Whether sipped by French kings after coronations or enjoyed by Tsar Alexander II who favoured Louis Roederer Cristal, the effervescent wine with the coveted 'Champagne' title has been served at the most luxurious and important world events for over three centuries.
The Champagne region is not far from Paris by TGV, providing an easy escape for a day trip or weekend. Trade the bustle of Paris and its Champs Elysées, for the awe-inspiring sight of the Notre Dame de Reims, the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay and the experience of drinking Champagne at its source.
Beginning in Reims, the capital of Champagne, home to many world-renowned champagne houses including Louis Roederer, Krug and Pommery, one will find that the city is also a beacon for Gothic and Art Deco architecture lovers. The gem of the town is its 800-year-old Gothic masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Notre Dame de Reims. The cathedral features delicate rose windows and seemingly innumerable statues, including the famous L’Ange au Sourire, the smiling angel.
Continuing on to the Pommery caves, visitors have the opportunity to travel thirty metres underground to visit one of the biggest and most unusual private art exhibitions in Europe. Hosted by Paul-François and Nathalie Vranken of Vranken Pommery Monopole, the chalk and limestone-carved caves span 18 kilometres and contain both precious works of art and roughly 30 million bottles of the brand's champagne. This year, they have collaborated with Bernard Blistène of the Pompidou Centre to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Experience Pommery cave exhibits. Across from the Pommery caves is Villa Demoiselle, an Art Deco masterpiece, where Pommery hosts tastings and tours of the family’s storied private mansion.
Two-star Michelin restaurant Le Jardin Brasserie or Le Parc, located at the Domaine Les Crayères, in the heart of Reims, is the ultimate spot to enjoy lunch on the terrace overlooking the grounds of the five-star Les Crayères chateau.
Venturing deeper into the region, exploration of the unique Jacques Selosse area in certainly on the itinerary as winemakers continue to produce prized champagnes from exquisite Burgundy grapes. Try Substance, Selosse’s most celebrated champagne, famous for its richness, maturity, aroma and flavour.
Heading towards the small town of Epernay, one will find the Avenue de Champagne, said to be the most expensive avenue in the world. The mansions of the foremost Champagne producers dotting the countryside are situated atop chalk caves that house millions of bottles of the finest bubbly.
Champagne is by far and away the best place in the world to purchase the famed local product to savour later. Remember to store the bottles properly, keeping them at 9-12° Celsius to allow for fine, perfect bubbles. A visit to Champagne will enrich your appreciation of this sought-after, sparkling wine with its unbending characteristics—luxury, elegance and most of all, taste.