AT A GLANCE:
Name of wine estate: Maison Ruinart
Wine region: Champagne
Standout points: 13th-century crayères cellars (a UNESCO World Heritage Site); multi-sensory dining with the Ruinart Gastronomic Experience
Winemaker: Frédéric Panaïotis
Wine style: Chardonnay-based traditional-method sparkling
The refinements of age
The oldest Champagne house of them all, Maison Ruinart was founded in Reims in 1729, when the Ruinart family acquired the land on which the estate is today located. With its palatial galleries, parlours and courtyard, the maison itself is impressive enough, but perhaps the most impressive feature of all is below ground: the UNESCO-recognised crayères cellars, which extend over approximately 8km and rise over three levels. It is here, since the 18th century, that Ruinart has stored and aged its precious fizz.
Cut from the right cloth
Before he made his name with Champagne, founder Nicolas Ruinart was a draper by trade – evidenced by the converted textile warehouse which forms part of the Ruinart building complex. Nicolas was inspired by his uncle, Dom Ruinart, a Benedictine monk, who had told his nephew about the revolutionary sparkling wines being made by a certain Dom Pérignon. Originally Nicolas would offer his Champagnes as a gift to his favourite textile customers. Eventually, however, the bubbles became more lucrative.
Right up your street
Visitors to 4 Rue des Crayères in Reims can expect an immersive programme through which to discover the history of the maison, and the savoir-faire and craftsmanship that goes into making fine Champagne. Descend 40m deep and discover the spectacular maze of medieval chalk pits beneath the property before returning to ground level to taste two different Ruinart Champagnes, chosen between premium (Blanc de Blancs or Rosé non-vintage) and Prestige vintage (Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and Dom Ruinart Rosé). For the complete indulgence, one might be tempted by The Ruinart Gastronomic Experience, which combines a visit to the crayères cellars with a sumptuous five-course meal prepared by Ruinart’s executive chef, with food pairing designed to sing alongside Ruinart’s various Champagne cuvées.