Early autumn is the ideal time to take a wine-themed trip. To celebrate the grape harvest, luxury French brand Sofitel has organised a series of month-long events called ‘Sofitel Wine Days’, where its hotels are putting on special autumn-inspired menus with paired wines, cocktail masterclasses, and discussions and tastings with local experts and producers.
I took the Eurostar to Paris to see what’s happening at the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg. Located on a quiet street just off the Place de la Concorde, Le Faubourg a great spot for exploring the city – the Louvre is five minute walk away, and you can wander down to the river or around the boutiques of Rue St Honoré. The hotel is stylish and chic, with a light-filled lobby full of fresh flowers, and a peaceful, leafy courtyard.
It’s here that we spend our first night. In-house restaurant Blossom has its own Wine Days menu throughout October, and we dine on ‘meurette eggs’ – poached eggs in red wine sauce, gnocci with chanterelle mushrooms braised in Laurent Perrier champagne, and pears marinated in red wine and spices. Each dish is matched with a French wine, whether it be a Morgon Château de Pizay, a Sancerre or a Sauternes. Breakfast is equally magnificent – a vast spread of French pastries, cheeses, cakes and fruit.
The following day, to continue our theme, we drive out to Épernay to visit the prestigious Champagne house, Perrier-Jouët. Founded in 1811, after the marriage of Rose-Adélaïde Jouët to Pierre-Nicolas Perrier, Perrier-Jouët is famous for its elegant wines and Art Nouveau bottles depicting delicate Japanese white anemones.
There has always been a strong link between Perrier-Jouët, nature and art. Since its collaboration in 1902 with Art Nouveau artist Emile Gallé, it has commissioned work from the likes of Daniel Arsham and Studio Glithero. A tour of its cellars showcases not only an impressive collection of vintage champagnes (including the oldest bottle in the world), but plenty of contemporary installations, too.
Above ground, the stunning 18th-century mansion, ‘Maison Belle Epoque’, houses the largest private collection of French Art Nouveau in Europe, plus an original Toulouse-Lautrec. The journey out here is absolutely worth it – for the art as well as the wine.
Back in London, and we round off our wine-themed trip at Sofitel London St James. The 183-roomed, Grade II-listed property was once the headquarters of Cox & King’s before it became a branch of Lloyd’s bank. Ornate columns, high ceilings and intricate cornicing can be seen throughout, most notably in the three-storey spa, where you can book an array of indulgent treatments that will leave you floating on air. The bar was inspired by Coco Chanel’s 1920s apartment, and it’s here that we take a cocktail masterclass with head bartender Rémi Garcia, who makes us a drink with Alain Milliat non-alcoholic grape juice.
St James is organising an array of themed events for Wine Days – such as a Louis XIII and caviar Sturia tasting, a special wine-pairing dinner, and a Charles Legend Champagne event – so there’s plenty still to do. Wine buffs – October is your month!