Champagne Wine Touring - The Champagne Trails and Routes With Suggested Stops

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"I only drink Champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty." Lily Bollinger

"Stuck again in traffic?
Is your boss annoying you more than normal?
Is there nothing worth watching on the box tonight?" 
So begins the uniquely written, useful  Discovery Guide to the Champagne-Marne Region - available at all Champagne regional tourist offices and  a must-have guide for a serious Champagne holiday visit.   Only two and a half hours by car from Calais or about an hour from Paris, you can have a great time learning about champagne in historic towns surrounded by beautiful rolling country side of vineyards, woodlands and lakes.

Eurotunnel

Campagne Tasting  Rooms- Champagne Wine Routes - Experience Classic Champagne Show tours at the famous houses or personal tours at small family Champange vineyards.

For short driving tasting trips to Champagne  take the ~ Euro Tunnel - once in France only a two and half hour drive to Reims. 


 

Only sparkling wine that comes from this region of France can properly be called Champagne. It is France’s northern most A.O.C. wine-producing region, and is divided into 4 major districts- see map.                                                        The most famous Champagne houses are easy to visit as they are mainly in the towns of Reims and Epernay. - For Locations go to -Villages and Vineryards pages - These major producers give excellent tours for understanding and appreciating the “Methode Champagne” in impressive contexts of vast and unique underground chalk caves. Included in the tour price is a choice champagne tastings – you choose how many glasses and what quality you will taste at end of tour.

 For smaller independent producers each district has a signposted wine route that strings together the villages via main and rural roads. Sign posted on these routes are the local Champagne houses that have tasting rooms and sell direct to visitors. The Montagne de Reims route starts in Reims and travels 75 kilometers south to Epernay.The 52-kilometer Marne Valley route begins in Epernay and goes west to Vincelles.The Côte des Blancs routegoes for 110 kilometers from Epernaysouth to Villenauxe-la-Grande.       

Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk residing at Hautvillers abbey -Marne Valley-  around 1700, is credited with discovering the unique double fermentation process, méthode champenoise, that gives champagne wines their effervescence. Only three varieties of grapes are used to produce Champagne - Chardonnay, a white grape, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, red grapes. Most Champagnes are made with a blend of juices from all three varieties, which can come from vineyard plots in different parts of the champagne region and from different year harvists. This gives the winemaker lots of choice and an espescially important role in the resulting qualtiy. Champagnes made exclusively from the Chardonnay grapes are known as Blanc de BlancsVintage Champagne – the  blending grapes from only one years harvist are made infrequently- only a few times every decade. These are the considered the superior years of Champagne’s grape harvists.


The Champagne Tastings  - Visit Slick Corporate Champagne Cellars  and Small Family Domaine Producers - To Get the Full Champagne Travel Experience.    

 

To get an understanding of Champagne visit two or more major houses and some smaller vinyards producer suppliers before buying.  This will help you understand the types of Champagnes available and to try them.

 Reims - is a small city with museums, boutiques, several Champagne – wine souvenir stores. There are good restaurants many offering a range of oysters and other dishes to compliment Champagne. Besides city centre independent hotels, all the major French hotel chains are represented near the city centre and on the North outskirt- Tinqueux. . Because of damage to buildings during the wars, there is no Reims old town, but to be central park near the magnificent, historic Cathedral where Joan of Arc participated in the coronation of Charles VII in1429. Here you can start your Champagne education by viewing the 20th century stained glass windows on the Cathedral’s north side.
Next to the Cathedral is the must stop - Tourist Office – 2 rue Guillaume de Machault, 51100 Reims. Ask for maps of Reims city and the area, plus guide publications to Champagne regions houses, cooperatives and independent vineyards that welcome tourists- especially the La Marne – Discovery Guide,  we mention at the beginning of this section. These guides are important as while Reims is not a large city, it is confusing to drive in and although the economy depends on them, there are no signs to the major Champagne houses –Pommard, Martel, Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck , Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin and Ruinart – so to find them you need to know the addresses and  navigate the one way street systems. To make it more of game, many street cross roads are unmarked so be alert and study your map.  See Villages and Vineyards for list of producers

It’s worth taking more than one house tour as each has different emphasis – for instance Pommard has impressive art in its cellars, while Mumm concentrates on educating you about Champagne and has an excellent museum. All have interesting chalk cellars with some of these dating back to Roman times dug for chalk pits. Other remaining Roman ruins are the Porte Mars on the large round-about near city centre Cimetiere du Nord and the Roman grain store on Place du Forum. One further interesting tourist site is the Basilica of St. Remy – it predates the Cathedral by two centries and holds the remains of St. Remy who converted Clovis to Christianity and crowned him King of the Franks in 496.

Saint-Thierry Massif wine route – Vineyard Grape production, is dominated by  Meunier, followed closely by Pinot Noir while the rest of land produces just 12% Chardonnay.
Among the  vineyards and woodlands are  attractive villages with churchs and abbeys with links  to the kings of France and their coronations
For short easy overnight stays get off at the Tinqueux junction- minutes north of Reims centre. Here are all the moderately priced chain motels and a nice Novotel with good pool. An added bonus is shopping at a massive Carrefour. If you have kids along,  the Flunch restaurant buffet is a gourmand treat and the bowling alley will keep them happy 
 

 

Accor hotels - Novotel- Mercure- Ibis and Etap located throughout region.

At Cumieres you take a different tour of Champagne region. Cruise down the Marne River information from SARL Croisi Champagne 12, rue de la coopérative BP22 - Embarcadère : Quai de la Marne 51480 CUMIERES - Tél. +33 (0)3 26 54 49 51 . They offer guided curises down Marne river, often with lunch and commentary on vineyards. On some extended cruises guided walks are included. On Weekends there are dinner cruises with cabert and dancing. 

 

Hautvillers' Monks would approve of Eva Herzigova advertising their Champage. They had the reputation of servicing the wives of the village.

 HAUTVILLE is a very pretty village famous for it being home to Dom Perignon. For Champane visits and purchases try the Coopérative des Vignerons d'Hautvillers, chemin des Garennes 51160 , Tel: 03 26 59 40 06 also the producers: Champagne Ghislain Tribaut 88, Rue d'Eguisheim 51160 .S Tel : 03 26 59 40 57  Champagne Locret-Lachaud, 40, rue Saint Vincent51160 . Tél: 03 26 59 40 20 Champagne J.M. Gobillardet Fils 38, rue de l' Eglise 51160 Tel: 03 26 59 44 20

Dom Pérignon (1638–1715), a monk  and cellar master at the Benedictine abbey in Hautvillers.  He was the first to blend grapes from different vineyards in the region to improve the quality of wines and illuminate imperfections, in 1670. He also introduced corks, which were fastened to bottles in order to keep the wines fresh. His work focused on the methodological use of the vines - the upkeep of the vineyards in the best possible condition and pruning the vine stock carefully. His objective of each of these operations was to produce a wine of quality rather than quantity. For harvesting , Dom Pérignon used only the best grapes. In the vinification process, he improved the blending of grapes or wines sometimes produced by different varietals on various soils. As in Burgundy and other parts of France the Benedictine and Cistercians monks throughout the middle ages established the great wine making traditions of France. 




 EPERNAY Champagne Touring  - An Important  Champagne Trail

CROSS-ROADS OF CHAMPAGNE The heart of Champagne tourism, joining the well-known vineyard regions and wine touring roads. Its a town of 25.000 inhabitants located between the Marne River and vine-covered slopes, Epernay is surrounded by hills covered with the grapevines with villages having many excellent small Champagne producers and rural restaurants - Auberges - with great food and gardens.

THE EPERNAY AVENUE DE CHAMPAGNE is Home  to world famous Champagne houses.  LIke Reims these major house are worth a visit  having  more than 100 kilometres of  impressive tunnels dug into the chalk in which millions of bottles in of Champagne are slowly ageing. ( See Villages and Vineyards for list of producers).


Something Special – Champagne Tarlant - Near the top of the village of beautiful of Oeuilly and well marked from the main road - D3- Epernay to Chateau Thierry - is the excellent small producer – Champagne Tarland – 51480 – Oeuilly tel 03 26 58 30 60. Like a small group of other premium Champagnes, this is a family owned and run business that has been in existence for generations , in this case since 1687.

From generation to generation,  vineyards and Champagne craftsmanship have passed down.   As in the other great French wine producing areas, you get the feeling these families have become part of the  terroir.

Tarlant Champagnes are respected and served in leading restaurants around the world like Noma - World number 1 in Top Fifty Restauarants and Eleven Madison Park EMP_ in New York voted Outstanding Restaurant in USA – 2011, rated number 24 in World Top Fifty.. A visit to their tasting rooms is worthwhile to get a full understating of care and attention necessary to get and maintain  a reputation like this.  Also it's a great opportunity to buy Champagnes for 25 to 80 Euros that sell in restaurants for several hundred Euros. An added bonus is the views of Marne river valley from outside their tasting room.  

 Rob Kihlstrom, Eleven Madison Park sommelier, samples the  range under the guidence of Benoît Tarlant.

The Tarlant mission statement could apply to several quality independents in the Marne in the champange regions.                "We endeavour to maintain the spirit and authentic values of the artisan winegrower and to create an emotional character by making each of our champagnes a unique experience in tasting."
The tasting room is open Monday to Friday,morning and afternoon closing for lunch between 12 and 2-30. The staff – most likely a member of the family who  speaks English -  will serve you. Telephone to be sure the tasting room is open the day you plan to visit..

This hotel  site lists good indepenent hotels for all Champagne Wine Routes.

 

Montagne de Reims , Pinot Noir and Meunier are main grapes with Chardonnay under 20% of production.  This   70 km drive through undulating hills and vineyards is punctuated by the famous Champagne villages names. Of special interest is the grand cur village of Verzenay and its Moulin – windmill. In Mailly-Champagne visits its cooperative Champagne Mailly Grand Cru 28 rue de la libération 51500 . phone +33 3 26 49 41 10 for purchasing excellent value champagne . Also visit the village of Bouzy where there are many  makers of fine champagne and more uniquely the Bouzy Rouge a still wine red Pinot Noir wine worth buying for the name alone. Dizy Campagne also falls into this interesting name category. From our list of vineyards by town you will notice that other villages like Ambonnay and Fountaine-Sur Ay have several producers with tasting rooms.  Along the route you will find many more signs for tasting rooms and sales, so for choice this route is excellent .  Plus there is the bonus of many fine village restaurants and  country Auberges along the way.  

The best  walk in the vineyards of Champagne starts  in the village of Mutigny -about 8 km  to the  north east of Eperany Here the growers have set up a 2.2 kilometer walk through the hillside . The walk with great views has 12 sign posted  stations .- information about the vineyards and grape growing in English and French.. .

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A Spooky place. The Faux de Verzy Trees  - Because these "faux" remain something of a botanical enigma, the Verzy Forest is shrouded in magical mystery. Virtually unique in Europe, there are about 800 of these trees at Verzy. They are protected by log barriers, but there are footpaths and explanatory panels – for an interesting experience have a sunset picnic there with a few bottles of champagne.


Rail Europe -Reims is less than 2hours by train from Paris.

 

Further South is the town of Chalons en Champagne with the Champagne house of Joseph Perrier with beautiful cellars worth a visit.   69 Avenue de Paris, BP 31 51016 Châlons-en-Champagne
Opening hours : En semaine : 8h-12h / 14h - 18h Phone : 03 26 68 29 51 - Nearby are the vineyards around Vitry -la Francois.  
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 Côte des Blancs and Côte Sézanneof harvist  97% Chardonnay – 1% Meunier 2% Pinot Noir.  Running North to South along the plateau of Brie this region is planted almost exclusively with Chardonnay,  so it is natural that it is especially known for its excellent value Blanc de Blancs featuring finesse and elegance.   Just outside Epernay is the village Chouilly home to Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte 51206 Chouilly, tel 0326 59 55 65 – a well known house with tasting room and tours. At Cramant you will see the giant Champagne Bottle 8.5metres – 32 feet high.

Many villages along this route have several independent suppliers with tasting rooms examples are the viallages Chavat-  Courcour, Avize ,  Oger– a special place is Champagne Henri de Vaugency 51190 tel 0326575089 this location has a museum of “Marriage et Champagne” , Vertus here among the producers look out for – Champagne Paul Goerg- 4 Place de Mont Chenil 51130 - they have  the world largest collection of wine bottle capsules.


Chavot - Courcourt Village has marked walk with information signs with several small producers en route.

For information on Cote de Bar - Click here

 READY FOR SOME MORE EXCITING  CHAMAGNE  INFORMATION -CLICK ON PICTURE



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