A Sparkling Travel Guide To The Best Of Champagne, France

Dom Perignon
A statue of Dom Perignon outside Champagne house Moet & Chandon

Photo Credit: JRJfin/Shutterstock.com

THREE CHEERS TO CHAMPAGNE! HERE, YOUR HAUTE GUIDE ON HOW TO EXPERIENCE THE WORLD’S BEST BUBBLY IN STYLE   

AVENUE DE CHAMPAGNE

ChampagnePhoto Credit: Ville d’Epernay

The commune of Épernay, and specifically its Avenue de Champagne, is like Disneyland for champagne lovers. This sensational street, dotted with glorious, imposing maisons, is home to some of the best and most elaborate champagne houses in the Grand Est region of France. Some even say it’s the most expensive street in the world, thanks to the millions of bottles of bubbly stored miles below the earth in cool, climate-made chalk cellars. The houses featured here include Lafond, Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger, Boizel, De Venoge, Vranken, G.H. Martel, LVMH’s Mercier and Pernod-Ricard’s Perrier-Jouët, which will be launching a tour and tasting circuit as well as a champagne bar mid-June.

THE MAISONS

BOLLINGER

BollingerPhoto Credit: LCBP/Bollinger

Learn how James Bond’s favorite bubbly came to be the 007 champagne of choice. This house, which was founded in 1829 in Aÿ, is still family-owned and known for its refined expressions, elegant taste and unparalleled fan base.

DOM PERIGNON Dom Pérignon Photo Credit: James Bort

This uber-exclusive experience, housed within Moët & Chandon (which might be the largest house on Avenue de Champagne, with 18 miles of caves), is a treat for the senses. Learn about the history of the house, gasp in awe at the 10,000 bottles stacked floor to ceiling, and drink some stars in the Imperial Room, where Napoleon Bonaparte himself once sat (and where, no doubt, the brand’s most recent collaborator, Lady Gaga, has too).

BILLECART-SALMON

Salmon Billecart Photo Credit: Leif Carlsson

Like Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon is one of the great champagne houses still owned and operated by its founding family, seven generations later (it started in 1818, when Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon wed). Enjoy the small but perfectly manicured French-style garden and see the 100-year-old horse chestnut tree during your private tour, should you have one, while sipping on the brand’s latest release, the Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon 2008.

KRUG

Krug Maison de FamillePhoto Credit: Krug

Although this house doesn’t make its tours available to the public — it’s invite-only — those who do get that golden ticket to Krug will be treated to an extensive tasting of the LVMH-owned brand’s latest and greatest: the Krug Grande Cuvée 168th Edition, Krug Rosé 24th Edition and the latest vintage Krug 2006.

RUINART

RuinartPhoto Credit: Ruinart

The tours at Ruinart are exclusive, and also exceptional. Prepare yourself for innovation, art, light shows and more when heading down to the crayères below the first champagne house in history, established in 1729. The house also offers a sparkling brunch, prepared by maison chef Valérie Radou and paired with two glasses of cuvée R de Ruinart, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs or Ruinart Rosé.

PERRIER-JOUET

Perrier-JouetPhoto Credit: Perrier-Jouet

Perrier-Jouët is located on the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay. The house started as a beautiful story 200 years ago, when it was founded by two independent-minded free spirits who shared a passion for art and nature – and a bold vision for champagne. PJ has stayed true to this founding philosophy of creative freedom and an unconventional observation of nature ever since.champagne is instantly identifiable for its distinctive intricate, floral style: on the nose, the captivating floral freshness and finesse of the House’s signature Chardonnay; on the palate, richness and complexity as – thanks to the cellar master’s knowledge of the terroir – meticulously selected individual crus are blended into an elegant, harmonious whole. You’ll experience this with a private tour through its gorgeous cellars and meticulous, floral tasting room should you be so lucky.

VEUVE CLICQUOT

Veuve ClicquotPhoto Credit: Veuve Clicquot

Many don’t realize it was actually a very strong woman who was responsible not only for trailblazing Champagne into the region we know and love today, but for its innovation as well. That would be Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, the entrepreneurial widow of Veuve Clicquot founder Philippe Clicquot, whose legacy lives on in La Grande Dame (“The Great Lady”), a champagne created in her honor. You’ll learn all about the great lady of Champagne and have the most fun of any tour, too. There are some very Instagrammable moments, whether you’re drinking outside in a Veuve-branded Airstream or indoors surrounded by a plethora of the brand’s signature vibrant yellow paraphernalia.

TAITTINGER

TaittingerPhoto Credit: Taittinger

On the Taittinger tour, you’ll go back in time through the ruins of the Saint-Nicaise Abbey, which dates back to the 13th century, to 60 feet below ground level into the breathtaking Gallo-Roman chalk quarries, which are part of the Coteaux, Maisons et Caves de Champagne (hillsides, champagne houses and cellars) included on UNESCO’s list of Cultural Heritage. But you’ll arrive back in the present after looking back at some of the brand’s most fabulous art-focused collaborations, which include bottles created by Roy Lichtenstein, Amadou Sow and Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely.

HAUTE CUISINE

Domaine Les Crayeres Photo Credit: Jean-Baptiste Delarue + Anne Emmanuelle Thion

There are some truly exquisite restaurants in the Champagne-Ardennes region that provide perfect pairings for the featured attraction. Two-Michelin-starred and Meilleur Ouvrier chef Philippe Mille will transform an evening at Reims’ Le Parc Les Crayères, housed inside the spectacular Domaine Les Crayères — a Relais & Châteaux property that has been likened to a treasure chest, thanks to a complete restoration by world-famous interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon — into one of the most elegant of your life. His seasonally focused menu is an art form, one that, when served alongside more than 600 vintages from the most respected maisons in Champagne and paired with a majestic setting dotted with portraits from the past, is the one to beat. At Le Royal, chef Jean-Denis Rieubland’s Michelin-starred eatery at Le Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in Champillon, delicate flavors take center stage underneath a gorgeous gold-leaf ceiling enhanced by 36 spheres of blown and amber glass. L’Assiette Champenoise in nearby Tinqueux, a suburb of Reims, is another mighty choice courtesy of chef Arnaud Lallement, while the ethereal Café du Palais, with its stained-glass ceiling, is a true locals’ haunt. Last but not least, head to the Michelin-starred Le Millénaire Reims, which offers precise, exquisitely presented fare worthy of its name.

Royal Champagne Hotel & SpaPhoto Credit: Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa

ORIGINAL EXPERIENCES

Reims Cathedral Photo Credit: artjazz/Shutterstock.com

Those who want something off the beaten path head to Perching Bar in Verzy, where you can sip some fine vintages high in the treetops, up in the sky. And speaking of the sky, a hot-air balloon ride over the vineyards of Champagne is perfect for those seeking the magical. If you’re terrified of heights or leery of the time commitment, Balloon Epernay — a tethered balloon ride overlooking Avenue de Champagne — is a more manageable option. And though it might seem macabre, a visit to Dom Perignon’s tomb, in the Abbey Saint Pierre in the quaint village of Hautvillers, is a must for any true champagne enthusiast. The Benedictine monk’s contributions to the community are substantial: He is largely considered to be the “founder” of champagne. Indisputably, he’s also responsible for the most famous champagne quote of all time. “Come quickly,” he said, “for I am drinking stars!” And so, now, can you.

WHERE TO STAY

CHATEAU DE SACY

Chateau de SacyPhoto Credit: Gaëlle Le Boulicaut

It’s hard to imagine that properties like Chateau de Sacy exist, but luckily for hedonistic travelers, they do. Built in 1850 and brought painstakingly back to life by the Millésime Collection in 2017 (millésime, appropriately,  means “vintage” in French), this grand country home on Reims Mountain is an authentic interpretation of the good life. Guests are welcomed into a timeless environment, a bubble where shared experiences are encouraged and technology is not. Leave the cell phone on mute, forget about watching TV (there aren’t any on site) and soak in the beauty each of its 12 uniquely decorated rooms and suites offers, all while enjoying copious amounts of champagne. Every element of this stay has a “best of” touch, be it the exceptional Mariage Frères teas served with breakfast;bespoke spa treatments, such as the “Signature Effervescence” facial, which echoes the feeling of champagne bubbles on the skin; the “Mindful Champagne-Tasting Experience,” a clever interpretation of what the region does best; or the hands-on classes, one of which teaches the art of sabering. A stay at Chateau de Sacy is truly an ode to celebration and the art of the French lifestyle.
www.chateaudesacy-reims.fr

LA CASERNE CHANZY HOTEL & SPA

Autograph CollectionPhoto Credit: La Caserne Chanzy Hotel & Spa – Autograph Collection

Those looking for a beautiful place to stay in the heart of Reims, the unofficial capital of the Champagne region, need look no farther than the beautiful new La Caserne Chanzy Hotel & Spa. Located in a former fire station, the Autograph Collection’s first-ever regional hotel offers postcard-perfect views of Reims Cathedral — the traditional coronation site for French kings — and a stellar location central to many of the area’s best attractions, including the Palais du Tau, Beaux-Arts Museum and Reims Opera House. Its 89 rooms and suites echo the ethos of Champagne — a carpet with patterns that nod to aerial views of the Champenois hillside, light fixtures in the shape of champagne bottles, and photos courtesy of visual artist Pierre-Elie de Pibrac that represent the successive steps of champagne production: harvesting, fermentation, clarification, blending, ridding, disgorging and tasting. The vibe is also found in the cork-covered lobby walls, whose mineral tones are inspired by crayères, the underground chalk quarries where champagne is kept. While the property’s on-site restaurant, La Grande Georgette, does not play to the region per se, it does pay tribute to the building’s past via industrial décor, ladder fittings and bright-red splashes typically found in the fireman’s world.
lacasernechanzy.com

 Autograph CollectionPhoto Credit: La Caserne Chanzy Hotel & Spa – Autograph Collection

THE ROYAL CHAMPAGNE HOTEL & SPA 

Royal Champagne Hotel & SpaPhoto Credit: Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa

In the heart of Champillon, a town of just 500 that overlooks the lush vineyards of the Marne Valley, sits Europe’s most celebrated resort, the resplendent Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa. It isn’t hard to imagine that this 100,000-square-foot, 47-room eco-friendly oasis was, in its past life as a coaching inn, a pit stop for kings en route to their royal coronations: Every inch of this champagne-soaked property is an exquisite homage to its celebratory location. Royal Champagne’s very composition — quartz stones for opacity, acres of glass for transparency, terraces that showcase the grape-studded terroir and rooms imbued with varying champagne-reminiscent colors (the petal pink of a good rosé and the glossy gold of a sparkling brut) — creates a sensual, singular refinement. But it’s the extra touches that make the resort so lauded: Hermès bathroom amenities; a press-for-champagne button for those craving bubbles all day; an afternoon ice cream and champagne cart that glides silkily from room to room; a dedicated champagne concierge who can arrange exclusive tastings at the many nearby maisons (no easy feat, as many are entirely private or require a personal “in”); the region’s only destination spa, a collaboration with cult favorite Biologique Recherche; two swimming pools, one of which is charmingly surrounded by clusters of grapes; and, of course, a Michelin-starred restaurant. Speaking of those extra touches, the resort is celebrating the opening of France’s borders post-pandemic as well as the bicentennial anniversary of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I’s death in a big way: by partnering with Maison Chaumet, the official jeweler of Empress Joséphine, to provide private access to a rare exhibition of 150 rarely seen artworks, jewels and gowns that runs through July 18. Only those staying in the hotel’s exclusive Joséphine or Marie-Louise suites can take advantage of this unparalleled historical offering, so get booking!
royalchampagne.com

Royal Champagne Hotel & SpaPhoto Credit: Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa