Interview with Sally Hillman: “Champagne! A destination with so much appeal; tastings, tours of Houses and their caves (cellars), history, great food, beautiful accommodation and there is always the Tour de France too – a bon vivant’s paradise!
Two interesting points: Champagne, 150 kilometres east of Paris, is the most northerly region suitable for grape growing in Europe. Sitting between latitudes 49’5 and 48’ North, any further north – they make beer. Put it in perspective, Beijing and New York city both sit at 40’ latitude and New York’s winter blizzards are well documented. The fact grapes ripen enough, allowing champagne to be produced in extreme environmental conditions is part of the magic. The second is Champagne’s famous chalky soils. It is the distinct terroir giving the wine its clean, crisp finish. At times the chalk and remains of shells from pre-historic oceans are so evident that the soil appears white.
Top tip for holidaying in Champagne
Do your research ahead of your visit and have a plan! You will find that most champagne Houses require a pre-arranged appointment to tour. I always pre-book my eating experiences as well so that all good restaurants are not missed! Being organised will make sure you fit in everything the region has to offer.
Something Sally always packs when she travels
The LBD and a pair of killer heels. My choice is Le Smoking, made famous by Yves Saint Laurent, and it’s back in a major way. You never know when you may be called upon to attend a glamorous champagne experience.
A destination on Sally’s bucket list, for future travels
The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, in Champagne. It opened on the July 15 2018 and is the newest accommodation in the region – I personally can’t wait to visit. It’s a luxurious, architecturally designed and purpose-built retreat to use as a base while enjoying the many experiences Champagne has to offer.
A travel disaster – or near-miss – which stays in Sally’s mind
Arriving into Rome Fiumicino International Airport at 6am in late Summer. After a long flight direct from Melbourne, I found Rome in the thick of a “cyclonic” weather pattern, similar to what we experience in Northern Australia. All connecting flights to anywhere had been cancelled. I was booked to fly to Catania, Sicily. The beginning of my idyllic Sicilian escapade turned pear-shaped very quickly and I never made it to the Aeolian Islands. The upside, it gave me the opportunity to experience the generous hospitality of a friend’s Sicilian relatives based in Rome. The first few ‘holiday kilos’ were added in just two short days!
About Sally Hillman
Sally Hillman’s love affair with champagne is long-standing as is her knowledge and enthusiasm for this intriguing and diverse French wine.
A fortuitous introduction to a “grower-producer” champagne many years ago opened a new world for Sally. Her fascination for these grower wines has blossomed ever since while still respecting and embracing the extraordinary vintages from the celebrated Grandes Marques.
Sally decided to turn her love for champagne into a business, and as such Sally Hillman, the company, was born. Each Sally Hillman experience is bespoke and celebrates the magic of champagne. Paired only with champagne and serving an exceptional fine dining menu, the experiences are elegant, memorable and fun for all.
For wine enthusiasts it is an opportunity to discover lesser known houses and to deepen their knowledge and love of champagne. For novices, there is an opportunity to learn more about the depth, character and quality that champagne has to offer.
Main image: The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa.