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Champagne region trip tips


#1

Hi,

Planning a trip to Champagne at the end of April; 3 days in Reims, 2 in Troyes and 3 in Epernay. We have a trip to Pommery planned, plus a visit to the caves of the hotel we’re staying at in Epernay (Andre Bergere).

Any must dos or amazing cellars to visit? We have a car but for obvious reasons want to minimise the driving we’ll do.

Thanks,
Megan


#2

I’ve only done the Veuve Clicquot tour which was good but expensive. We did get to taste Le Grande Dame which was so good we ‘had’ to bring a bottle back with us. I’m sure there are other tours that are just as good though

In Reims, check out the Glue Pot on the main drag. Good wine list, nice simple food. Recommended to us by two different, independent waiters when we were in Burgundy. Also Le Cornichon is a great relaxed bistro


#3

The Moet tour in Epernay is very good. Amazingly, when we went they let someone in with a small dog in their jacket front. Quite what would have happened if it escaped into the miles of tunnels, I’m not sure.


#4

Before working for The Society I was Brand Manager for Pommery in the UK - it’s a great tour. Alfred Gratien would be happy to see you in Epernay, I’m sure - it’s not a spectacular a tour (in fact not really a big tour at all) but it’s great to see their barrel room, as they’re one of the very few to ferment the still wine in barrel.


#5

http://www.lepharedeverzenay.com/

15-20 mins outside of Reims you’ll find this lighthouse . It’s surrounded by vines and you can literally taste as many Grower Champagnes as you wish. There is a small “Champagne interactive tour” , I think it’s about €7 or so, but the views alone and the effectively “free” champagne is worth a visit . This is a great place to find otherwise non commercial Champagne at amazing prices :wink:


#6

Hi Megan

Here’s a few more ideas for you.

  1. Don’t overlook the fact that both Reims and Troyes are historically important cathedral cities. There’s much to see in both. The tourist information office is always good for advice.

  2. You already have a major producer cellar trip and a visit to a smaller grower scheduled. I second Ewan’s idea of visiting a smaller producer such as Gratien that still uses the barrel fermentation on all their wines. If Gratien can’t oblige, try Henri Giraud a few km. up the road in Ay. Best to drop them a line first to ensure someone is around.

  3. There are several wine shops (cavistes) in all these places where you can buy particular champagnes. One that’s a bit out of the ordinary in Reims is the shop of the producers group called “Club des Trésors de Champagne” or similar. This is a group of quality-focused growers whose best wines are sold under the name “Special Club” in good vintages. They have fairly rigorous blind tasting criteria to meet before they can be sold. Their shop is at 2, rue Olivier Métra and I think there’s usually a tasting available. The Club’s website is here:
    Club des Trésors website.

  4. If you drive between Reims and Epernay, don’t take the direct road. Take the scenic route round the east side of the montagne. You will pass through important wine-growing villages (e.g. Chigny-les-Roses, Mailly, Verzenay, Verzy, Villers-Marmery, Ambonnay, Bouzy, Tours sur Marne and Ay). Stop off, as Leah suggests, to go up the Phare at Verzenay - great for orientation in this part of the world.

  5. A trip down the Cote des Blancs (v. important for the best chardonnays) is instructive, say Epernay down to Vertus. If you want to visit a serious grower of Blanc de Blancs, Domaine Corbon in Avize may be worth planning in a visit to. They used to offer an extended visit by prior arrangement that included things like looking at base wines in a blend, food matching etc. Maybe they still do, though of course there would be a charge involved for that. But Agnes Corbon speaks excellent English. Contact details on their website.

  6. Don’t underestimate how far the southerly part of Champagne (The Aube) is from the north!

  7. Troyes is located between the two main southerly vineyard areas of Montgueux (to the west) and the Cotes des Bar to the east. The countryside in the Aube is very different to the northern end - much more bucolic. I would definitely recommend a visit to Drappier in Urville if you are looking for an Aube house to visit. Helpful people, English spoken and lovely wines. Plus a decent discount for wines bought on site.

  8. If you want to get out and about a bit more round here, Renoir’s house and museum at Essoyes is worth visiting. Or even a trip to nearby Chaource to visit the cheese museum (yes, really!).

Gosh, there’s a lot more information, but I hope that gives some food for thought. Happy to give any more tips if I can - just ask. All the above places mentioned can cope with English. Of course if your party all speak French (or someone is willing to translate) then the number of suggestions is endless.

Good luck! - Ian


#7

Wow, thank you so much everyone. Some great suggestions and I’m getting really excited! Can’t wait for the trip to start!


#8

Read Bursting Bubbles before you go.

An eye-opener about the champagne trade.


#9

Not much to add to the comprehensive notes of the late Mr Tallis (presumably kindly taking time off from gigging with the shades of Mr Palestrina and Mr Lassus - that’s a supergroup I’d pay good money to hear), and I would endorse his view of not being scared to drive around quite a bit. There are clearly marked Routes Touristique du Champagne (and local area maps are readily available from shops and hotels) which take you through some very pretty flower-bedecked villages (with evocative names for the Champagne lover!) and some fine scenery. I don’t know Mr Tallis’s Dom Corbon, but a favorite house of ours in Cramant is Voirin-Jumel ; lovely wine, lovely people.

We did the Pommery tour a few years back and it is very well done, comprehensive, and culminates in a tasting, so that’s all boxes ticked - to the extent that we didn’t feel the need for any further “educational” visits, and just went straight for the tastings thereafter! (Incidentally, Pommery have an extensive modern art collection scattered throughout the winery and cellars, some of which is more than a bit bizarre. )

We have also stayed at A. Bergere on the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, and regularly call back to stock up on their excellent wines - I believe they are much better known in the Low Countries, and don’t really market in the UK. I have to recommend our favorite restaurant in the region for your Epernay stay - La Grillade Gourmande - about ten minutes’ walk from your hotel. (Well, maybe 10 mins there, 15 mins back…) Trust me, the restaurant is much better than the website!

Another regular call of ours (we go to the region pretty much every other year) is to the wine shop Au36 in Hautvillers, just north of Epernay. They have a good range of grower champagnes you would struggle to fine elsewhere, and some well-structured tastings (in English if required) including a comparative tasting of the different champagne grapes which is a real eye-opener. For the Grandes Marques and more celebrated houses there is no shortage of shops/warehouses in central Reims or Epernay.

Finally, to recommend one book/guide to take, I’d avoid Richard Juhlin’s doorstopper; we much prefer Tyson Stelzer’s guide and try to ingore it is written by an Aussie.

I hope you have a grand time - do report back!


#10

:grin:

You must come to our next concert; we’ve added the late Mr. Byrd to form our barbershop quartet.

Seriously, a thumbs up to au36 in Hautvillers. They also serve delicious snacks you can have with your tasting flight. And Hautvillers is a pretty village, small enough to walk around to work up an appetite. The owner is helpful and knowledgeable. You can also visit the last resting place of Dom Perignon in the old former Abbey Church.

Maybe if you want to do that sort of thing, there are similar options where you can combine a snack with a tasting flight, in both Epernay and Troyes. In Epernay, try C Comme. In Troyes, try Aux Crieurs de Vin.


#11

I know you’ve had plenty of suggestions (seriously, thanks to @Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis I think I’m planning a trip myself!!) but I was chatting about this topic with my husband yesterday because he visited Champagne with work last year, and he wanted me to mention the best restaurant he visited on his trip: Le Millenaire in Reims. He’ll wax lyrical about it for hours but the short description is "EPIC!!!"
Will you post some pics from your trip here when you return, @Meplon? :smiley:


#12

Wow @laura, that restaurant looks fantastic :heart_eyes:! One for my next trip for sure . We may get back to Champagne next month sometime , otherwise August so all these recommendations are fantastic :+1:


#13

I was lucky enough to visit Pol Roger with Pierre a few years back (I wrote it up here). Their cellars are something to behold but I don’t think they encourage unannounced visits. You could drop them a line perhaps.

We ate at Hostellerie La Briqueterie (http://labriqueterie.fr/) and the food was stunning.


#14

I’ve just been re-reading all the recommendations here as I’m off on a 3 week trip to France on July 20th. We go back to Reims for the first 3 days so I’ll be checking some of the suggestions here , then haven’t made any solid plans after that … but thanks @Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis for some of your suggestions , very useful :+1:.


#15

Leah - I may there at the same time.

Just been told I’m flying to Luxembourg on the 19th to use up a free flight and am debating where to go from there. Only 3 days so do I do Champagne, Alsace, Mosel or even stay in Luxembourg? Decisions decisions.


#16

@Tim_S, not a lot of time to do ALL those regions…:wink:. Let me know if you do make it to Champagne/Reims we can have a drink .


#17

I grew up in the outback, I like long road trips.

But when you throw in tasting it will only be one. As I’ve done Champagne a few times I’m leaning towards Mosel but I’ll certainly let you know if I head west instead of east.


#18

@Tim_S If you end up going to Mosel, I’d recommend stopping by Trier (it’s en route between Lux airport and the mittelmosel) if you have any interest in historical things - lots of great ancient Roman buildings.
You could easily spend a day in Luxembourg - the old parts of Luxembourg city are really scenic and there’s a very easy half-day trip to the castle at Vianden which is nice if you’re into that sort of thing. And you can travel for a whole day on any public transport in the entire country for €4! On the downside, none of the Luxembourgish wine I tried was particularly exciting.


#19

We had a lovely tasting at
http://www.champagne-henri-goutorbe.com/en/index.html
in Ay, which is home to some excellent champagne houses. We were looking for one that had sadly closed some years before and were pointed in the direction of Henri Goutorbe. Very friendly small producer with caves that are literally in caves in the rock under the property. The tasting was generous and we loved the concept when they started the tasting with their ‘every day drinking’ champagne :grin:


#20

Thanks @JayKay I’ll look into this too .