Loisium Wine & Spa Hôtel Champagne
last update: 20 December 2022
In late December 2022 we kicked off our trip through France and Spain, and our first stop was in a new hotel in Mutigny in the Champagne region of France. The French version of Wikipedia has a more extensive description of Mutigny, and notes that it is home to 104 hectares of AOC Champagne (according to one source 93% is Premier cru). Some 36 vineyards owners (exploitants) are registered in Mutigny, e.g. here is a list of some producers in the village area, but other vineyards in Mutigny are known to be used by Bollinger, Moët & Chandon, Philipponnat, Piper-Heidsieck, and Roederer.
Above we can see the small village of Mutigny, and the white area is in fact the construction site of this new hotel. Every plot we see is dedicated to 1,000's upon 1,000's of vines. According to one data sheet the vineyards in Mutigny include Pinot Noir (81%), Pinot Meunier (13%), and Chardonnay (7%).
It's important to realise that Champagne producers will cultivate numerous plots in different parts of the Champagne region, and for different grape varieties, and this is true for both large and small producers. As an example of a small producer, Gabriel-Pagin Fils cultivates 9.5 hectares (ha) in Avenay-Val-d'Or (79% Pinot Noir, 18% Chardonnay, 3% Pinot Meunier), but also cultivates a few parcels in Mutigny, Avize and Cramant. On the other hand, Roederer owns 126 parcels (84ha) in the Côte des Blancs, 112 parcels (69ha) in the Montagne de Reims, and 172 parcels (68ha) in the Vallée de la Marne, which includes their parcels in Mutigny.
Traditionally the vineyards of Mutigny, being near the River Marne, are part of what is called the "Vineyards of the River", as opposed to those vineyards near Reims, which are the "Vineyards of the Mountain". The village of Aÿ-Champagne (about 2-3 km away) is mentioned in a charter of Edmund of Lancaster (1245-1296), dated 1276. This confirmed the right of the Abbey of Avenay to four hogheads of wine from the terroir of Aÿ. However, "monkish legends" suggest that Saint Trésain, an Irish missionary and contemporary of Saint Remi, emigrated to the Champagne region in the 6th century. It is said that he became a swineherd in Mutigny. The story goes that vine growers in Aÿ, hearing that St. Remi was nearby accused St. Trésain of neglecting to look after his pigs, which had then devastated their vineyards. St. Trésain admitted that he often listened to mass in the local church, and forgot his swine. St. Remi being so impressed by the deeply religious St. Trésain relieved him of his pigs, and nominated him the parish priest to Mareuil and Mutigny. It is also said that St. Trésain was somewhat unsaintly in cursing the men of Aÿ that they should not prosper from their vineyards, a curse that proved harmless since they went on to become wealthy vine growers.
Fourteenth century charters mention the vineyards of Mutigny, and include the sale and purchase of parcels of land. Fifteenth century charters also mention the "droits de vinage" of nearby abbeys on the local territory, including that in Mutigny. I think "vinage" was the addition of alcohol so that the wine could travel without turning to vinegar, whereas the "droits de vinage" was a seigneurial right to take some wine when still in the vat. And this right still remained intact even when the land on the which the vines were grown was no longer owned by the abbey (or local Lord). In 1668 the wines of the Abbey of Avenay had a high reputation, and they owned 43 arpents including in Mutigny. For the year 1667 the Abbey sold 200 poinçons of wine, valued at 6,000 livres. As far as I can tell, poinçon was an old French volume measurement for wine or brandy, which might have been equivalent to a muid (although the demi-muid or half barrel was more common in the Champagne region). Different sources mention a muid being a barrel of 1,300 litres, or a type of barrel containing 200 to 300 litres, or (approximately) 274.2 litres. It would appear that the monks also drank 120 poinçons of wine annually, and gave away bottles to "persons of quality, friends of the house, and travellers of condition".
Loisium Wine & Spa Hôtel Champagne
In 2019 we spent Christmas in the 5-star Royal Champagne, a hotel and spa located in Champillon (in the Champagne region). We concluded in our review that the hotel was fine, but that returning to the region we should look for alternatives.
Now returning to the region in December 2022, we found the Loisium Wine & Spa Hôtel, which had just opened in Mutigny in August 2022.
According to a report from March 2020 the 4-star Loisium Wine & Spa Hotel was conceived as a "resort complex", and represented an investment of €25 million, supported in part by Banque des Territoires. The objective was to build within 2 years a hotel with 95 rooms and 6 suites, a 200-seat restaurant, a champagne tasting bar with 3,500 bottles, a spa and a conference centre. At least according to the publicity material this investment was also coupled with the creation in the same region of a museum on the theme of the sensory interpretation of champagne and a university meeting place dedicated to champagne. The impression given is that Loisium Wine & Spa (based in Austria) is more an operator than an investor.
The architecture was conceived by Studio Jouin Manku (Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku) as a discreet insertion into the local landscape. According to the publicity material "the brut nature of the structural concrete which is quite evident, is significantly warmed with verticality of oak panels that line the interior mezzanine level, and the sustainable poplar wood on the buildings exterior".
In the interior the design studio has added oak floors, black marble, and furniture with leather and brass elements. There is also a monumental staircase leading to a quieter area on the mezzanine level.
But now let's look at the reality of our visit in December 2022.
As of December 2022, Booking gave this hotel a 8.9 (Fabulous) based upon 238 reviews, whilst Tripadvisor gave the hotel a 4.5 (Excellent) based upon 16 reviews.
Initial reviews varied, from "superb hotel in the middle of the vineyards" and "perfect experience", to a "nicely presented tourist trap, high-priced, poor quality".
Finding the hotel
The address of the hotel, 1 Allée de la Sapinière in Mutigny, was not known to our car GPS or to TomTom. However this address is just an access road to the hotel, and Route de Montflambert is a perfectly adequate substitute.
We arrived in later afternoon with the external temperature of -5°C, but the temperature dropped to -12°C during the night. We left the next morning, and it was still -6°C.
Reception and check-in
It's a shame that the hotel did not offer a porter service, but I must admit that coming in from -5°C outside, the reception foyer was a very warming and welcoming experience.
Above we are looking back through the foyer towards the entrance. We can see the ladies at the reception, and we can see the double height foyer with the chimney and bar. Check-in was friendly and efficient, but no one offered to take our bags or show us to our room (very 4-star). However, they did show us where the restaurant (and breakfast room) was, and how to find the pool and spa (downstairs).
Our room was at the end of the corridor on the ground floor. With the usual contactless key we entered what actually looked to be a quite dark and narrow room. We had a lot of problems finding the room lights, because they are the same colour as the walls.
Once we had managed to find the room lights, we could seen what was a warm and welcoming modern style room, but a touch too narrow and just a bit oppressive with all the darkish colours. Nevertheless it looked a comfortable room for an overnight stay.
Despite travelling with just a carry-on suitcase and a couple of sports bags, there was not much space to "spread out". This was all the more true when the bed cushions and throw were thrown onto the triangular window seat. Removing the cushions and throw actually revealed some white sheets and pillows, and brightened up the room a bit. Frankly the artwork, separation curtain, and headboard with leather "fittings" was lost on me. Certainly a better brighter colour scheme and wall art based upon Champagne and vineyards would have been my preference. It all looked just a bit dull, but possibly in the light of a summers day the room with it's full length windows might look considerably different.
Here we are looking back toward the room entrance corridor, from which there was a separate WC and a narrowish cupboard. We can see that the "bathroom" was open, although there was a curtain that could be used to "enclose" the sleeping area. All the facilities were present, and perfectly functional, except that the shower was (again) totally decorated in that overly dark brown. Frankly, browns should never be the main colour in a hotel room.
We found the usual accessories in the room, i.e. good towels and vanity sets, etc. in the bathroom area, a complimentary bottle of water, good size flat TV (with the usual collection of free but mostly useless and uninteresting satellite programs), a Nespresso coffee machine and the usual stuff (but no separate water heater), a wall safe (big enough for a laptop, etc.), and a mini-fridge with a limited set of drinks.
We did notice that the room warmed up quite slowly given its relatively small size, but by the time we had returned from our evening meal it was pleasant.
Perhaps one of the most attractive feature of this particular room was the large terrace, albeit unusable with sub-zero outside temperatures.
We had booked the Prestige Double Room (priced €289/night) as opposed to the Classic Double Room (€249/night), both were available with a "saver rate" of -15%. And there was also a special dinner, bed & breakfast rate, which I think might include a 3-course €50 menu. As far as I can see the only difference between a Classic and Prestige room is the mention of a "handicapped accessible" version of the shower, which I don't really know what that means. However, our particular room at the end of the corridor on the ground floor had a large terrace area, which in summer might well be worth the difference.
The hotel did not offer room service, so we booked a table at their "table du chef", for 19:00. The restaurant is just next to the foyer on the ground floor, and from the hotel "blurb" we were looking forward to the "space near the bay windows making the most of the views". In fact we were privileged to get window seats, but of course in winter at 19:00 we could not see anything outside.
More from the hotel "blurb" we leant that "the concrete structure creates intimate dining areas and frames the exterior view. The ceiling, also in formed concrete is softened with floating oak sound panels. Wood and leather bench seating along the walls is complimented with more traditional seating, adaptable to different configurations. All restaurant areas use earthenware ceramics on the floor and walls, a nod and a wink towards laboratory nature of gastronomic food production".
But what about the dining experience? It's true that the restaurant team did try to create an experience. The welcome was friendly and professional, and they did end up "selling" us a glass of Philipponnat 1522, a Champagne celebrating 500 years since their first owned vineyards in Le Léon, located between Aÿ and Dizy. At $175 the bottle, it was not surprising that a glass cost €25. Was it worth it? The Champagne itself was, as expected, a little mineral but quite fresh in the mouth. And it was a good way to start our trip through France and Spain. Did it augur well for the meal? We will see…
The menu was quite complete, with 5 choices for l'aperitif, including two oyster options (Utah Beach or Bay de Quiberon), and croquettes. First courses were quite sophisticated, from le pied de cochon des Ardennes (pig's trotter from the Ardennes) to oeuf de poule (chicken egg) prepared with espuma de topinambour, confit d'onion roux, trompettes de la mort et tuile de pain (Jerusalem artichoke foam, red onion confit, black chanterelle and a bread wafer).
It was nice to see that in some cases the distance between the restaurant and the supplier was indicated, e.g. 7 km, 66.5 km, etc.
We went straight for a main course, and I picked the le travers de Boeuf Aubrac de la ferme de Challouet (49.1 km) served with a purée de palate douce, tombée d'epinard jeans au gingembre, et sauce BBQ maison au Marc de Champagne maison Jean Goyard (1.9 km). Translated this is Aubrac beef ribs from the Challouet farm, served with mashed sweet potato, wilted spinach with ginger, and homemade BBQ sauce made with Marc de Champagne from Jean Goyard.
The tastes were there, and the BBQ sauce was excellent, however the block of meat was too dense and lacked taste. It didn't help that they did not provided a meat knife.
My wife picked the suprême de volaille de Champagne (28.07 km), cuit à basse temperature, travail autour des carottes de la ferme de la Borde (7.1 km), café et anis vert, sauce carotene au vinaigre de Chardonnay. Which roughly translates as supreme of chicken from Champagne, cooked at low temperature, presented with carrots from the Borde farm, coffee and green anise, carrot sauce with Chardonnay vinegar.
My wife liked the carrots but thought the chicken supreme was a bit tasteless.
For dessert my wife picked riz au lait au parfum d'hiver, pomelo et poire Comice confite, glace d'epice, which translates as winter flavoured rice pudding, pomelo and candied Comice pear, with spiced ice cream.
My wife was not "over the moon", but she was happy enough.
I decided on the assortment de fromages de la région, confiture de Mad'In (48.8 km), noisettes et pousses de salade, which translates as an assortment of regional cheeses, Mad'In jam (48.8 km), hazelnuts and salad leaves.
The above photographs does a good job in making this assortment appetising, but the reality was somewhat different. The cheese was cold, and they couldn't tell me the different varieties presented (and frankly I'm not convinced they were local cheeses). On top of that they forgot to provide any bread, etc.
I mentioned that I was less than impressed, and the waiter agreed with me saying that the hotel was still "running in" and they must do better with the cheese offering. Frankly I expected a cheese trolley, and I don't understand why they offered something that was not perfect!
So we were less than convinced with the restaurant.
The next morning, breakfast was presented in the same restaurant area, but as a buffet with a freshly prepared egg option. Excellent service and lots of options, so no negatives, except that there was no natural yogurt for my wife.
Above we can see the spa and pool area in the basement area. I'm not sure that the final design correspond to the above, but certainly we can see the outdoor pool, with access from the spa area.
The hotel has a hamman and two saunas. One sauna was set at 40°C to 75°C and the other at 75°C to 100°C. I tried out the hotter of the two (set at 90°C) which was perfect. However the cooler sauna was too cold and the hamman appeared also to be set below an optimum temperature. I was happy with the hotter sauna, and the pool access. The only comment I would have was to put a wooden floor over the hot floor tiles in the sauna.
We tried this hotel as an alternative to the 5-star Royal Champagne. It's not perfect, and in particular the restaurant was less than convincing and perhaps a bit over priced for what was on offer. I also found the price of Champagnes overly expensive for a hotel in the region. The buffet breakfast was perfect, and the staff were friendly, and clearly trying to create a special type of luxury atmosphere. It's worth a second visit.
A point worth noting is that the hotel did not have any electric-car charging points, but they told me they were planned for the near future.
One thing that I felt was a bit over-the-top was being inundated with messages, and with an overly effervescent language, examples:-
"We are bursting with joy that YOU want to be part of our LOISIUM community"
"We can not wait to welcoming you!…" (sent twice)
"We can not wait to see you walk into our establishment"
After we left we received a request for our opinion on our stay. Perfectly reasonable, but with a language "everything beautiful comes to end", and "we are excited to hear your impressions".
We appeared to get many messages twice, one from the hotel and one through Booking.
On the positive side they were quick to respond to our questions about parking and a walk-in shower, and to inform us that they did not have room service, and that they could book us a table.