[France] Champagne Guide to Epernay and Reims!
After Paris, our next stop in France was the Champagne region to drink champagne! Most people either stay in Epernay or Reims when visiting the area so we decided to hit up both cities during our visit to make the most of it. Our first stop was Epernay which was just a train ride away from the Gare de l'Est station in Paris - the journey takes on average 1 hour and 15 minutes so a day trip is totally doable if time is limited. Epernay is a smaller city of the two and while some may think it's boring or dull, we found the city to be very quaint and charming. It's true that there is nothing much to do there besides visiting the champagne houses but if your main goal is to drink champagne, then it's the perfect place to be!
The place to visit in Epernay is the Avenue de Champagne which is a famous street where many champagne producers are located! Big names like Moet & Chandon and Perrier Jouet can be found along with smaller hidden-gem producers. It is said that this may be the most expensive street in the world due to the millions of bottles of champagnes stored in the chalk caves underground.
You can pretty much walk in for a tasting at many champagne houses but some require advance reservations like Moet & Chandon which includes a tour of its cellar. The Moet tour seems to be highly popular so we made reservations online via its website and got a reply to show up at 3pm for the English tour.
You can choose which cellar tour to take on the day of and the only different between the prices is the type of champagne tasting that you'd get at the end - Traditional (€24), Imperial (€30) and Grand Vintage (€38).
We ended up choosing one Imperial and one Grand Vintage so we can try different champagnes between the two of us!
Our 1-hour tour started with a promotional video about Moet & Chandon (cue dramatic music and slow-motion shots) before moving down to the cellar which is one of the largest in the Champagne region spanning 28km and located 10 to 30 meters under the chalky soil. Our guide talked us through the champagne house's history and production methods while we toured around a small part of the cellar - it was a bit short and not nearly as informative as I thought it would be but it was still a good experience as we got to see the cellars where lots and lots of Dom Perignon vintages are being stored.
After the cellar tour, it was tasting time! We moved into a gorgeous room where we redeemed our 2 glasses of champagne each with our tickets.
Depending on which tour you bought, the 5 bottles of champagne for tasting were - the one on the left is for Traditional, next two for Imperial and the vintages on the right for the Grand Vintage. The vintages do taste better than the Imperial ones so if you can, splurge for the Grand Vintage tasting!
Next, we continued our champagne tour in Reims which is only 25 minutes away by train from Epernay. Compared to Epernay, Reims feels much bigger and more metropolitan as it was a major city during the Roman Empire and the traditional site for the crowning of Kings of France. The beautiful Notre-Dame de Reims was the site for the coronations and a major tourist attraction in the city!
Quite a few champagne houses are located in Reims such as Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, MUMM, Taittinger, Pommery, etc., and we ended up taking the highly recommended cellar tour at Veuve Clicquot which requires reservations in advance. Three different tours are available which are each conducted separated here - Discovery (€25), On The Footsteps of Madame Clicquot (€50), and Aromatically Yours (€120) - and we opted for the Madam Clicquot tour which included a tasting of the Brut Yellow Label and La Grande Dame.
The cellar tour at Veuve Clicquot was more impressive than the Moet one as our tour guide gave us a very detailed explanation of the champagne house's history and Madame Clicquot's contribution to the improvement of the champagne riddling method - plus the crayeres (chalk caves which had been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO) were simply astounding to see!
Staircase with all the years of vintages produced by Veuve Clicquot.
When a magnum doesn't satisfy you anymore...
The church where Dom Perignon is buried.
Champagne producer across from the church for second tasting.
Hopefully you can see that there's lots of options to tour the Champagne region in both Epernay and Reims, and remember...there's no such thing as too much champagne!
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Thank you so much for the wonderful suggestions! My husband and I are traveling to Paris and we were debating whether to do a full day tour with one group, or opt for train to Reims and go it alone! We are definitely going to book our tours ourselves and explore as we'd like. Great page!ReplyDelete