of young red endive and fine herbs. Vegetarian options such as ancient wheat penne with summer truffle, Chaource soft cheese, walnuts and croutons are no less considered.
The kitchen might not yet have the reputation of the more famous, Michelin-awarded chefs in Champagne but with vineyards everywhere one looks, few dining rooms in the area have such a strong sense of terroir. With further wine-focused properties planned for France, Loisium’s star is in the ascendent.
B&B rates start at €259. Check the Loisium website for availability.