Discovering Château de Boursault was one of those special experiences we love to have when in France – a magnificent Champagne House in the tiny village of Boursault, just off the Route du Champagne.
From Paris, we drove along the Route du Champagne to Toul, Lorraine, the permanent home of our barge, the Betty B. After lunch at La Table Sourdet, a gem of a restaurant in the tiny village of Dormans, we continued along the scenic Route Touristique du Champagne, with vineyards of pinot noir and chardonnay on each side of the road and up the hillsides.
Having not seen any châteaux along the route, we were surprised when we saw a magnificent one high on the top of a hill, surrounded by fields and a forest, encircled by a large stone fence.
We turned onto a narrow, windy road to have a closer look, and found it was Château de Boursault, a château vineyard with a cellar door. Its very old, character-filled tasting room was full of fabulous paintings, pictures, books and Champagne accessories. Above the cellar entrance was a large portrait of Madame Veuve Clicquot, who built the Château between 1843 and 1847. What a treasure with a fascinating history.
André greeted us at the cellar or “cave” door and led us into the tasting room. He spoke English as well as I speak French, so it was an interesting conversation. However, I understood as he explained the history of the Château and the connection between Château de Boursault and Raymond Blanc, one of my favorite chefs, whose photo was on display in the cave.
Madame Veuve Cliquot built the château on the site of a 16th century fortified castle built by the Barons of Boursault. She later gave Château Boursault to her daughter Clémentine and great granddaughter, the Duchess d’Uzès. On the façade facing the Marne Valley, a sealed plate above the pediment of the central window bears the inscription “natis mater,” which is translated as “mother to her children.”
Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons restaurant in Oxfordshire, England, serves a Château de Boursault Champagne as its “house” Champagne. On display in the “cave” were photographs of Le Manoir’s 25-year anniversary celebration with Blanc and the Boursault Champagne, bottled under their own label to mark the occasion.
André presented our tasting. The “Manoir house” Champagne was nice with a good nose and those tiny bubbles typical of Champagne. The other two – the vintage Champagne Millésime and the Brut Tradition – were fabulous.
After the tasting, we were delighted that André granted us a visit to the Château and its gardens as a special favor. This was a perfect, unexpected beginning to our time in France.
We now visit Château de Boursault each time we go to our barge. André is usually there, and besides the delight in seeing him and the Château, we always need to restock our supply of Champagne. Recently, after hearing of our love for their Champagne, Alex, the son of the owner, invited us on a special, private tour of the cellars and vineyards.
Whenever friends visit us on the barge and are going through Champagne, we ask them to visit Château de Boursault on our behalf and to help restock our barge cellar. Everyone enjoys their visit with André!
After returning to Australia, I often intend to contact them to see if it’s possible to have Champagne sent to us, but I never have. So, Château de Boursault Champagne will always be enjoyed and savored even more, as it will be reserved for our wonderful daily 6pm ritual aperitif on our barge in France.
Château de Boursault Champagne is the only Champagne to be grown and vinified at the Château, so it is unique in the Marne Valley in that it bears the word “Château” in its name.
The Château park is completely walled and so is a genuine “Clos.” Designed by the architect, Fransquin, it covers 11 hectares with extensive gardens, sweeping paths and a very long driveway. There are numerous statues and an enormous greenhouse the size of a tennis court, which would have been magnificent in its heyday when the Château was occupied. Unfortunately, no one lives in the Château anymore, and although the greenhouse is in disrepair, the Château appears to be in excellent condition, at least on the outside. There are a few other lovely buildings still in use, one for the Champagne tasting room and the office, plus the wine-pressing buildings. Fortunately, all are in exceptionally good order and look very attractive.
The estate is planted with pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Each year, the blends vary slightly according to the harvest and maturity. The vines are cultivated with respect to the soil and the environment, and each year, the estate is moving nearer to its goal of complete organic status.