It’s shaping up to be another highly celebratory year for Moët & Chandon – for two very good reasons. The first is the 150th anniversary of its iconic signature champagne, Moët Impérial, after the first bottle was shipped from Epernay in 1869. To commemorate this landmark birthday, the house has just unveiled a limited edition bottle with a specially designed label. The second is that on Tuesday night, Moët & Chandon reopened its historic, ultra-exclusive Château de Saran – where it has historically entertained its most famous VIP guests – after an extensive and transformative five-year restoration.
Even by Moët & Chandon’s standards it was a star-studded night, with international guests including Roger Federer, Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman and Kate Moss. Magnums of Impérial were poured, a son et lumière display lit up the vineyards, and dinner was prepared and presented by Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno, while English chanteuse Freya Ridings provided a live set. The host? LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault. “LVMH is really a mix of modernity and tradition, and that is what we want to reflect in the appearance and ambience,” said Arnault of the château and the event. “But we also wanted to restore the feeling that this is a family home, where our guests can relax and enjoy themselves.”
The fact that Arnault was personally on hand to welcome guests underpins just how important this property and project are to the past, present and future of Moët & Chandon. Acquired in 1801 by Jean-Rémy Moët, Château de Saran began life as a hunting lodge. Its position was – is – spectacular. Perched on a hillside overlooking the Marne Valley and the prized vineyards of Chouilly, it is still fringed by the Saran Woods, with views from Epernay to Châlons.
In 1846, the property was expanded by Jean-Rémy’s son, Victor, and made into an elegant manor house. In the 1920s it was extended again by the Epernay architect Fernand Gallot, who furnished it with its current 18th-century façade. It was at this point that it became the principal residence of the Moët family until after the second world war. Briefly, it was left to the Hospital of Epernay in 1952, but was then repurchased by Moët & Chandon soon after.
Ever since, it has been pressed into service as the house’s most exclusive hospitality venue for honoured visitors. Over recent decades, a steady stream of royalty, ambassadors, politicians, business moguls and celebrities have all wined, dined and partied in style at this most private of Champagne châteaux.
And so they will again, now the property has been sumptuously transformed for the 21st century. The design is the work of Parisian architectural studio Atelier Cos, together with interior designer Yves de Marseille (they had previously collaborated to great effect on the restoration of Christian Dior’s maison in La Colle Noire near Grasse, which opened in 2017). Their brief was to restore and reconfigure Saran back to the magnificent château de famille that it once was. The design is thus artfully faithful to the Moët family’s heritage, as well as to the legendary savoir-fête of Moët & Chandon.
The immaculate interiors and exteriors do not disappoint. The main downstairs reception rooms brim with refinement and sophistication; de Marseille has worked in a number of Moët family heirlooms to add to the authenticity. Upstairs are 11 individually designed suites with a dazzling haute-couture mix of colours, textures, fabrics and objets d’art. Each pays an appropriately luxurious tribute to Moët & Chandon’s global commercial triumphs over the past three centuries.
The dramatic Imperial suite is an ode to Napoleon and the cordial friendship between Bonaparte and the aforementioned Jean-Rémy. In pronounced contrast, the American suite is done in early New Orleans style and celebrates 1787, the year of Moët & Chandon’s arrival in America. Perhaps the most striking, though, is the Louis XIV suite (the Sun King allowed Dom Pierre Pérignon to introduce champagne to his court in 1687) – a stunningly rich rendition of Versailles’ art and decor, complete with select period furnishings. The bathrooms ooze unalloyed luxury; de Marseille sourced the marbles from Italy, hence the exquisite Carrara in the Christian Dior suite and the Cremo Delicato in the Hollywood suite (Rosso Ducale instead appears in the Louis XIV suite).
“The overall aim is to illustrate the past,” says de Marseille. “In certain rooms, such as the Chinese and Japanese suites, I have focused on how people imagined these countries at the time – my choices for the decoration of these rooms were made through an 18th-century European lens.”
The nearby Vendangeoir – originally built in 1854 as a winemaking centre – has also been arrestingly restored, with an “industrial style” treatment lending it a more contemporary feel. This now becomes a highly practical (not to mention desirable) space for parties and dinners prepared by in-house chef Marco Fadiga. Visitors can also kick back and relax in the warm and welcoming bar or the adjoining fumoir. It is now cleverly linked to the château by means of an underground passageway – though, weather and season permitting, you can reach it via a lovely traversing pergola in a flowering garden.
Landscape designer Peter Wirtz has brought a similarly creative eye to Saran’s paysage, redrawing the surrounding parc à l’anglaise in a more natural style. Closer to the château itself, the more orderly jardin à la française neatly frames and emphasises the Saran’s grand classicism.
It’s a grand transformation befitting a grand house. Is there a better place to quaff Moët and party the night away? Not in my address book. Now it’s just a matter of an invitation…