Visiting the Champagne region
The Champagne region is probably one of the best-known regions in France. This wine region is located in the northeast of France. The EU law reserve the term “champagne” exclusively for wines that come from this region. The region is split into 5 districts: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The commercial centers of the area are Reims and Epernay and are probably the best known.
The main grapes used for the production of champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. In the area around Epernay, you will especially find Pinot Meunier.
Also, be mindful when you are visiting the Champagne region. The second time we were there, it was “le vendange” or the harvest of the grapes. Very spectacular to see how they do it, but you have fewer chances of tasting some champagne at the smaller houses as they are helping with the harvest.
Epernay, the self-proclaimed capital of the Champagne region, is the home of many of the world’s most celebrated Champagne houses like Moët & Chandon, Mercier, and Le Castellane to name a few. It is also the perfect place for exploring the Champagne region.
A lot of the champagne houses organize tours of their cellars. We did one at Mercier: The Golden Bubbles tour is a 1h audio-guided tour of the cellars followed by a tasting of 3 different champagnes. During the tour, you learn a lot about Mercier but also about how Champagne is made. During the tasting, some more explanation was given about the different kinds of Champagne.
Where to stay in Epernay?
We stayed at Bnb Epernay studio 86 located within walking distance from the city center. There is also free parking in front of the house. This was the perfect location for exploring Epernay and the surrounding villages. The owner gives you a lot of information and tips for restaurants in the city and you can even rent e-bikes. Perfect to bike to Hautvillers to explore more of the Champagne region.
Where to eat in Epernay?
We had 2 delicious meals in Epernay: more traditional French food at Au Petit Fourneau and French food with a modern twist at Why Not. It is recommended to reserve a table for both of them as they are very popular, not only with tourists but also with locals.
We used the e-bikes to bike to Hautvillers. Epernay is not really a bike-friendly city but once you are outside the city it is so nice along the vineyards. And we were pretty happy with the electrical part of the bikes because the incline is steep towards Hautvillers.
In Hautvillers, you can visit a number of Champagne houses; we visited 3 houses. The first one was Joseph Desruets, a small Champagne house where we were received very friendly in a nice environment, an old farm with some Champagne making attributes. Here we tasted a Cuvee Nature (without added sugar), a Cuvee Rose, and a Cuvee La Bacchus. We liked all the different Champagnes and decided to buy some bottles Cuvee Nature and Cuvee Rose. Especially the Cuvee Nature was something we didn´t see anywhere else.
The next was G. Tribaut. Here you have to pay for the tasting except when you bought 3 bottles of Champagne per person. Here we tasted a Reserve Cuvee, a Rose Reserve, Blanc de Noirs, and the Special Cuvee.
The last one in Hautvillers was JM Gobillard et Fils. Here we tasted a Brut Rose, a Brut Blanc de Noirs, and a Brut Tradition. Especially the Brut Blanc de Noirs was very good, which we end up buying. Because we bought something, the tasting was free instead of 5 euro for 3 glasses.
In Hautvillers, there are not many restaurants to choose from. We went to Café d’Hautvillers, which is really overpriced and not so great food.
We also went to Haton et Filles in Damery because a friend recommended it. We received different papers with an explanation of the different Champagne they have. We tasted the Cuvee Renee Haton, a Cuvee Agathe, and a Cuvee Prestige.
Also: do not drink and drive! Always make sure you have somebody with you that doesn’t drink.
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