If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I have a wee obsession with bubbles. Champagne, Prosecco, Brut—you name it, I’ll guzzle it. So it’s no wonder that when I visited France I made sure to spend a day in the gorgeous region of Champagne.
First, a little background if you’re stumped on the differences between bubbly. Champagne can only be called that if it’s made from grapes cultivated in the Champagne region of France, whereas Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine. Brut is champagne, but without the sugar, while sparkling wine is just sweet. Get it? Good.
The Champagne region is about 120 kilometers away from Paris and is made up mainly of the city of Reims and the quaint town of Epernay. The area is everything you pictured it to be: cobblestone streets winding past outdoor cafés, gothic churches and long views of bright green vineyards dotting the countryside.
The only thing that could make your day-trip better is taking it all in with a glass of bubbly, which is precisely what most visitors head here to do!
There are a number of group and private tours available that take wine-os from Paris to Champagne, whether by train, coach or luxury car (you will obviously be paying a lot more for the latter). You can also stretch out your time in the area with a three or four day tour, or go it alone. My friend and I opted for the day trip, and hopped on a bus tour for about $100 which zipped us to Reims, home of the Piper-Heidsieck cellars.
The tour begins with a little walk around the property, before heading inside for a tour through the dark, cold cellars. Visitors learn about the actual process of growing the grapes, fermenting and bottling them, and how the chilled bottles are corked. You’ll get to see thousands of bottles maturing, before heading back upstairs for a taste of the good stuff! There is also a gift store where you can buy champagne or souvenirs like champagne flutes. We did this which I would not recommend if you are planning to travel for another few weeks—trust me when I say that fragile glasses are not fun to cart around Europe!
After the Piper-Heidsick tour we got a chance to have lunch and walk around town for a bit, before heading to the town of Epernay—site of the storied Moet & Chandon cellars.
This is the where the big guns are, people. Dom Perignon himself.
These cellars are the largest in the Champagne region, spanning nearly 30 kilometers under the chalky soil. If you go on your own, the one hour tour costs €16.50-€30 per person, depending on how much you plan to guzzle back. You will get a chance to snap some photos in their cellars (dress warmly) and while walking through the stunning vineyards. Of course, the experience culminates with a tasting of their bubbly, which is done in a room decorated with bottles of champagne taller than me!
Once you’ve crossed this experience off your bucket list, it will be hard to drink champagne anywhere else. But hey, at least you’ll have the flutes you carted home, right?
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