During my most recent trip to Paris (I can’t get enough of this amazing city), I wanted to visit the Champagne region for a tour of a “champagne house”. I’ve been curious about this infamous appellation-controlled sparkling wine for quite some time now. I’d heard a bit about the region’s unique champagne caves, too, which sounded so, so interesting!
Once I’d decided I was going for sure, I researched a bit online for Champagne region tours, and found out there are a lot of organized tours. I did contact a few companies, and I was even quoted 1,000 € for a private day-trip tour (umm no! I’m not sure who they thought they were emailing … that was just way over my budget. See the bottom of this posts for this day trip’s costs).
I decided I’d book things myself and do a DIY day-trip to the Champagne region from Paris. This blog post about my day-trip tour may be helpful for others thinking about visiting a champagne house and learning about this exquisite beverage and its deep historical roots all on their own.
There are many to pick champagne houses to pick from. I chose Moët & Chandon in Épernay, the capital of the Champagne region. It was a tough choice between this one and Veuve Cliquot. These are the two biggest champagne houses in France, and I thought one of these would be a good introduction to this famed beverage. It was a great choice! You can book your tickets online before you go … book a few days in advance!
I also booked an 8:30 am train from Paris (Gare de l’Est, easily accessible with the metro) to Éparney online a few days before I left. Arriving around 10 am, I headed to L’Avenue de Champagne, or “Champagne Avenue”. This famous, sparkling clean street houses world-famous champagne producers such as Moët & Chandon (where I was headed), Mercier and De Castellane.
I joined a tour right away. Our tour guide was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. We started off by learning about the history of the Moët family and the Moët champagne house, which was first founded in 1743, 275 years ago, by Claude Moët. After a quick video, we headed towards the fun part: the caves!
Walking through the caves was great fun! The biggest champagne cellars in the world, they span some 28 km and go down 30 meters deep (we didn’t go that deep, of course). Quite impressive! We learned about blending techniques and the three grapes typically used to make this beloved bevvy: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
The most interesting part for me was learning about the tremendous craftwork and care needed to get a bottle of champagne, the final product. Our knowledgeable guide told us about the different distillations, and how extra yeast and sugar is eventually added to transform the yeast into alcohol and carbon dioxide (AKA bubbles!). Champagne making is a careful science and an art!
We kept walking. “We walked off that croissant,” I heard one woman say. I chuckled to myself—I too had eaten a croissant that morning for breakfast on the train ride from Paris to Éparney. It seems you can’t visit Paris without partaking in croissant eating!
Champagne has to age for a minimum of 15 months under French champagne-making law. We also learned that the bottles are tilted so the sediment can be taken out easier. Back in the day, they were turned by hand on a regular basis—the champagne makers would have turned thousands of bottles a day! Today the sediment is frozen before it’s popped out.
Finally, we got to the tasting part of the tour! Eight beautiful glasses of chilled Impérial Brut, one of Moët & Chandon’s flagship products since 1869, awaited us. We learned how the champagne can contain notes of brioche (yup, brioche), apples, almonds and pear. It was smooth with lovely zests of fresh fruitiness. I tried to find the brioche notes, but I couldn’t taste them (not in this glass at least ;).
After the tour, I took a 25-minute train ride to Reims, the other major city in the Champagne region. There are many other champagne houses in Reims, including Veuve Cliquot. A famous cathedral there where many French kings were crowned also attracts numerous visitors every day. It was time for lunch, and I found an amazing restaurant, Excelsoir Reims. For 22.90 €, their splendid “menu express” lunch (two courses + coffee) is highly recommended—tremendous value. I was very happy I trusted my gut and chose this place!
After a most incredible lunch and great service, I headed to the famous cathedral. This amazing work of architecture and history had me in awe. I then headed back to Paris with the train. There are lots of other champagne houses in an around Reims, but at this point, I couldn’t drink any more champagne! Also, some of them are outside the city, so going with a tour or renting a car could make sense if you would like to visit more of them.
Some people have asked me how much this day trip cost me. Here’s a breakdown of costs for this day trip for this interested:
- Morning metro ticket + croissant (of course) + coffee at Paul (1.90 € + 3.30 €) = 5.20 €
- Train ticket from Paris to Éparney = 25.30 €
- Guided tour and tasting at Moët & Chandon = 25 €
- Train tick from Éparney to Reims = 7.30 €
- Lunch (22.90 € + tip) = 25.50 €
- Train ticket back to Paris from Reims = 22 €
- Metro ticket to get home from Gare de l’Est train station = 1.90 €
Total = 112 €
Definitely more affordable than some tours (especially the 1000 € ones). Note, there are lots of private companies offering tours, or you can use a platform like Airbnb or TripAdvisor to find a Champagne region tour/ experience. They range from about 120 € to 250 € and up per person. Often this does not include your train fare to get to Reims or your lunch / any food you buy (I spent 75 € on these things) . If champagne is really your thing, it could also make sense to stay in Reims for a few days.
However you do it, if you’re curious about or into champagne, don’t miss out on this great travel experience!
Until next time,