Who doesn’t love Champagne?
I don’t know how I managed to forget to post this – though better late than never right?
Champagne is predominantly an agricultural region celebrated around the world for the sparkling wines that have been produced here since the days of Dom Pérignon.
This style of wine has been copied by wine makers all around the world.
You might remember that quite a few years back – based on French law – only bubbly from the region, grown in designated areas, then aged and bottled according to the strict industry standards – can be labelled as Champagne. Most other “copy-cats” are now called “Sparkling wine”.
The town of Épernay, a bit south of Reims, is the de facto capital of Champagne (the drink. Unfortunately I didn’t know this until after we had been but apparently it is the best place to head for tastings.
Coming from Australia – I had the fantasy that the Champagne wine region would be windy, picturesque roads littered with cute cellar doors where we could taste the finest bubbly on offer.
Unfortunately with brands like Moët & Chandon owning also Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Belvedere, Hennessy & many more – they have no need to provide free tastings.
I was disappointed to find that there were very few cellar doors, mainly large shops.
Although it was fun to visit the Moët house – I was more interested in tasting Champagne from the smaller producers.
Sadly, most of the tours I found were crazy expensive (over 150€ per person).
Luckily I stumbled across Cris who runs semi-private and private tours of the region. He runs both half day & full day tours (pick ups from both Reims and Ardenne). We elected to go for the half day tour which was 4 hours and included:
- Guided tour of the champagne caves (cellars)
- Visit to Moët & Chandon house
- Champagne tasting at 2 smaller producers
- A half-bottle of champagne for every client
The cost for this was only 62€ which I thought was quite reasonable.
After being picked up in a van, we took a drive through the vineyards where Cris explained the grape growing process.
Then we visited the first local producer – J.M Gobillard et Fils.
My favourite drop was the Privilège des Moines – it was so buttery and crisp – and the best part was that it was only 17€! Who says you have to spend a lot to get good Champagne?
At the next local producer, we got to learn about how the Champagne was made and we also got a peek into the cellars.
Afterwards we were dropped back to our hotel by Cris where we proceeded to take a nap before dinner.
All in all this tour was such good value and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to explore the region on a budget.
Another tour company you could look into are France Bubbles Tours – but they seemed over-priced to me.
If I ever go back, I’d love to try this Wine Trails Tour. For 7 days you get to explore the region on bike – revealing endless vineyards, forests, quiet trails along the Marne River and charming villages. The overnight stays are in hand picked hotels in different towns around the region so you can sample a new local cuisine every night. Could that sound any better?
Unfortunately I didn’t document the restaurants we visited in Reims, however here are a few picks of ones I’d suggest.
Le Parc Les Crayeres: a very fancy French restaurant set in a chateau with amazing gardens. It’s very exxy so keep this for special occasions.
Le Millenaire: a semi fine-dining restaurant with creative food and great service without being stuffy.
Chez Nous: a casual restaurant serving French cuisine at very reasonable prices.
We were so lucky to be there during the 800th anniversary of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims. To celebrate Reims had organised a six month festival filled with concerts, street performances, exhibitions and parties – all of which culminated in a magical sound and light show that illuminates the Cathedral when the clock strikes at 11pm.
It was the most impressive light shows I have ever seen.
These photos honestly don’t do it justice, so be sure to check out this You Tube Video.
Anisa – The Macadame. xx