In Champagne, there are a multitude of essential experiences to do:
Walk the huge champagne cellars
No visit to Champagne would be complete without a visit to the famous Champagne cellars where dozens are stored, if not hundreds of millions of bottles of champagne protected from light and heat!
Two cities concentrate the most impressive sites:
- The cellars of Reims , extending over 120 kilometers of underground galleries , enjoy a worldwide reputation. Some of the biggest champagne houses are located on the slopes of the Saint-Nicaise hill , with galleries called "crayères".
- Ruinart House(4 rue des Crayères, Reims) which offers an exceptional visit of its Gallo-Roman chalk pits accompanied by a tasting of its grands crus
- Taittinger House (9 pl St-Nicaise, Reims) where 15 million bottles are stored
- House Vranken-Pommery (5 impasse General-Gouraud, Reims) where, beyond the 120 chalkboards connected by 18 kilometers of galleries, it is possible to rave about a lightning (huge barrel) of 75,000 liters, or 100,000 bottles!
- GH House . Mumm ( 34 rue du Champ de Mars, Reims): three visits allow curious and enlightened amateurs to discover or deepen their knowledge in the art of tasting. At the end of the visit, you can visit a museum on the making of Champagne before tasting one of the exceptional cuvées of the House.
- A little further south, Epernay , considered as the " Capital of Champagne ", has close to110 kilometers of underground cellars for 130 kilometers of roads! In total, no less than 200 million bottles are stored in the chalk cellars of Épernay by Moët & Chandon , Mercier or De Castellane .
And if these huge galleries are now used to store precious bottles, it should be noted that they have also, because of their strength, served as shelters during periods of war. Only one major incident is to be deplored: the collapse in 1990 of the cellars of the House Pol Roger which led to the burial of 1.5 million bottles!
Inside the chalk of the Ruinart House in Reims © Maison Ruinart
Walk in the footsteps of the Kings of France
If you remember your history lessons, you will certainly remember that Reims was the city of the coronation of the Kings of France for nearly eight centuries, from 1223 to 1825. The Cathedral Notre-Dame of Reims , one of the most large and most beautiful cathedrals of France and the Christian world, symbolizes the fascinating heritage of the city in the history of our country . A jewel of Gothic architecture, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for nearly 25 years, the Cathedral impresses with its majestic volumes (138 meters long, vaulted height of 38 meters for towers rising to 81 meters) and by its elegant lines. We will not miss to admire the Angel with the Smile , famousstatue located at the north gate of the west facade.
Adjacent to the Cathedral, the Palace of the Tau , also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also worth a visit. This palace of the XII century in the form of T ( tau in Greek, which gave it this curious name), which was the place of residence of the archbishops of Rheims, served as a place of residence for the king and his suite on the occasion of the coronation. . All that remains is to appeal to his imagination to relive the coronations and the great ceremony of the coronation ...
To improvise a picnic in the heart of the vineyards
Before being stored in the famous cellars (see above), the Champagne wine owes its origin to some 34,500 hectares of vineyards in the region . In this environment partially classified as World Heritage by UNESCO since July 2015, plenary vineyard landscapes are offered to travelers.
What's more natural than enjoying a unique setting to improvise a picnic and uncork a bottle of champagne in the middle of the vineyards? The Made in Champagne blog proposes five places " which are full of the view " to picnic in style , the heights of Hautvillers (" the most romantic" ) in the village of Grauves near Epernay ("exceptional panorama) through the inevitable Champagne Park in Reims (but without the vineyards ...).
View of vineyards in Grauves, south of Epernay: an ideal spot for a picnic © Made in Champagne
Visit the village of Dom Pérignon
Those who have never dreamed of having a bottle of Dom Pérignon, especially during the end of year festivities, raise their hands. For any champagne lover, the name of Dom Pérignon is synonymous with prestige and excellence . The reason ? Dom Pérignon is a vintage cuvée elaborated, in exceptional years, by the house Moët & Chandon and considered as one of the best champagnes of the world.
At the origin of this mythical name, a man who forever marked the history of the most famous sparkling wines. It is indeed a certain Dom Pérignon , monk of the Benedictine abbey of Hautvillers , who will be the first in 1670 to introduce a technique of assembly of the grapes to improve the quality of the wine. Legend has it that for the first time he also had the bottles reinforced to prevent the glass from exploding under the pressure of the bubbles or to use a cork that was held in the bottle by an oil-impregnated hemp string ( !) to keep the freshness and froth of the wine.
In the streets of Hautvillers ©CC Jim Woulfe
To visit Hautvillers , charming village perched at more than 200 meters of altitude on the southern slope of the Mountain of Reims, it is therefore the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of this mythical name of the champagne while being collected in the abbey church Saint-Sindulphe where he has been resting since 1715. Or more joyously, by taking part in the exceptional Dom Perignon Workshops , sessions reserved for a few happy few who, for the tidy sum of 600 €; will be able to taste some of the best cuvées of the house!
More modestly, the highly recommendable bar-bistrot Au 36 allows you to taste excellent single-varietal champagnes at much more affordable prices.
Go to the beach ... at Der Lake!
48 km2 is the area of Lac du Der at the limit of the Marne (51) and Haute-Marne. An unknown lake whose surface is 50% higher than Lake Annecy! This lake, which turns out to be the largest artificial lake in Europe, is particularly popular with locals who love the beach on sunny days.
The rest of the year is the hiking trails in the adjacent forest that make the lake famous in eastern France. It must be said that the place is famous for its flora and fauna. Nearly 300 species of birds (greylag geese, white-tailed eagles, herons, Bewicl swans, whistling ducks, ospreys, terns ...) have been observed in this ecosystem born from the human hand. In the fall (usually in November), the spectacular migration of Scandinavian cranes to warmer climates in southern Spain or northern Africa is a delight for ornithologists .It is indeed not less than 200,000 birds of the species that would step on the lake each year!
Aerial view of Der Lake © P. BOurguignon / Tourism in Champagne
Fill up on champagne!
- The champagnes champagnes
Louis Roederer, Ruinart, Veuve Cliquot ... these champagne houses are famous in France and all over the world.However, Champagne is not just a big brand with perfectly controlled marketing. " For the same price, some offer sharper products than brands, " says Benjamin Cherrière, a specialist in these champagnes that are not found in supermarkets. Among these winemaking champagnes (more than 4,000 in total) for less than € 30, a panel of great French sommeliers brought together by Capital magazine recommends Diebolt-Vallois (Prestige cuvée, blanc de blancs) and Egly-Ouriet (cuvée). Brut Tradition grand cru), the De Sousa (reserve cuvée, blanc de blancs). Or the Emmanuel Brochet (vintage Le Mont Benoît, Premier Cru), a champagne described as " tense, chiselled, and carried by a powerful bubble " by Antoine Pétrus, Best Worker of France in Sommellerie (2011) and Director of the Restaurant Le Clarence .
- Young Talents of Champagne
As for the Young Talents Champagne operation (organized since 2012 in the form of a competition organized around four categories: Chardonnay, Pinot, Rosé and Assemblage), its objective is to promote the young winemakers who vinify, develop bottle and market their own champagne, thus rewarding their know-how and their products. Find here all the winners of the 2016 edition to discover the list of great champagne of tomorrow and think outside the box!
- The label "Vineyards and discoveries"
No less than eight territories are labeled Vignobles & Découvertes in the Champagne appellation area. These different territories make it possible to discover so many facets of champagne thanks to the diversity of soils, the variety of climates or winemaking practices.In total, we find in these territories nearly 500 providers in Champagne who undertake to respect a demanding specifications to guarantee the quality of the reception of the visitors. Particular sensitivity to the world of wine, ability to accommodate in a foreign language, taste of the transmission, authenticity, openness to the heritage, whether natural, cultural or human are thus part of the criteria taken into account for the award of the label .
The winery of Diebolt Vallois producer © Remi Loisel - Amarante Studio for Diebolt Vallois
Browse the roads of the Montagne de Reims
Large plateau of 50,000 hectares culminating at nearly 300 meters above sea level, the Regional Natural Park of the Montagne de Reims, wedged between Reims to the north and Epernay to the south, deserves its roadtrip . Between forests and vineyards, idyllic villages and unspoilt wildlife, the "Mountain" as it is known offers some of the most beautiful landscapes of the region .
To discover it, there is nothing like taking the D26 which follows the north coast, winding through the vineyards and beautiful villages of Champagne (we will not miss the windmill and especially the Verzenay lighthouse, from which a spectacular panorama 360 ° is offered to visitors).
Typical decor of the Montagne de Reims, here in the Hautvillers area © CC G.Bailyss
The D9 continues south towards Aÿ , in the heart of a thousand year old vineyard. It is also here that theMaison Gosset, the oldest of Champagne. We can complete the tour in the direction of Nanteuil-la-Forêt (pretty botanical garden) and Coulommes-la-Montagne (beautiful Romanesque church) by taking the D286, obviously not forgetting to make a stop at Hautvillers , the village of Dom Pérignon (read more on this subject).
Set out to conquer the historic MarneA little further east of the Reims - Epernay wine route, Champagne reveals some remarkable historical sites . Châlons-en-Champagne , prefecture of the Marne, famous for its churches (the St-Etienne Cathedral, the Notre-Dame-en-Vaux collegiate church, 12th century Gothic church listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site under churches of the roads of St-Jacques-de-Compostelle or St-Alpin ...) that for its places of memory (former seat of the Gestapo, now transformed into a museum).
Further east, on the edge of the plains of Champagne, the Pays d'Argonne was the center of attention during the Great War. For example, the Butte de Vauquois was the scene of fierce battles between French and Germans , who never managed to win. Then followed a mine war whose land still bears the stigmata (craters 30 meters deep!).
Between Châlons and Argonne the Marne 14-18 Interpretation Center in Suippes invites history buffs to immerse themselves in the daily lives of soldiers and civilians who lived through the First World War. A fascinating experience , just like the one proposed by the Valmy 1792 Historical Center (Valmy, fifteen minutes from Suippes) which relies on new technologies to revive the various stages of the legendary Battle of Valmy on September 20, 1792 , first decisive victory of the French army after the Revolution.