I (Cookie) went away for a short weekend break to Reims in France better known as the champagne region. First of all pronounciation, I went to Reims thinking it was pronounced reem. I quickly learned it’s actually more like rance!
A big boot is required
There were four of us on this trip and before we went we planned to buy a fair bit of champagne so we opted to drive so we could bring back a few bottles without having to worry about flying with them. We booked the channel tunnel beforehand and it was £141 for all of us. It was all very straightforward to Folkstone. It took thirty five minutes on the train and then boom, we were in France. The drive from Calais to Reims was just under three hours, we opted for the route with tolls as it was a lot quicker.
Where to stay
Reims is a really nice city, it’s not too congested or built up. There are loads of restaurants, bars, shops, museums and a really great looking cathedral, so plenty to do when you’re not tasting champagne. There are lots of hotels to choose from, either in the city or in villages just outside. We stayed in the city, in the Best Western plus. It had everything we needed, we were able to walk to dinner in the evening and to some of the champagne tastings we had pre-booked.
What to do
When it comes to wine and champagne makers you will be spoilt for choice. You can obviously book tours with the big and popular brands such as Veuve Clicquot or Moet and Chandon, but it’s also worth looking into a smaller champagne house and either booking a tour or tasting with them. We did a bit of both. We went to visit champagne Fresne Ducret it was located in a small village about thirty minutes for Reims. It’s a family run business and during the tour, we saw the vineyard, where the grapes are pressed, fermented, blended and remuage or riddling. We were shown the caves where the champagne ages, it was really cool and worth doing if you are interested in how champagne is made.
Tasting at 11am!
Once the tour is over, that’s when you get to try and when I say try I really mean drink. The amount given during tasting is very generous. With the smaller champagne houses you can usually try with no obligation to buy. But chances are you will end up buying because you’re bound to find something you like.
We also had a tasting booked at a champagne house called Gaston Chiquet, it’s in a really cute village called Dizy. There was no tour, but again we tried three glasses, which consisted of a blanc de blanc, a rosé and a special club, which is basically a vintage from 2009. We ended up getting a bottle of each as it was very nice and reasonable. The vintage bottle was €33 Euros which is £28.00
Other places worth visiting
AU 36 – If you don’t have time to go to lots of champagne houses and want to enjoy the taste in gorgeous surroundings. I’d recommend going to AU36 in Épernay. The village is pretty and very French looking, it’s in the countryside so the drive down is enjoyable. You can try three different champagnes and get some food to go with it. They had a selection of cheeses, breads, ratatouille. I tried three glasses of champagne for €16.
Tresors De Champagne – This was a really cool place in Reims, walking distance from our hotel. If you go on a Saturday morning they usually have a Champagne maker there and you can try their products and have some food for free. We went on a day when that option wasn’t available. We ended up trying three champagnes for €20, but if you pair up you could share and try six different ones instead. There are bottles hanging from the ceiling and a map of Reims on the floor. So you can walk around and pull down a bottle that takes your fancy, it tells you where it’s from and a bit of info and if it sparks your interest you can give it a try.
Avenue De Champagne – This is a famous street in Épernay where you’ll find most of the headquarters of the legendary Champagne houses such as Pol Roger, Mercier and Moet and Chandon. Many of these places offer a tour and tasting, it’s worth looking into before you go. We made a quick pitstop at Moet and Chandon boutique and saw the statue of Dom Perignon, the monk who had a hand in developing champagne.
Veuve Cliquot – We paid a visit to Veuve Clicquot and paid around €50 for a tour and we tried two glasses of champagne at the end, one was a vintage. It’s quite a pricey tour, there is an option for another tour which is €25. I’d say it’s worth seeing at least one of the more famous houses, just because their caves are so huge and impressive and with Veuve Clicquot there’s a really good back story as the business was run by Madame Clicquot in the 18th century, which was unheard of back then.