Both a celebratory drink and a beautiful region of France, Champagne is worth exploring – in more ways than one. Here's a round up of the cellar doors to visit (and what to pick up while you're there), where to lay your head and our picks of where to dine.
Madame Louise Pommery presided over one of the most spectacular of Reims’ historic cellars. Across the road, her magnificent former home is now Les Crayères hotel, which has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Parc.
Drink now Summertime Blanc de Blancs
Cellar Cuvée Louise
The spiritual home of the famous winemaking monk is the Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers, which is open to the public. While you’re there, visit the adjacent Dom Pérignon museum.
Drink now 1998 P2
Cellar 2006 Vintage
The story of artist Emile Gallé’s Belle Époque bottle is fascinating; the wine equally so.
Drink now Grand Brut
Cellar Belle Époque Blanc
G. H. Mumm
This is very much a working cellar, with fascinating presentations showing the nitty-gritty of champagne-making.
Drink now NV Cordon Rouge
Cellar Cuvée R. Lalou
Tucked away in the Montagne de Reims village of Ludes, this park-like property offers an interactive self-guided tour of the deep chalk cellars.
Drink now Charles VII Blanc de Noirs
Cellar Cuvée Leonie Green Organic
Hotel Les Avisés
Set on the renowned Jacques Selosse estate in the heart of the Côte des Blancs hills, this charming 10-room hotel with Neoclassical bones has a restful, contemporary feel. It’s replete with Mid-century Modern furnishings, a brand-new spa, a Wellsystem HydroJet massage space and bikes (both pedal and electric) to hire. The spacious Salute room is the pick with its vineyard views, loft and lounge. On selected evenings and Saturday mornings, guests have the opportunity to do a tasting (in French) with winemakers Anselme and Guillaume Selosse.
59 rue de Cramant, Avize
Château de Rilly
This boutique hotel in a 19th- century champagne house manages to be both grand and intimate and its location, a 20-minute drive from Épernay, is idyllic. It’s surrounded by vineyards on the Champagne Route, on the doorstep of Parc Naturel Régional de la Montagne de Reims with its forested hiking trails. Of the 15 immaculate guestrooms, choose one on the second floor with a terrace overlooking the vines. For dinner, the eight-course Menu Sensation offers quintessential French flavours such as truffled foie gras with fruit brioche. In fine weather, have breakfast on the spacious terrace with garden views.
38 rue de Reims, Rilly-la-Montagne
If you don’t want to drive…
The full-day Discovery itinerary with Sparkling Tour gives maximum insight into the region, the art of champagne and the different styles of this sparkling wine while spending minimum time on the road. The tour visits three producers – tastings range from vintage and zéro dosage champagnes to rosé, blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs and fût de chêne – and includes lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
For breakfast and coffee
Before you stroll along the avenue de Champagne, fuel up with an espresso and exquisite Viennoiserie from Maison Dallet. When you’ve made your choice, the uniformed staff will put your selection on a silver tray. Fittingly, there are champagne macarons and baba Champenois with a dropper containing local liqueur fine de la Marne plunged into the base.
26 rue du Général Leclerc, Épernay
BISTROT LE 7
The more relaxed bistro offshoot of Michelin-starred Les Berceaux is a cosy affair with terracotta walls, parquetry floors and starched white tablecloths. With finesse and elegant simplicity, chef Patrick Michelon creates classic fare such as velvety pink salmon pavé, a wafer of crisp skin floating atop, served with a tumble of choucroute and steamed potatoes.
7 rue des Berceaux, Épernay
A coveted table in the two-Michelin-starred restaurant’s elegant all-glass rotunda offers spectacular views across the terrace onto the seven-hectare park that surrounds Les Crayères château, built in 1904. Choose the five-course La Découverte menu, where the lacquered pigeon supreme with coteaux Champenois and vegetable mousseline shows off chef Philippe Mille’s dedication to local produce. Visit in spring to see the vines in flower or in autumn for the producers’ market and harvest.
Les Crayères, 64 boulevard Henry Vasnier, Reims
For taking home
ENTRE CAVE ET JARDIN
The picturesque hillside village of Hautvillers is not only Dom Pérignon’s resting place but also home to an impressive collection of vintage champagne buckets. One look at the display case at antiques specialist Entre Cave et Jardin, which also offers champagne tastings and workshops, and you’ll be wanting to add a silver-plated 1920s Pol Roger piece to your drinks cabinet.
178 rue Henri Martin, Hautvillers +33 3 26 59 39 81
SEE ALSO: Sojurn in Champagne
Top image: Hotel Les Avisés