Chef de cave Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon’s personal guide to Reims

Louis Roederer Champagne’s chef de cave and executive vice president oversees Roederer wine properties in Provence, Bordeaux, Portugal and California

Jean Baptiste Lecaillon at Place Royale
Jean Baptiste Lecaillon at Place Royale | Image: Magali Delporte/Picturetank

On Saturdays I usually wake around 8am. I’ll have a light breakfast and then my wife and I will head to Boulingrin market and buy whatever is in season locally – in spring, the chalky soils of Champagne produce particularly beautiful white asparagus. For my meat I usually go to Boucherie Brezillon or Herbin Traiteur, which is famous for its jambon de Reims; for wine I like to go to Les Caves du Forum, which is particularly good for burgundy; and I get my knives from the cookware shop Alice Délice.

But going to the market is also about seeing your friends – I might spend two hours there shopping and catching up with people. Then I always go to a café by the market called Le Balto, where I’ll have an espresso and buy my weekend newspapers. It’s very French – by 11am there will be people drinking wine and you’ll see a lot of familiar faces. 

Our house is right by the Louis Roederer cellars and once I’m home I’ll spend an hour or so checking on the progress of everything. Making wine is about using all your senses, you have to really feel it – so I’ll smell every tank, check the temperature, listen to the sound of the fermentation. Being down there in the quiet, with nobody around, is like being in a church.

Lunch is usually something very simple from the market – a salad or a ragù of vegetables; anything green. I never drink wine at lunch on Saturdays, only water. But afterwards I’ll always have an espresso. I’m a complete addict; I love exploring all the different types. 

Saturday is also when my wife and I like to visit Reims’ two auction houses, Chativesle Maison de Ventes and Guizzetti et Collet. My favourite find is a painting of the Mediterranean coast by Amédée Ozenfant. He did it in the days before he was a cubist, which is why I love it; it’s like seeing the learning stage of a great painter. I have it hanging in my beach house at the foot of my bed. 

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We often stop for afternoon coffee at the Café du Palais, a beautiful, very baroque-style brasserie run by a friend of mine. It’s lots of fun, so we sometimes go for dinner too – I’ll have the pata negra. 

If we’re not going out for the evening we’ll head home, open a bottle of wine – usually Italian – and start thinking about cooking dinner. We have a lovely kitchen with doors that open so you feel you’re practically eating in the garden, but our cellar is arranged simply, maybe three or four thousand bottles split into five racks: bordeaux, burgundy, champagne and two for the rest of the world. If we have friends over we like to talk and taste wines – so we might go to bed at 2am.

Sunday is usually focused on a long family lunch with my children, who are 19 and 23. We’ll always have some kind of meat, maybe veal, and a dessert made by my wife: tiramisu or cheesecake. 

Afterwards we’ll take a walk in the city – my favourite place is the cathedral – on summer evenings they do a spectacular son et lumière. I also find the Palais du Tau inspiring; it’s where the kings of France used to stay during their coronations; you have the whole history of the city there. 

Around 5pm I like to strap on my Apple Watch and run 10-15km. It’s good for my body but it’s also good to empty my head and prepare for the next week.

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Dinner will be something simple like pasta with olive oil that I source from an estate in Abruzzo. Then I’ll read. I read The World of Fine Wine magazine like a book – my wife thinks I’m crazy. But I say you don’t just make wine, you live wine.

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