|The great champagne wineries based in Reims, Épernay and nearby towns are not the only ones to visit in the Champagne region. There are many more you've never heard of! To find them, follow La Route de Champagne....|
The great wineries of France's Champagne region produce the world's premier sparkling wine.
Champagnes are principally made from three grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. It's the careful blending and balance of the types of grapes that creates the character and flavor of each type and each brand.
For more information about the different types of champagne and how they are made, look here.
Some of the grandes marques may be familiar to you— Mumm, Bollinger, Jacquart, Moët et Chandon, Pol Roger, Pommery, Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot,—because they produce champagne in great quantities and ship it all over the world. It's what you find in your local wineshop, and what is served in restaurants where you live.
A large Champagne wine company may own vineyards all over the Champagne region and beyond, and may bottle its wine with a variety of names and labels. Vranken-Pommery Monopole, for example, makes Champagne Heidsieck, Pommery, Charles Lafitte, Vranken, and various other wines that are not champagne.
But there are many small champagne wineries in the Champagne region, most of which sell their entire production of wine just within Europe, or within France, or even just within the Champagne region. Some of these smaller wineries are well known in France, some are so small that their fame—and distribution of their wines—are limited to the local area.
Whichever sort of champagne interests you, you'll enjoy visiting one or more wineries for a tour and tasting.
Not all champagne wineries give tours or tastings, and times may vary, or may be by reservation only. Check with the Office de Tourisme in Reims or Épernay or book online with your chosen winery in advance. More...
Reims Champagne Wineries
Within the borders of Reims you'll find Veuve Cliquot, Mumm, Pommery, Taittinger, and many more. Most are within walking distance of the train station, or can be reached via a short bus ride.
Épernay Champagne Wineries
In Épernay the main street is the Avenue de Champagne, said to be the richest street in the world because of the wealth of champagne in its caves. You can walk down this street and pass Moët & Chandon, Mercier, De Castellane, Perrier-Jouët, Pol Roger, and many more. Check with the Office de Tourisme about visits.
Although these two main cities, Reims and Épernay, are headquarters for many of the great names in champagne, many other towns also have smaller wineries. You can use Reims or Épernay as your base to visit the smaller towns, most easily done with your own vehicle. For example, we enjoyed a visit at Champagne Canard-Duchêne, in the tiny village of Ludes.
Champagne Wine Trails is a system of driving routes that wind among some of the smaller champagne-producing towns in the region. Organized by the official Comité Champagne, these routes provide beautiful views and allow you to experience some of the lesser-known but equally wonderful champagnes, all of which are shown in lists of Growers, Houses and Co-operatives.
We took a look at the map and figured out a route that fit our schedule and needs. Starting in Reims, we drove southwest through the vineyards to tiny villages with colorful names like Pargny-lès-Reims and turned east to the lovely village of Ville-Dommange. Although we were following the Route touristique du Champagne, we got off it at Ville-Dommange to explore the village and climb high up the hill to a ruined church and graveyard.
As we drove we were surrounded by vineyards and by many signs indicating the names and locations of vineyards. It was a lovely drive and gave a real sense of the importance of champagne to everyone in this area.
Leaving Ville-Dommange we continued through the vines, passing Chamery, Rilly-la-Montagne, and other villages until we reached Ludes, where we visited the Canard-Duchêne Champagne House. And from there the route took us to the Phare de Verzenay, an inland light house and museum. Not long after that, we were out of Champagne and out of the vineyards.
There are several other routes we could have taken. Near Épernay, for example, you can visit the villages of Dizy, Ay, and Bouzy, all of which are home to many champagne houses.
Although you can see a lot in Reims and Épernay, if you have a car it's great to drive through the region and get a sense of the champagne villages, vineyards, and houses, many of which have not changed over time.