The days of Épicerie Au Bon Manger in Reims being an insider tip for wine travelers are long gone. Today, the well-known blue doors to champagne heaven have become an obligatory stop for wine enthusiasts and food lovers alike.
Located just a few steps off the busiest city center shopping area in Rue Courmeuax, Aline and Eric Serva have created a homely place for lovers of great, unique wines and only the best yet simple food, from cheeses to charcuterie, foie gras, and local terrines. Opening the blue entrance door after a long journey or a hectic week instantly feels like coming home, and Aline Serva’s heartwarming smile is never far away.
Aline, daughter of a Vietnam couple, came to France at the age of three and grew up in the Paris region. Even at a young age, she was already fascinated by the tastes and smells of French Cuisine. She loved her father’s blanquette de veau and boeuf bourguignon, and spent her childhood discovering the tastes of France.
Before the power couple started their épicerie adventure in Reims, Aline had worked in Paris for many years as a commercial director for fashion designers. She used to have everything under control, she recounts, up to the smallest detail. One day she set her mind to starting a new adventure and focused on the idea of running her own épicerie – a much-needed break from the superficial fashion business.
Knowing the market for épiceries in Paris was saturated, she and her husband, Eric, decided to set their feet on unknown ground – far enough from Paris to have a chance to establish something unique, yet close enough to keep their links with the vibrant cradle of food trends and gastronomy. Reims was their ultimate decision and when they opened their little boutique in 2008, where they still are today, they were the first commerce in the little side street.
“I didn’t have any clue what this journey would turn out to be like,” admits Aline with a laugh, adding, “but my nonprofessional cluelessness luckily saved me.”
Looking to earn her living on a more human scale than she had known in the fashion business, she created a space for a culinary time-out and a place for intersocial exchange. A board above her product shelves reminds everyone that Wi-Fi isn’t available here and that real conversations are favored over self-focused online streaming.
“It’s hard to find restaurants or places where food and drinks are still served with love and respect nowadays,” Aline says. “But sometimes the finishing touch, the way of presenting a dish or serving a glass of wine, is the key to making a customer happy. That’s also why we have committed to what we call ‘slow service’. We aren’t pressuring anyone to finish their coffee or glass of wine, but rather to enjoy spending time here, whether talking to others or just enjoying the culinary moment.”
Landing in Reims, it was clear that champagne would be part of their product range. However, Aline and Eric didn’t want to limit themselves just to sparkling wines so they integrated still wines as well. Rigorously selecting the best artisanal producers, they soon found themselves being led toward many natural and organic wines.
Read the full story in CUVÉE Magazine No. 3 | Spéciale Champagne.Order your copy in our shop