Champagne tours in France – Our favorite stops:
Champagne makers don’t go by the rules of any other winemaker out there. Why should they, if the results are bottles of such refinement and quality which will trespass any limit in terms of price, too?
But an article could hardly be the best medium to convey the magic of champagne: to discover what lies behind those portentous labels and their unique traditions, nothing is better than a tour of the French region where the world’s best sparkling wine is produced. To guide and inspire you, we have come up with our very own take of what’s worth checking out in the Champagne-Ardene region.
For a start, you’ll need to know the best way to reach the area: reaching Paris by air or Eurostar is simple enough. From the Capital, you’ll have to head East. Located just an hour away in the lush French countryside, the historical production areas of Champagne extend in between the city of Rheims to the North and Troyes to the South.
While Reims is worth visiting because of its medieval city center and the UNESCO-listed cathedral, all the bottled fun lies in fact south of its cobblestones.
Very close to the city is Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, a producer whose tradition goes all the way back to 1772. Upon reservation, you’ll be able to discover all about the production process and walk around the impressive ‘crayères’, the huge underground cellars where champagne is left to age. Going on for little less than two hours, these tours cost 35 euros per person and tasting of a precious bottle of vintage is included.
If this visit is enough to get an idea of the production process around Reims, the beating heart of local wine-making is in fact half an hour to the South of Reims: the small town of Epernay, with its Avenue de Champagne, does little to hide its prerogative. Who hasn’t heard of iconic producers such as Bollinger Champagne and Moet & Chandon, for instance? This is where they’re all made. The secret of this region are the chalk terrains, which are fabulous in the way they let the vines roots run deeply but also keep them dry enough. To taste what this means in terms of flavours, we recommend trying out De Castellane’s tours, with their bilingual guides and scrupulous representation of the wine-making process. Needless to say, you’ll get a fantastic chalice at the end.
To end the Champagne tour, head South to Troyes and discover there’s more to the area than wine: not to be missed are the Andouillettes, exquisite pork sausages available in local restaurants. And to end with some more champagne splendour, the Champagne trail is a series of personalised tours in this area, where factory shops also abound.