Reims is the capital of Champagne and is very easy to travel to. The very fast Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) will carry you from Gare de l’Est in Paris in under one hour or you can drive there in approximately 2 hours from Calais that sits on the English channel. Epernay, another great town […]
Champagne-Ardenne and Reims/Epernay
There’s far more to the Champagne-Ardenne region than its famous celebratory “wine of kings” that takes its name from the Champagne region. Bordering Belgium, and just 45 minutes east of Paris by train, this celebrated region is a thickly wooded hunter’s paradise in the north, with chalky soil further south providing the perfect climate and terrain for nourishing the celebrated vineyards.
Repeated invasions and conflicts over the centuries have left a wealth of history in the traditional villages, monuments and countryside of the Champagne-Ardenne. It is a unique area to explore as you tour the champagne wineries that this region is famous for.
Background Info about Champagne-Ardennes
The champagne region is in northeast France with its northernmost department, Ardennes, bordering Belgium. Further south lie Marne, Aube and Haute-Marne with Marne being the centre for champagne production.
The history of champagne dates back to the 18th century when a blind monk, Dom Perignon, accidentally fermented a bottle of wine a second time, producing the characteristic fine bubbles that caused him to exclaim, “I have tasted the stars!”.
Enjoy your own star-tasting moments with champagne tasting at one of the top champagne houses which are clustered around the Place des Droits de l’homme in Reims. Appointments are necessary, so the best way to visit is with an organized cellar tour.
The champagne region is scattered with wine chateaux that give their name to their world-famous sparkling wines. The champagne-producing region is divided between dry champagne, which is produced on the fertile chalky soil, and wet champagne, produced in areas where woodland and mixed farming co-exist with vineyards. Located at 49°N, the region is cooler than other French wine areas, producing the acidity of grapes that add the characteristic tartness to champagne after it has gone through a secondary fermentation process. Champagnes are aged for at least 12 months and the second fermentation process produces the carbon dioxide responsible for the pop and sparkle in the finest bubbly.
Champagne is made from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grape varieties that must be grown in the champagne region to bear the name “champagne”. Grand Cru and Premier Cru champagnes are made by the region’s finest and highest-rated vineyards and their names take priority over the normal champagne appellation titles.
This family-owned champagne house operates from a 12th century abbey in Reims. It produces elegant chardonnay-based champagnes which command the highest prices.
Visit the underground chalk cellars of this famous champagne house and learn about winemaking and the woman who made champagne a global industry in the 19th century.
Pommery winemakers produce Brut-style champagne and their impressive underground cellars have art exhibitions to enjoy while sipping your champagne. It’s a great opportunity to taste their Apanage Rosé which has hints of strawberry.
The oldest champagne house in Reims, Ruinart was founded in 1729.
Stroll down the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay to visit Perrier-Jouët which is best known for its collectible Art-Nouveau-style bottles.
Highlights of Champagne-Ardenne
No visit to the Champagne-Ardenne would be complete without seeing the renowned French-Gothic cathedral and royal Palais du Tau at Reims. Both are National Monuments and UNESCO-listed sites.
The 149-metre-long Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral was built between 1211 and 1480 and was where 32 French kings were crowned. Unique sculptures such as the “smiling angel” and outstanding stained glass by Marc Chagall make this a beautiful church. The Cathedral Museum is housed in Tau Palace. The oldest structure in Reims is the Roman-built Mars Gate, a magnificent triple triumphal arch.
Best known as the capital of the champagne-producing region, Epernay is a prosperous town of 19th century townhouses and mansions where wealthy champagne traders lived. Surrounding by vine-covered hills, it is a wonderful place for enjoying a champagne wine-tasting dégustation experience. Most historic buildings date back to the 19th century with the exception of the Portail Saint Martin, the 16th century doorway to the original Notre-Dame Church. Explore the Chateau-Perrier villa and gardens and leave time to enjoy the outstanding parks with their colourful flowerbeds.
Troyes offers a range of Renaissance and Mediaeval buildings, museums and churches with outstanding summer gardens. As a textile centre, it has the largest concentration of designer discount shops where you can buy Paris fashions at huge discounts.
Home of famous AOC cheese, Langres has extensive ramparts dating back over 2,000 years that can still be walked along.
With its hilltop castle (Charlemont Fort) and riverside location, Givet attracts thousands of visitors to its historic Onion Fair in November.
Become a champagne expert with a champagne-tasting tour, collect souvenir champagne glasses, pickup bargain fashions in Troyes, walk the city walls in Langres and marvel at the beauty of Reims Cathedral. Wash down the local delicacies of andouillette sausages and delicate rose cookies with your favourite champagne and make sure you take a case home as a memorable souvenir of your visit!.