Hautvillers where Dom Perignon invented the bubbles of champagne – or maybe not
FRANCE: In order to obtain the very best, do not just aim for the selection at the supermarkets or the liquor store. It is almost like buying a wife online. Best bet is a trip to the Champagne region just outside Paris. Here it’s full of small family producers using their own grapes to make their bottles. It is cheaper than the more famous houses – and the city of Epernay is less than rival Rheims, the Champagne-capital. A visit is a typical win-win situation.
Hautvillers is one of the most famous Champagne villages. It is where Dom Perignon invented the bubbles – or maybe not. It depends on who you listen to. Anyway, show respect in the church where the old boys are buried.
The great thing about champagne
First Day. Start early in the morning and take the first taste of Tribbaut. Try a glass of Cuvee de Reserve, while studying the cultivated landscape. Down by the river serves Romain Guistel sparkling drops made from pinot meunier grapes.
Montigny-sous-Châtillon. First of all, a short drive to the next village Montigny-sous-Châtillon, with a huge statue of Pope Urban on the hilltop. Ignore the Pope and go for Charlier where vines have fruity pinot meunier grapes.
Dinner. Before you know, it’s time for dinner at Le Theatre Empernay where the menu starts at 25 euro. You may have tested champagne all day, drinking all evening, but you will still find the key in the bedroom door. That’s the great thing about champagne.
The tasting room is like a chapel
Day Two. Start a new day by tasting at Montage-de-Reims, where the tasting room is like a chapel. Here the best one, Coer the Cuvèe, cost € 50 for a bottle. Most possibly the best you ever had. Typical annual production here is rather thin, about 5,000 bottles
In Verzy you should visit Etienne Lefevre and drink family pinot noir-based wines. Carte Blanche is the perfect choice, while prestigious Grand Cru will keep you happy through some lunches, dinners or festive occasions.
Make sure you take the time to visit the tower Phare de Verzenay, utterly useless as a lighthouse, now a museum telling the champagne tale in lively fashion. www.lepharedeverzenay.com
Epernay. However, you might want to walk along Avenue de Champagne in Eperny, headquarter of Mercier, Möet and other houses. But please stop by the wine bar C-Comme where they only serve from independent producers. Afterwards, you can dine at La Table Kobus near the church. Here you will be welcomed into more to drink, food and the best white pudding ever. There you will realise and surely conclude -Epernay is a good place – before making plans for a return – sooner than later. The train ride between Gare l’ Est in Paris and Epernay takes about 45 minutes – without any service.
Facts and important addresses
Tribaut 88 Rue d ‘ Eguiheim
Romain Guistel 1 Rue-du-Rempartde – l’Ouest
Charlier 4 Rue des Pervenches, Montigny-sous-Châtillon.
Vilmark 5 Rue de Gravières, Montage de Reims.
Etienne Lefecre 30 Rue de Villers,
C-Comme 8 Rue Gambetta,
Here to stay
Le Clos Raymi
The most charming hotel in Epernay. Former mansion to Mr Chandon (Möet & Chandon) Rooms from 115 euro.
Some bubbles facts
There are over 300 champagne villages, 17 have grand cru quality and 40 has a premier cru tag. This means that the soil is considered especially good for production, all with Cru status on the label. The current annual production exceeds 300 million bottles.
If you want champagne from an independent producer, look for marked ”RM” on the label. It means”rècoltant manipulant “, one that produces and sells its own.
Round Epernay, the region splits into three main zones: the Montagne de Reims with pinot noir grapes, MarneValley with pinot meunier and the Côte des Blanes with only chardonnay grapes. These are the only grapes allowed. Outside the Côte des Blancs, most champagne is a mix of two or all three of them.
Drink local in Europe. The French drink a glass of champagne with a splash of creme de cassis. Not a bad place to start.