On your travels to Paris this summer, take a day trip from the City of Lights to discover the Champagne region.
Renown as a sought-after beverage around the world, Champagne has become common in local supermarkets and liquor stores in the United States. What most people don’t know is that these bottles have travelled a long journey from the historical province of Champagne, a worthwhile visit on your next trip to France.
The Champagne region, the only place in the world allowed to call its sparkling wine “Champagne,” is located in the northeast of France, 80 miles from Paris. If you are visiting the City of Lights and have the time, don’t miss the opportunity to take a day trip there.
The national railway system in France, the SNCF, offers an average of 22 trains a day between Paris and Reims, one of the main centers of Champagne production. From Gare de l’Est in Paris, the quickest route takes only 40 minutes, and prices start at 10 euros. This option is perfect for those who want to take it easy and enjoy what Reims has to offer. From its French Gothic cathedral, where the coronation of the kings of France took place, to its numerous Champagne houses, Reims is a great destination for Champagne and history lovers alike.
But for travelers who want the freedom to explore, the best way to access the region is by rental car. Driving will allow you to travel through the Parc Naturel Regional de la Montagne de Reims. This is an ideal place to combine a nature getaway, driving through vineyards and forests, with a tour of the main cities of the region.
Located south of Reims is Épernay, known as the unofficial capital of Champagne and for its Avenue de Champagne. Many world-leading Champagne producers – including Moët et Chandon, Mercier and De Castellane – have cellars located on this avenue, or more precisely, underneath it.
Locals joke that it is the most expensive avenue in the world, as millions of bottles of Champagne are stored in the miles and miles of cellars under this elegant cobblestone road. Some of these bottles can be as expensive as $400; for example, the prestigious Dom Perignon located in the nearly 18 miles of mazes that form Moët et Chandon’s cellars.
If you would like to take a tour and enjoy a tasting, it’s better to reserve a spot as soon as possible because of the limited availability in English. These tours, which generally cost anywhere from 25 to 50 euros, could include the history of the Champagne house, a visit to the cellars and a sampling of a glass of their Champagne. To buy the advance tickets for a tour, visit the producers’ websites, also available in English.
No reservation is needed to walk into most cellars. Most of them offer the opportunity to taste their products and to look inside the luxurious Champagne houses, a more spontaneous option for Champagne aficionados.
The best tim of year to visit this region is now – from late spring, when the vines start to grow leaves, to the fall, when the harvest takes place. The valleys of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapevines turn bright green at the beginning of the summer, creating a unique landscape that you won’t want to miss.
And when you go, be sure to take along a copy of Lake magazine for a ‘Where Is Lake?’ photo!