Champagne

France

How to store, open and serve real Champagne

"Come quickly! I am tasting the stars!"

Dom Pérignon (at the moment he discovered Champagne)

Where is Champagne?

The Champagne region is easily accessible from Paris (87 miles to the east).

Champagne makes a great day trip from Paris.  Staying a night in Champagne is also a popular option.

How to Visit Champagne?

Hop on a train, drive or take an organized Champagne tour from Paris

Why to Visit Champagne?

When we think about France, Champagne bubbles is one of the fist associations. 

Only the sparkling wine from this region in the northeast of France can bear the prestigious name of “Champagne.” The name is protected by the region and is still subject to a number of legal battles. 

On a Champagne tour, you will learn the rich history of the Champagne region and all about the tradition of the bubbly wine making. You will also walk the famous chalk caves and galleries crayères where the bottles are aged on the lees.  

And, of course, you will taste Champagne right where it is made and in the numerous Champagne bars.

Things to Do in Champagne

  • Historic city of Reims, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Reims, the Palace of Tau, the old Saint Remi Abbey 
  • Dom Pérignon’s tomb
  • A prestigious Champagne house with chalk caves 
  • A small family-owned Champagne producer
  • Champagne tastings at Champagne bars

Where to Go When in Champagne?

Top Champagne houses are concentrated around Reims and Épernay as well as within a short drive.

The most famous sub-regions of Champagne are:

  • Montagne de Reims, located closer to the city of Reims and focused on Pinot Noir.  The wines produced here are full-bodied.
  • Vallée de la Marne is closer to Épernay where there is more Pinot-Meunier-based wines. Find beautiful Blanc de Noirs blends in these region.
  • Cote de Blancs is primarily Chardonnay-based Champagne region and is closer to Épernay.

Best Season to Visit Champagne

  • All year round, however some houses and some underground cellars may be closed between November and March
  • April to October is a high season
  • Harvest is in September and October. It is still possible to visit, but small houses may not accept visitors
  • Mid-December – Les Habits de Lumières festival at Épernay

Wine Tours to Champagne

If you don’t feel like driving from Paris and in the Champagne region and booking your visits, and to avoid the drink-and-drive situation, hop on one of the small group tours from Paris or Reims, or book a private Champagne wine tour

Tours will take you to either Reims of Épernay. You will visit one of the top Champagne houses, the Cathedral of Reims and join champagne tastings in the area. Some tours pick you up at the Reims train station where you can get to by the TGV train.

Private tours can be more flexible. Visit a top house or the authentic family wineries, enjoy the gastronomic scene at your own pace and even stay the night.

Best Champagne tours from Paris

Best Champagne tours from Reims

How to Visit Top Champagne Houses?

Research first, book all visits ahead and build your itinerary.  You can drive around Reims and Épernay or take taxis between the houses.  Some visits can be booked and paid for online, such as Moët & Chandon visit or a visit to Veuve Clicquot.

Tour prices per person range anywhere between 8 euros per visit to around 70 euros per visit at more prestigious houses. Prices depend on the tasting package you pick – how many glasses of Champagne, and whether you choose vintage or non-vintage samples. Most tours are in offered in groups. You can also ask for a private VIP tour.

Some of these top houses offer exclusive meals at the domaine, sometimes right in the cellars. Some of the house top management will dine with you..  Ask your Champagne private tour guide to arrange this for you. 

If you are travelling on your own, you could visit one or two big houses such as Pommery, Ruinart, Louis Roederer (Cristal), Martel, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandonand a small producer.  Smaller houses to visit: Domaine Guy Charbaut, Champagne JL Vergnon, Alfred Gratien, Champagne Dom Caudran and many others

However, I do not recommend to visit more than 2-3 visits during the day. Plan your visit carefully, and consider that some producers are in the countryside, and taxi fares between destinations can add up. 

Allow 2 hours per visit and about half an hour to move around if you are in the same city. 

Dress up just a little and wear layers as underground cellars have constant temperatures of only about 10C or 50F.

Most Champagne houses are open Tuesday through Saturday or Monday through Friday.  Don’t book anything other than your lunch between 12 pm and 2 pm. 

I marked some top Champagne houses on the map below. 

Map of Top Champagne Houses

Champagne Wine Facts

  • Black grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
  • White grape Varieties: Chardonnay
  • There is only one appellation called Champagne AC.
  • 61 villages have a cru status (44 are rated premier cru and 17 grand cru).
  • Champagne is made using the traditional method. Non-vintage wines must be aged for a minimum of 15 months, vintage wines are matured for a minimum of 3 years.
  • Non-vintage wines are more fruity and lighter in body. Vintage wines are made in the best years. They display more toasty and biscuity notes.
  • Blanc de Blancs are made of Chardonnay. They typically show citrus flavours and are light in body.
  • Blanc de Noirs are made with black grape varieties are fuller in body and have more red fruit notes.
  • Prestige Cuvée is the Champagne vintage wine from the best parcels of grapes. These are made only in the best years.

Related Tours

Champagne