For lovers of all-things bubbly taking a Champagne tour in France is never enough. The birthplace of French sparkling wines has so much to offer that a single tour can’t possibly suffice to cover all of its wonderful sights.
The Champagne region is home to splendid vineyards, the maisons (“houses”) of the most famous champagnes in the world, hundreds of thousands of kilometers of underground cellars, picturesque villages, unique forests and many outstanding architectural gems. How can you possibly combine them all into one Champagne tour?
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this French wine region is only an hour and a half away from Paris, which makes it the perfect destination for a day trip. The Champagne Wine Route covers most of the must-see sights and you can explore it no matter what means of transportation you prefer: for those driving, there are 600 km of sign-posted roads; for those with less than four wheels, there are 450 km of walking and cycling tracks and 60 circuits through the vineyards and around the large lakes in the area.
One of the great things about visiting Champagne is that you get to discover some of the production secrets of this remarkable wine right in the heart of its production zone. Sometimes it is easy to forget that this celebrated sparkling wine has humble origins in rural northeastern France: the magic begins rights there, in the vineyards where the grapes come from. Sure, everyone dreams of visiting the grand maisons on the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay but why not do a “reverse” itinerary and start your Champagne tour by spending a morning among the vines, talking to the expert vignerons (“winemakers”) and learning their craft? They will be more than happy to show you around their cellars and will guide you through an excellent champagne tasting, in the exact spot where they blend grapes to create the most celebrated drink in the world. Since they work the vines daily, they are usually around and are extremely accommodating regarding visit times and frequencies. The best part of paying them a visit is that you can always buy directly from them – so after having tasted their wines, you can choose your favorite one and take some bottles home as souvenirs of your stay in Champagne.
After a morning enjoying the bucolic landscape and seeing where it all begins, head to one of the two main cities in the region for a change of pace. Champagne tours in Reims include much more than sparkling wine: for those architecturally inclined, you can start your visit with the 13th century Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame-where most French kings were crowned and anointed- and attempt to locate the Smiling Angel sculpture, possibly its most recognized feature. Follow up by going on an underground expedition to see where Champagne bottles are aged: the caves and tunnels that form the maze under the city of Reims are carved from chalk; some of the passages date back to Roman times. You can also take part in one of the food and Champagne tours in Reims: finish off your day on a sweet note and try the delicious biscuit rose de Reims, a traditional pink biscuit that is usually dipped in Champagne or red wine.
Known as the Champagne Capital of the World, Epernay is a staple in every Champagne tour. It is home to world-class maisons and trading houses and the splendid Avenue de Champagne, one of France’s 100 Sites Remarquables du Goût (“100 Remarkable Sites of Taste”, a list of emblematic places and products that are representative of the French terroir and heritage). Much like in Reims, in Epernay there over 100 kilometers of underground galleries which contain millions of bottles of aging Champagne; they can be visited every day as part of the Champagne tour of your choice.
With numerous UNESCO heritage sites, countless top-notch French Champagne maisons and plenty of culture and history itineraries on offer, Champagne surely has an impressive array of proposals for visitors planning to come to the region. How can you possibly combine them all into one Champagne tour?, we asked before... Simply contact a local travel expert: they are the ultimate insiders and can help you plan the Champagne trip of a lifetime! Otherwise, create a customized Champagne tour by yourself: do some research before-hand to know which maisons offer tours and will be open during your trip and book in advance to avoid disappointing surprises on the day of your visit. Remember you can always book directly with our select members on Wine Paths.