The champagne region is located in Northern France. In Reims, the capital city of the champagne region, you’ll find several big champagne houses, as well as in Epernay. Just think of Moët & Chandon, Mercier and Champagne De Castellaene. Here, you almost get blinded by all the wealthiness around you. You won’t forget your visit to these companies, that’s for sure. But, if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, you have to go to the countryside. Stroll through the tiny villages and visit some local champagne growers. They are passionate about their profession and will be happy to tell you everything about the production process. Besides, you will be surprised by the endless views of the rolling hills and their vineyards.
A visit to Hautvillers should not be missed on your journey through the champagne region. In this picturesque village, the famous Dom Pérignon was born. He was a Benedictine monk and cellar master at the local abbey in the 17th century. He is also called ‘the father of champagne’. He did not invent the sparkling wine. He did, however, optimize the champagne process. The abbey of Hautvillers is in possession of the prestigious champagne brand Moët et Chandon and is not open to public. The old abbey church is freely accessible. Here, you’ll find the tombstone of Dom Pérignon. Taking a picnic along the rue de l’Aubrois, behind the abbey, is an absolute must-do. From there, the view over the valley of the Marne is magnificent. If you follow this road further, you’ll come along a viewpoint of Epernay. Be sure to also discover the village center of Hautvillers. Don’t forget to look up to the forged-iron signs upon the houses. It’s typical for Hautvillers. End your day at Champagne Tribaut, where you can taste the different cuvées in a new, panoramic tasting room.
Champagne Vincent Gobert
4 kilometers away from Hautvillers is the small village of Romery. You definitely have to visit the family business of Vincent Gobert. Here, you can taste champagne in a giant bottle. The steel construction, 12 meters high, serves as a tasting room in summer time. Quite unique (just like the view)!
Champagne, too expensive? Not necessarily! Of course, the prestigious champagne houses such as Moët et Chandon offer some expensive bottles, and even tours can add up in price. Prices are often more affordable at local champagne growers. Count on average prices between 14 and 20 euros for a bottle of regular brut.
Navigate to the chapel of Saint-Lié when you’re looking for another viewpoint. This is an old chapel located just outside the village center of Ville-Dommange, on the top of a hill. This hill is also referred to as the ‘Montagne de Reims’. What a view, isn’t it? Get you picnic blanket ready, I would say! Furthermore, an interesting tour starts at this point: the champagne tour of Champagne Marie Senellart. A must-do when you’re in this region! Sophie Senellart will introduce you to the work in the vineyard, something you won’t see during a classic tour. Afterwards, you will visit a ‘winemaking coopérative’ nearby. The members of a cooperative, which are usually different vineyard owners, deliver their grapes to the cooperative, for the purpose of making wine. Next to a champagne company, Sophie also runs a gite: le Clos de la Tourelle in Arcis-le-Ponsart. This village is about a 30 minutes drive from Ville-Dommange.
Le Phare de Verzenay
A lighthouse in the champagne region, huh? Joseph Goulet had this lighthouse built in 1909 to promote his champagne. It was a notable promotion stunt in that period of time. In the past, a restaurant and theater were located at the foot of the lighthouse. Therefore, it was a meeting place for people from the neighbourhoud. At night, the tower illuminated the surrounding vineyards. It must have been wonderful! During Second World War, the lighthouse was used as an observation post. Today, the building functions as a museum and panoramic tower. You pay 9 euros to visit both. A visit to the tower (without the museum) costs only 3 euros – prices 2020. Go to the website to consult the most current opening times.
The village of Chamery is located in the middle of the rolling champagne hills, between Reims and Epernay. I stayed there in a small hotel ‘Dans les vignes’ (or literally translated ‘in the vineyards’). And I must say, this place didn’t steal its name! From the breakfast room and the terrace, you have a magnificent view over the vineyards. It’s absolutely lovely to watch the sunset in this setting, with a glass of champagne of course! On request, you can take a tour through the cellars of Champagne Bonnet-Ponson, this is the champagne brand that belongs to the hotel.
Let’s go on a roadtrip
The champagne region in France is perfect for a short roadtrip in Europe. From Brussels, you reach Epernay in about 3 hours. In the champagne region itself, you never have to travel long to reach the next village (or the next champagne house 😉). Important note: drinking and driving is a deadly combination! Be sure to agree on whom the designated driver will be on your trip.