Hautvillers is where Dom Perignon invented the bubbles – or maybe not
CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE: In order to obtain the very best champagne, 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 champagne. It is cheaper than the more famous houses – and the city of Epernay is less than rival Rheims, the Champagne-capital. A visit to Champagne 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.
First Day. Start early in the morning and take the first taste of Champagne Tribbaut. Try a glass of Cuvee de Reserve, while studying the cultivated landscape. Down by the river serves Champagne Romain Guistel sparkling drops made from pinot meunier grapes.
Montigny-sous-Châtillon. 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 Champagne 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.
Day Two. Start a new day by tasting at Montage-de-Reims, where the tasting room is like a chapel. Here the best champagne, 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 Champagne 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. 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 Champagne where they only serve champagne from independent producers. Afterwards, you can dine at La Table Kobus near the church. Here you will be welcomed into more champagne, 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 champagne-service.
Champagne Tribaut, 88 Rue d ‘ Eguiheim, www.champagne.tribaut.com
Champagne Romain Guistel, 1 Rue-du-Rempartde – l’Ouest, www.champagne-Romain- guistel.fr
Champagne Charlier, 4 Rue des Pervenches, Montigny-sous-Châtillon. www.champagne-charlier.com
Champagne Vilmark, 5 Rue de Gravières, Montage de Reims. www.champagnevilmart.fr
Champagne Etienne Lefecre, 30 Rue de Villers, www.champagne-etienne-lefevre.com
C – Comme Champagne, 8 Rue Gambetta, www.c-comme.fr
Here to eat
La Cave en Champagne, 16 Rue Gambetta, www.la-cave-a-champagne.com
Le Theatre, 8 Place Mendes France, Epernay. www.epernay-rest-letheatre.com
La Table Kobus, 3 Rue Dr Rousseau, www.latablekobus.com
Here to stay
Le Clos Raymi , www.closraymi-hotel.com
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 champagne 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 champagne.
Round Epernay, the Champagne 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 in champagne. Outside the Côte des Blancs, most champagne is a mix of two or all three of them.
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