Welcome to the Champagne Heaven! Champagne-Ardenne is a wonderful countryside of France, you can experience a peaceful, chic lifestyle here. Already in the medieval times vineyards were planted in North-East France, later on champagne was served for the French king's coronation events as well, it quickly became the drink of the royalty. I'll take you to the region which is famous for its sparkling wine and show you what to visit here. You can call champagne only those products, that come from this region and produced under its rules. Usually three types of grapes are used for the production: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Learn more about this special drinks, champagne houses and French lifestyle, have fun!
How to get there?
The best way to buy flight tickets to Paris, then rent a car and you can reach the region easily by car, it's a 2 hour drive. As you leave Paris, you will cross some nice, little villages.
Stylish accommodation in a real Chateau
The center of the region is Reims, the famous champagne houses are located in Epernay on the Avenue de Champagne. We visited the region with our friends and we chose to stay in a stylish Chateau d'Etoges (www.etoges.com). The castle is an ideal spot for visiting the most important parts of the region. You can feel the real history here, the castle was built around the 12th, 13th century, it had many owners during the past and finally the whole building was renovated by the family Fillette- Neuwille in 1991, it started to operate as hotel in 1992. The breakfast includes salmon, eggs, a wide variety of pastry, ham, cheese and even champagne. What I liked the most is the style of the rooms and the atmosphere of the place.
Picnic in the garden
A great plus is the amazing, huge garden where you can just sit on a bench, grab a good bottle of champagne and have some bites of cheese, the best way to relax and enjoy your time.
Epernay and Reims – The champagne Heaven
The town of Epernay is surrounded by wineries, stroll the Avenue de Champagne, where all the most prestigious champagne houses are located. The architecture is stunning here, the residencies of the companies are chateaux-style buildings with decorative facade. The whole street has an elegant, chic atmosphere. Most of the champagne houses offer tasting and cellar visit. We booked appointment online in advance, but there are tours usually every hour, check the homepage of the house you plan to visit.
Moët & Chandon
Visiting Moet&Chandon cellar and tasting their champagne is a must-do in Epernay. We had a great one hour English tour, very informative, than we had the chance to taste Rose and Vintage champagne in the frame of the "Grand Vintage" tour. Vintage champagne usually come in full bottles, so it's great to taste two different types by glass. The chateau is itself very elegant, nicely decorated, they produce top-quality champagne. It was magical to see the bottles of the Dom Perignon maturing.
It's another impressive place to visit in Reims, the tour guide was professional, he spoke an excellent English. I was quite impressed by the place. Did you know that they produced rose champagne first in history? Madame Clicquot was such an inspiring, strong person, she lost her husband at an early age, still she didn't give up and she took over his business. She introduced many innovations, she created a more elegant bottle and she was the first who produced vintage champagne (1810). This young, 27-year-old widow (from here comes the name "Veuve") became a leader in the industry, she is known as "Le Grande Dame de la Champagne".
Authentic champagne tour in Dom Perignon's village
If you are eager to try local producers' products as well, I highly recommend you visiting Hautvillers.
This is a little village, where everything started, Monk Dom Perignon worked at the Abbey. He discovered the sparkling wine accidentally, later on he introduced new methods of producing the real champagne, he was able to harness the fermentation process first in history. His tomb can be found today in the chancel of the Saint-Sindulphe abbey church.
The place itself is worth a visit, not to mention the Restaurant called Au36, where you can book a table in advance and taste 6 types of local champagne, plus regional specialties like macaron, cheese, duck variations. We found this place on tripadvisor and I must say that we can highly recommend it to everybody: cozy, stylish patio, quality food and local champagne served. Everything was professional.
How to dress for a champagne tour?
The temperature is often chilly inside the cellars around 12-13 Celzius (aprox.53 Fahrenheit), so dress warm, grab a coat or thick jumper, wear comfortable, warm shoes. These houses are so impressive and elegant, add a chic scarf or a nice bag to your outfit and enjoy this royal place!
In the middle ages French cuisine was influenced by Italian cuisine, than only in the 17th century it started to develop its own ways, what we know today as French cuisine. Some combinations of cheese and wine always appears in most of the region, the kitchen relies on fruit, vegetables and meat, the spices and sepcialities may vary in all regions. The Champagne Ardenne region features fine, gourmet food. The andouillette de Troyes is a traditional pork product (sausage with special seasoning). The Joute is a traditional dish, it's a kind of vegetable stew. End your meal with a creamy Brie cheese from Meaux (Champagne region).
Compared to America for instance, portions are a lot smaller in France, however they serve several courses, rather than having one big meal.
We were staying in Chateau d'Etoges, so we didn't want to miss a chance to try their Michelin-rated, gourmet restaurant. They have an outstanding wine list and professional sommeliers. They serve authentic, French food. We loved the cheese trolley, you can choose from a wide range of local cheese types.
Short visit in Châlons-en-Champagne
We were walking around in the old town of the city. It's very French and peaceful. We planned to take a boat trip on the canal, but the boat service was closed for that day. Still it's a nice idea to drop by and have a coffee if you are close to the city.
Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the place where the kings of France were crowned. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass. The cathedral receives about one million visitors annually. Since we were close to the city, we dropped by and visited the Gothic cathedral and the main square only. It's on UNESCO World Heritage List.
I hope you enjoyed my "tour" of the region and you will have a chance to spend here a few days and visit these fabulous sights.