When France’s iconic champagne region is only 3 hours away…you check it out! Not big champagne drinkers, we thought it would be a decent trip to see a bit more of France. We were ultimately stunned by the riverside vineyards, cool Roman caves and a growing appreciation for the bubbly export.
Reims & Epernary are the heart of the champagne region. Beneath the two cities, there are miles and miles of Roman chalk caves aging close to 500 million bottles of champagne at any time. We took a small group tour of the famous champagne house of Moet & Chandon, marveling at the 17 mile long cave housing almost every bottle the brand produces and ultimately exports. Tattinger’s caves were equally impressive but also boasted a display of Roman artifacts found within the caves. We had a chance to see the historic church and abbey where local monk, Dom Pérignon dreamt up new ideas for wine production in the region.
As a bonus at the end of our champagne tour, we visited the Reims Cathedral, where almost every King of France was crowned. Slightly taller and supposedly grander, it had a charm but we still prefer the mystery and beauty of Notre Dame in Paris. That night we enjoyed a taste of the local French cuisine, including a bottle of Champagne Bollinger (so that Jon could do his best James Bond impression).
The famous houses on Avenue de Champagne ended up being no match for visiting a small champagne house in the countryside. Champagne Le Gallais was located within a clos (or walled vineyard), with a gorgeous view of the nearby river that flows all the way to Paris. As we explored the private estate, our guide mentioned only one man is responsible for the preparation, harvesting and blending of grapes at the champagne house. We were so impressed with the place, we bought a whole case to open for special occasions!
The only disappointment of the weekend was that the grape vines were not in full bloom. We might just have to go back!