Lovers of all things sparkling recognize Epernay, heart of the Champagne region in France, as the ultimate in wine tasting experiences. We couldn't wait to spend a day there. But without participating in a wine tour, and without a lot of advance planning, would we find open doors for tasting? We did - and here's a guide to 6 easy, diverse tasting experiences in the Champagne region.
Upon arrival in Epernay to stroll along L'Avenue de Champagne, head first to the Tourism office. It's easy to find. Here they can provide you with a map and list of champagne houses that are recommended and open for tasting.
|The Champagne Houses described here are all within walking distance|
Moet & Chandon
|Tour the caves|
The biggest brand on the block is the house of Moet & Chandon, complete with a statue of Dom Perignon in front. While their tours and tastes are by appointment only, we found it easy to schedule for later the same day or the next. You can also book online. The tour here reminds you that Champagne is the drink of kings (and Emperor Napoleon) and that you are now in the hands of incredibly capable luxury marketing professionals. Polished guides, a sumptuous video, and an in-depth cave tour ends with tasting in a lovely cellar room. Exit is through the gift shop of course.
If you are looking for a cave tour that is a little less Madison Avenue, the unassuming wine shop Achille Princier is open without an appointment. We were the only visitors for their introductory video and tour of caves which connect to Moet's underground empire.
End with a lovely tasting in the shop. Friendly service was the highlight of this tour - they even poured a lovely apple juice tasting for our young daughter. You can then stock up on their wines as well as several other brands.
Once you've seen one cave, you've seen plenty - so stop by the A. Bergere tasting room for an enjoyable sampling of their lovely champagnes. No appointment needed here, just pop in and choose the standard or reserve flight.
|Could anything be lovelier than drinking champagne here?|
Meander down the street just a bit further for a completely different type of tasting experience at Comtesse LaFond. Here we were seated on a lovely patio outside a stunning Renaissance chateau, gazing out onto impeccable grounds, and served our flight of tastes. Fabulous atmosphere and delightful wines - again with no pre-arranged appointment required.
While you certainly could spend a pleasant couple of days in the small town Epernay, we were staying closer to Reims, so managed to visit a few more legendary producers there.
While Moet is all about luxury, Mumms sets themselves apart with an equally sophisticated marketing routine that is all about adventure. Think Sir Edmund Hillary toasting his Everest climb with a bottle of champagne, rather than the stuffy kings and queens of France. A visit here also requires an appointment, however we found we were able to join a tour that was just about to start. Here you'll also get the full treatment of video, cave tour, tasting room and gift shop.
Another well known brand, Taittinger also offers cellar tours as well as a variety of tasting options at their large facility in Reims. A more casual and modern atmosphere prevails here. An interesting art exhibit kept us entertained while we enjoyed our tasting.
A visit to the Champagne region is not complete without visiting some of these legendary houses. Cheers to Epernay!