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travel diary: champagne wine region | reims, france

By April 5, 2014 europe, france, travel, travel diary

Who doesn’t love Champagne?

On our way to Paris last year, we were lucky enough to be able to pop over to the Champagne wine region and stay in Reims for the weekend.

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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.

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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 production of real Champagne takes place in 2 areas, Marne – where the city of Reims is located, and Aube – where the city of Troyes is located.

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.

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Wine Tours

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.

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Then we visited the first local producer –  J.M Gobillard et Fils.

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The mister go to open a bottle using this massive knife. Champagne Wine Region | The Macadames - 22

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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.

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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?

Restaurants

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.

Reims

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.

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Anisa – The Macadame. xx

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3 Comments

  • Reply Megan November 28, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I wish I had have read this before we went to Reims – I had the same problem trying to find a reasonably priced tour. We had planned to go to Epernay but as the Tour de France was there when we were going we couldnt get accomodation – next time 🙂
    We had a tasting at G.H Martel which was a smaller house and was like 10 Euros for 3 glasses of champagne, much better priced then the bigger houses where you only got one glass 😛

  • Reply Anisa November 29, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Wasn’t it crazy expensive! 10 euros for 3 glasses aint bad! Gosh I love France! Did you make it to any other wine region in France? xx

  • Reply Visiting the Champagne region France, a guide to Reims February 3, 2015 at 6:34 am

    […] I would definitely pay to go on a tour (probably the one Anisa went on and wrote about in her post here) and experience more of the smaller houses that we cannot buy here. I would also try and get to […]

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