A Champagne Concierge on Her Job and Your Next Trip to France
A great hotel concierge will book a driver, make a dinner reservation, and print out your boarding passes. But what if those recommendations and services went beyond where to eat and what to do? What if the concierge could tell you what type of Champagne you’ll like best?
Meet Champagne concierge Lisa Legrand at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in Hautvillers, France. She will direct you to the best of Champagne, including bookings at major producers like Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, and Champagne Taittinger, as well as exclusive private houses that are closed to the public.
But her duties go far beyond confirming your appointment. She’ll help you determine what type of sparkling wine you will like, give you tips on deciphering among vintages, grant you access to ancient cellars, and teach you about the region’s culture as a whole, from food to architecture. That may even involve a hot-air balloon ride over the storied vineyards and famed cathedrals.
Born and raised in Marne, known for producing some of the world’s most coveted bubbles, Legrand grew up participating in harvest and hanging out with vignerons (the French term for winemakers). She expanded her knowledge by taking wine classes, so she understands not only “the culture of bubbly,” but also various wine styles from around the world. For her, though, Champagne reigns supreme, which is why she loves sharing her native region, and all the delicious wines, with guests at the luxury boutique property.
“Guests like to be surprised by what they don’t already know,” Legrand says. “I start by asking about their favorite brands, which gives me a good idea of their taste, and we go from there. They always come back from their experiences and rave about how much they have learned about Champagne. It’s such a reward to make them happy.”
Fortune spoke with Legrand about what goes into being a Champagne concierge and what she recommends you do next time you visit France—besides, of course, drinking a flute of Champagne.
Fortune: Tell us about the role of Champagne concierge.
Legrand: My role is to have an extensive working knowledge of all the Champagne producers and their products to create a bespoke itinerary for each guest according to what they like. I ask questions that will fully reveal what exactly a guest desires in their bubbly. What do you drink most in your leisure time? Do you prefer Rosé or Blanc de Blancs? What are your favorite producers? Then, I like to dig deeper. For instance, do they prefer biodynamic wine? Are they interested in the houses with fascinating stories behind them, such as Veuve Clicquot and its famous namesake, or do they like the more exclusive houses, such as Bollinger?
What sort of training goes into being a Champagne concierge?
Our primary training is focused on furthering our own education about the region and each specific area. We must have an intrinsic, unparalleled knowledge of Champagne. We continue our training by taking part in the guest experiences ourselves, from exploring the cellars of every Champagne house to studying the Biologique Recherche techniques that our luxury spa implements.
It sounds similar to a sommelier. What’s different about what you do?
We work very closely with our chef sommelier Daniel Pires to discover new houses and connect with interesting people. However, the [Champagne concierge’s] mission is not limited exclusively to le champagne—the bubbles—but La Champagne, our storied region. Beyond fizz, our knowledge encompasses history, culture, and activities for all types of guests.
So there is more to Champagne than, well, Champagne?
We can create all kinds of activities for our guests to enjoy beyond coordinating Champagne house tours. Most of our guests have no idea about the region. They are pleasantly surprised to find endless activities. If they are fascinated with the history of the region, we can organize tours of the surrounding towns of Hautvillers, Epernay, or Reims. If they want to taste the local flavors of the region without leaving the comfort of the hotel, we can coordinate a private tasting. Whatever our guests wish for, we can make it happen, including outdoor massages in the hotel’s vineyards or a private hot-air balloon tour.
What is a typical day like?
No days at Royal Champagne are ever the same; this is the reason why I love my job! Each day is full of surprises. I never know how extravagant or exciting guests’ wishes will be and that is what makes being a Champagne concierge so enjoyable. On most days you will find me in the lobby of our hotel, meeting with the guests and assisting them with their agenda, although I have been spotted everywhere, from seated in the hotel’s Mehari on a vineyard tour to wandering Epernay’s Rue Gambetta and chatting with local shopkeepers. Many of our guests prefer to schedule their activities prior to arrival, so I do communicate with clients to suggest itineraries. I always host a personal meeting with them when they arrive in the lobby, even if we are old friends via email.
What are some top places you like to tell guests to go see or do in the Champagne region?
The Cathédrale of Reims. The outlook in Hautvillers has views of the Marne River, the vineyards, and the little Champagne village of Cumières. And the Abbaye de Dom Perignon in Hautvillers. I also always recommend a sunset cruise on the Marne. Few things are more idyllic. If a guest is a bit more adventurous, take an e-bike ride among the vineyards surrounding the hotel.
Back to the drinks: What’s a common misconception about the Champagne beverage that you often encounter?
That Champagne is a festive drink that should be kept for aperitif! This couldn’t be further from the truth. Champagne is a proper wine with versatile properties that ensure it can accompany an entire meal, from starter to dessert. Depending on where the grapes are from, there are numerous pairings possible. A little tip from me: Pair your next glass of Champagne with some Parmesan shaves. It’s heaven!
What’s the best thing about what you do?
Guests wish to discover something new. Champagne is a coveted region, so it can be a challenge to schedule tours in the most-booked houses. It takes a bit of negotiating to convince the private houses [which are closed to the public] to host our guests. I often have to push doors for some. But it is the greatest satisfaction to see guests happy. They come back from the houses with wonderful experiences. They promise to come back soon.
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