Champagne is one of those places where there’s truly no bad season to visit. But before you let the bubbles get to your head, remember to plan everything in advance, as many vineyards are small, independently owned, and can’t always accommodate walk-ins. The place is also very spread out, so consider renting a car or hiring a driver if you’re booking several tastings. Luckily, getting to Champagne is easy, as it’s only a two-hour train ride from Paris. In fact, some travelers opt to simply make a day trip out of it. No matter how you get there, the grandiose French architecture along the way to the vineyards will warm your heart (no, it’s not just the alcohol) and have you immediately wanting to return.
Where to Stay
Champagne is a lot bigger than it seems. Vineyards can be up to an hour away from each other, depending on traffic, so it’s best to pick a home base in the heart of the region. The luxurious Domaine Les Crayères was the former home of Madame Pommery’s daughter (Pommery was a 19th-century French businesswoman who took over her husband’s successful wine business after he passed away). The space was transformed into a hotel in the early 1980s but has retained some of the Belle Époque sensibility from its previous owner.
Where to See Architecture
When the time comes to explore, don’t just stay in the middle of Champagne. Venture to Reims, a city on the outskirts of the region, and visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. This Gothic masterpiece has an elaborate exterior with masterful stained glass windows you could lose yourself in. Mirroring the dominance of the cathedral, Reims was a politically powerful city, which was why most of the French kings were crowned there. It was an appropriate location, considering the royals’ celebratory drink of choice was champagne.
Where to Shop
If you didn’t go to the Avenue de Champagne, can you even say you visited Champagne? The famed attraction has some of the most opulent houses in France, conveniently lined up along one single street (many of the homes are owned by famous champagne-producing families). This is the key, because for a sparkling wine to be called champagne, it has to come from this part of the world and nowhere else. It’s that exclusivity that makes the bottles sold along this road that much more special. Stock up for your bar cart at home, and grab souvenirs like champagne flutes or an insulated wine-bottle bag while you’re at it.
Where to Eat and Drink
It can be overwhelming to choose between all the different vineyards, so don’t overthink it. Feel free to go to the big names you’re familiar with, but know they’re all likely part of the major conglomerates in Champagne. Veuve Clicquot is a crowd favorite not only for the distinct yellow labels and impressive maze-like cellars, but also for the company’s captivating female-forward history: Madame Clicquot is credited with inventing rosé along with many other industry breakthroughs.
Balance out visits to the bigger producers with smaller tours of independently owned vineyards. Leclerc Briant is a must, as you’ll see how its winemakers are trying to eliminate added sugar in some bottles to create a healthier, more organic champagne. When things are fizzling out and you need a champagne break, pop over to the Sacré Bistro. The chic restaurant is complete with marble table tops, and it is only a five-minute walk from the bustling Avenue de Champagne. Best of all, perhaps, is that it serves mouth-watering hamburgers to go along with a wine and champagne selection that’s equally as good.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest