This guide, brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK), will take you on a journey through the heart of the Champagne region in France, where the bubbles flow as freely as the conversation in a bustling café. Champagne, with its meticulously groomed vineyards and charming cream-colored towns, may seem like an idyllic postcard, but it’s also a land steeped in history and tradition. In this article, we’ll explore how to plan the perfect wine-tasting tour in this iconic region.
The Charm of Champagne
Champagne, nestled in the chalky hills between Paris and the Ardennes, is a place where local pride in the Pinot and Chardonnay fields runs deep. Some believe these vineyards date back to Roman times, and their enduring quality has turned this region into one of Europe’s most photogenic destinations. But Champagne isn’t just about stunning landscapes; it’s also a place where green initiatives are taking root. Growers are embracing biodiversity and banning pesticides, making greenness a defining feature of the region in every sense.
Getting Started in Reims
Begin your wine-tasting adventure in Reims, the regional hub, just a short 45-minute train ride from Paris. Here, you’ll find bars, bistros, and wine gardens spilling out into pedestrianized streets. Champagne houses have also joined the party, with tasting rooms and taverns cropping up on some of the region’s most esteemed estates. In Epernay, the Avenue de Champagne comes alive with a thirsty after-work crowd, adding to the lively atmosphere. As you embark on this journey, remember to enjoy the Champagne responsibly—spitting is encouraged to savor each sip fully.
1. H. Blin: Organic Elegance
Your first stop is H. Blin, located in the Marne Valley, famous for its vine-clad slopes. This Champagne house has been producing organic wines since 2013, and it’s a testament to their commitment to sustainability. On a sunny day, the Blin family welcomes oenophiles to their hilltop tasting room, offering breathtaking views of the landscape and access to their impressive 10,000-bottle cellar.
2. Champagne Telmont: Sip with Leonardo DiCaprio
Follow the river to Damery, where you’ll discover Champagne Telmont, a chic compound dedicated to sustainable practices. Here, you can book tours of the cellars, enjoy drinks at the bar, or indulge in a food and wine pairing menu at the communal table. Keep an eye out for photographs of Ludovic with none other than Leonardo DiCaprio, who has invested in Telmont’s green initiatives.
3. La Table Kobus: A Gastronomic Pause
As you continue to tiny Épernay, the home of grand Champagne houses like Perrier-Jouët and Moët et Chandon, make sure to stop for lunch at La Table Kobus. This smart bistro offers a menu of terrines and fricassées. The best part? Corkage is free on weekdays (or €12/£10 from Friday evening to Sunday), so you can enjoy a bottle of Champagne you picked up along the way or choose from their impressive wine list.
4. Pressoria: A Sensory Champagne Experience
Aÿ, a picturesque town with half-timbered cottages, beckons you next. In 2021, the old pressing center was transformed into a sensory Champagne museum. Here, you can immerse yourself in a virtual wine harvest, explore rooms scented with blossom, and even ‘press’ your vintage. The experience culminates in a tasting room with panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards.
5. Perching Bar: Champagne in the Treetops
Take a detour through the Montagne de Reims nature park, a 30-minute drive into the wilderness. Here, you’ll find the Perching Bar, a treehouse wine bar accessible via a wobbly suspension bridge. With hanging armchairs and Champagne buckets suspended from the ceiling, it’s the perfect spot to savor a glass of Champagne while watching the sun set. Don’t forget to ask for a plate of biscuits roses de Reims, a traditional pink biscuit enjoyed with Champagne.
6. Le Réfectoire Vranken-Pommery: Gothic Elegance
Finish your Champagne adventure at the Vranken-Pommery estate, a collection of gothic towers on the road to Reims. Explore the ancient Champagne cellars on a tour, and then stay for dinner in the dining room located in the old refectory. Try the risotto with leek fondue paired with a glass of one of Pommery’s more affordable Bruts (€15/£13). Top it off with a delightful serving of profiteroles.
This wine-tasting tour through Champagne offers a perfect blend of tradition, sustainability, and culinary delights. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, the charm of this region and its effervescent libations will leave you with unforgettable memories. So, raise your glass and toast to a journey filled with bubbles and beauty in the heart of Champagne.
Published in the October 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wine-tasting tour Champagne
Q: How do I get to Champagne from Paris?
A: The most convenient way to reach Champagne from Paris is by train. Reims, one of the central hubs in the Champagne region, is just a 45-minute train ride from Paris. This efficient rail connection makes it easy for visitors to access the heart of Champagne for their wine-tasting adventure.
Q: What should I keep in mind when visiting Champagne tasting rooms?
A: When visiting Champagne tasting rooms, it’s important to remember that responsible tasting practices are encouraged. Spitting out the wine after sampling is common to ensure you can fully enjoy the variety of Champagnes on your tour without overindulging. Additionally, be courteous and respectful to the staff and other visitors to create a pleasant tasting experience for everyone.
Q: Are there vegetarian or vegan options available at the recommended restaurants in Champagne?
A: Yes, many restaurants in Champagne, including La Table Kobus and Le Réfectoire Vranken-Pommery, offer vegetarian and vegan options on their menus. When dining at these establishments, you can enjoy a variety of plant-based dishes that pair perfectly with Champagne.
Q: Can I visit Champagne Telmont and learn about its sustainable initiatives?
A: Absolutely! Champagne Telmont is dedicated to sustainable principles, and you can book tours of their cellars to learn about their environmentally friendly practices. It’s a great opportunity to gain insights into the green initiatives embraced by this Champagne house and how they contribute to the region’s sustainability efforts.
Q: Is there a specific season or time of year that’s best for a Champagne wine-tasting tour?
A: Champagne is a year-round destination, but the best time for a wine-tasting tour can depend on your preferences. Spring and early summer are popular for their mild weather and lush vineyard views. However, the harvest season in late summer and early autumn offers a unique experience when the vineyards come alive with activity. Winter can be quieter, making it ideal for those seeking a more intimate and cozy wine-tasting experience by the fireplace in Champagne’s charming towns.
More about wine-tasting tour Champagne
- National Geographic Traveller (UK): The source of this wine-tasting guide to Champagne.
- Champagne Tourism: Official tourism website for the Champagne region, offering additional information and resources for travelers.
- Reims Tourism: Explore more about Reims, a central hub in Champagne, and discover its cultural and historical attractions.
- Champagne Telmont: Visit the official website of Champagne Telmont to learn more about their sustainable practices and book tours.
- La Table Kobus: Find details about La Table Kobus, a recommended bistro in Épernay.
- Perching Bar: Learn about the unique experience offered by the Perching Bar, a treehouse wine bar in the Montagne de Reims nature park.
- Vranken-Pommery: Explore the Vranken-Pommery estate and discover their Champagne offerings and tours.