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The House of Radical Abundance
Flamingo Estate is the glamorous 7-acre home and apothecary with golden-era...
In the English Suite at the newly renovated Château de Saran, near Épernay, France, there is a pair of mahogany beds of particular significance to the house’s owner, the champagne house Moët & Chandon. Dating from the early 19th century, they originally belonged to one of its founder’s great-granddaughters, Adélaïde Moët, and her husband, Pierre-Gabriel Chandon.
The beds bear their respective family crests. Hers features lions; his, dogs. Rumor has it that Britain’s Queen Mother slept in one of the beds during a visit in 1983, but Moët & Chandon’s hospitality director, Yuka Gansser, is keen to set the record straight. “It’s not true,” she says. “She came with her own mattress!”
It was in 1801 that the founder’s grandson Jean-Rémy Moët started acquiring wooded areas around Saran, in the heart of France’s Champagne region. He planted vines there and built a hunting lodge, upgraded by his son Victor into a noble mansion in 1846, that remained the family’s residence until 1952.
Since 1957 the château has hosted VIPs like Roger Moore, Scarlett Johansson, and Roger Federer, as well as some 2,000 invited clients annually. Recently the estate underwent a five-year restoration with new interiors orchestrated by French designer Yves de Marseille. The salons on the ground floor are bathed in golden champagne tones, with the exception of the breakfast room, which is covered with scenic wallpaper featuring climbing branches. The mahogany breakfast table is one of a handful of items retained from the château’s previous decor, as is a 19th-century Gaveau piano in the Grand Salon.
On the three floors above are 11 different suites, all linked to the company’s history. “The overall aim,” says de Marseille, “was to illustrate the past.” The Roaring Twenties suite honors Josephine Baker, who visited in 1934, while one named after Christian Dior celebrates the acquisition of the fashion house’s perfume division by Moët-Hennessy in 1971. As for the Imperial suite, it commemorates Jean-Remy’s friendship with Napoleon Bonaparte, who visited the winemaker’s Épernay headquarters on three occasions, the last time in 1814, just before his exile. The emperor also inspired the house’s signature champagne, Moët Impérial, which was first shipped to coincide with the centennial of his birth.
The renovation also resulted in the removal of a wing added in the 1920s and the discovery of seven hypogea, or underground tombs, from the Neolithic period (about 3500 b.c.), which are being studied. The chalky soil beneath the château, typical of the Champagne region, aided in preserving their contents.
By his own account, de Marseille’s rooms entail “a somewhat Proustian approach,” but the results are not overly steeped in nostalgia. Numerous contemporary pieces by designers such as Damien Langlois-Meurinne are sprinkled throughout. And guests wedded to modern workout routines need not worry: An elevator provides access to an underground gym.