The expert in effervescence. The maven of magnums. The connoisseur in cuvées. These all describe Lise Legrand, who recently became the world’s first Champagne concierge at the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa, a luxury boutique property in Champagne, France.
Born and raised in Champagne, Legrand has been immersed in the legendary wine from a young age. Since childhood, she’s participated in harvests, swirled and sniffed glasses, and learned to glean subtle differences between a brut and a blanc de blancs.
Now, she’s channeled her deep familiarity with the region into creating exceptional experiences for bubbly-loving guests of the hotel, from planning a romantic hot air balloon ride à deux over the vineyards to scheduling tasting appointments at the most exclusive Champagne houses.
We spoke with Legrand about her elite access, how anyone can — and should — enjoy a glass with anything from the low-brow to the luxe, and tips for those visiting the Champagne region.
What are some of the most elaborate or over-the-top arrangements you’ve made?
In Champagne, a region known for effervescence and sparkle, we receive many extravagant requests. Recently, I created an exclusive massage experience steps away from the vineyards on the private terrace of our spa, treating the guest to a Biologique Recherche facial and an accompanying glass of the biodynamic Leclerc Briant. The holistically produced bottles pair perfectly with a spa treatment.
I’ve also coordinated a hot-air-balloon picnic at sunrise, complete with French viennoiseries and Champagne brut. Soon I hope that a guest requests to open our most expensive bottle of Champagne, the 2002 Krug Clos du Mesnil, a luminous Champagne that’s an extremely rare expression of a single plot of Chardonnay harvested 17 years ago from one of the richest terroirs in the region.
What tips do you have for travelers visiting the region?
[L]iaising with me will make for a wonderful insider-led trip to the region. We plan everything for you, and there are many incredible experiences at the hotel alone — we have a 16,000-square-foot wellness facility and spa with Biologique Recherche treatment options, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and an outdoor terrace with views of the vineyards.
I always recommend that guests start their day with a bottle of sparkling wine on their private balconies. Who needs coffee when you have cuvée?
Also, a lesser-known history of Champagne is that the people of Reims actually lived underground in Ruinart’s cellars for much of World War I. It’s a fascinating story that you can learn about there.
What are a few under-the-radar producers or bottles to seek out?
Pol Roger has been loved by bubbly drinkers for centuries — Winston Churchill drank so much of their fizz that the house named a cuvée after him — but it’s often overlooked in favor of the more popular houses.
An insider tip is to head to Leclerc Briant. As I mentioned, [it is] a biodynamic house making elegant Champagne where you can meet with oenologist Hervé Jestin. The wines here brim with energy and embody the terroir’s undeniable essence, and most grapes come from the biodynamic La Croisette vineyard. They even have an expression called the Abyss, which is aged underwater for 15 months at a depth of 60 meters in the stormy seas off Brittany’s coast.
Champagne Drappier is another label that I love to recommend. It’s south of the hotel in the Aube department of Champagne, where the Pinot Noir grape is most prominent, lending to full-bodied, aromatic, and robust vintages.
What are a few of your favorite unexpected Champagne-and-food pairings?
A little tip I always share with guests: Pair your next glass of Champagne with some parmesan shaves. It’s heaven! The combination of French fries and Champagne is also incredibly tasty, balancing the salty richness of fries and the lightness of bubbles to sublimate this blend.
A common misconception is that Champagne is a festive drink that should be kept for an 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.
Can you share the makings for a memorable picnic among the vines?
Our experts come together to create the most magical experience. I plan the picnic’s place and time; chef Jean-Denis Rieubland makes the Michelin-starred meals to suit the group’s unique tastes; sommelier Daniel Pires in turn works with Chef Rieubland to learn the bespoke menu, and then meticulously selects the vintages that will pair exquisitely with the meal; and our lovely driver Isabelle brings the guests in our chic Mehari cabriolet to the most secluded spots in the vineyards.
What is most challenging about your role?
Champagne is a coveted region, so it can be a challenge to schedule tours in the most booked houses. Many are closed to the public, so I often need to push doors for some, and it takes much negotiating to convince these private houses to host our guests. They can be stubborn, but I refuse to take no for an answer. It is the greatest satisfaction once those trips are confirmed!