There is only one place in the world where champagne can be made and it’s in the region that bears its name. You will find an endless variety of the bubbly here in all price ranges, but you will also find a selection of villages that will have you overusing the word “quaint.”
If you want to go to Champagne, you should fly into Paris. From there you can either take Rail Europe or rent a car and drive through the countryside. Either way, it will take less than two hours before you arrive in Reims in the Champagne-Ardienne region.
Make sure you leave plenty of time in Reims to visit Veuve Clicquot. In addition to some of the most extensive champagne caves you will ever see, hearing the store of Madam Clicquot – the first woman to take over a champagne house after her husband died – is fascinating in itself. The fact that she continued what became the second largest champagne brand in the world is even more amazing. Only Moet Chandon, a sister company, is larger.
Krug, the world’s most expensive champagne, is also located in Reims. This is a much smaller house than Veuve Clicquot or Moet Chandon, fortified by tradition and delicately made batches of the wine. In fact, a bottle may actually contain 100 or more different wines blended together. The Krug caves, though not as extensive of those at Veuve Clicquot, are also worth a visit.
Reims is about more than just Champagne. Despite the fact that more than 80% of this town was destroyed in World War I, the city has been restored and modernized, giving it a nice mix of ancient cathedrals and monument, along with a brand new tram to take visitors around. There’s also the Bibliotheque, a library made possible by a donation from American Andrew Carnegie.
The accommodations in Reims vary dramatically from the very regal Le Chateau at Les Crayeres, to Hotel de la Paix, a modern Best Western offering with all the comforts of home — with the addition of a European breakfast filled with cheese, yogurt, fruit and croissants.
Hautvillers is about as quaint as they come, with cobblestone streets full of tiny shops and champagne houses. It is the town that was once home to the monk who created champagne, Dom Perignon. Some of this village looks like it could easily date back to the year 658. It is now, however, the place of nearly 70 wine growers and many inhabitants during the summer months. Champagne Tribaut is one of those family run houses that is worth a stop – and a taste.
From Hautvillers, head to Epernay, which is the capital of the Champagne-Ardienne region. Here the champagne houses, like Perrier-Jouet, Paul Roger and Moet & Chandon, line the roads and welcome visitors. Take the “Little Train” for a good glimpse of them all before you decide where to settle in for the afternoon. Don’t be surprised to find some champagne samples waiting for you when you get off the tram.
If you have some time to stay in Epernay, the Hotel Jean Moet is a charming bed and breakfast and around the corner from a perfect place for dinner – La Cave A Champagne. Then head over to Trėpail, where Madam Maizieres is the ultimate multitasker. Within her property she has created a fun robotic intro to the drink and the region, Pré en Bulles , runs an inn and makes her own champagne! As amazing as that sounds, there’s nothing that “tops” Pershing Bar, the champagne treehouse bar in the middle of the woods of Parc Arboxygene!
Before heading back to reality, finish off your trip to Champagne with some medieval. Le Maison de Rhodes in Troyes is a hotel that belonged to the Knights Templar of the Malta during the 12th century. Each room is unique and the restaurant downstairs has incredible Beef Bourguignon.