The city of Reims is regarded as Champagne royalty and rightly so due to the vast amount of Champagne houses that reside in this city. They produce some of the best Champagnes that currently exist and have rightly made themselves famous around the world in the process. Some of the world’s most famous names reside here, and they include Pommery, Mumm, Heidseck, Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger and Lanson. What better place to go if you want to find out the secrets of the world’s favourite drink?
Countless tours exist and you will no doubt be enchanted by the many varieties of fine Champagne that exist, so if you are looking for a cheap Champagne, or an expensive Champagne then Reims is probably the best place to start your experience.
The top Champagne Houses have their own peculiarities and their own strengths, and the question of course is which of them to choose? Very recently Lanson has opened their 150 old cellars to the public. This was after a £12m refurbishment which includes among other things a quite spectacular ‘cuvage’ – this is a series of steel vats which can hold a total of 5 million regular sized bottles of Champagne!
Champagne House History
Lanson has long been associated with Pinot Noir Champagne and in times gone by has served the illustrious royal court in the period of Queen Victoria. lansonchampagne.com;
If you are looking for a rare family owned Champagne house to visit, then look no further than Taittinger found at taittinger.com. What you will see some fantastic cellars that are reserved for the ageing of their fine Champagne vintage – Comtes de Champagne. if you are looking for a top Champagne House with an impressive facade, then Pommery might be the one for you.
The huge towers are rather like a kind of Champagne Disneyland, but the main appeal is the incredible cellar. The 18km of cellars are quite incredible, and there you will see an extensive array of Champagne like no other, to the tune of roughly 20 million bottles! vrankenpommery.com
For this top Champagne house there is a remarkable statistic, roughly 2/3 of all Champagne, and approximately 9/10 bottles exported to the rest of the world is produced at 290 ‘Negociants Manipulants’. This Champagne House doesn’t own many vines but they purchase vast volumes of grapes at harvest time. This Champagne house was founded in 1895, but the visit is a very personal visit which sets itself apart from the other Champagne houses.
Smaller Champagne House
As far as Champagne houses go it is a relatively small one. and in terms of the land it owns it only amounts to 12 acres. they are still able to produce an impressive million bottles per year, although they source grapes which grow on a further 250 acres of land.
If you would like to visit them please arrange in advance and they will be happy to accommodate, they will be happy to assist in terms of helping you with accommodation advise and also for places to eat should you wish to do so. The whole visit will last over an hour and it will be an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. www.champagne-gardet.com
Champagne E Barnaut
One village which I will be surprised if you have heard of is a village called Bouzy. This little village is where a number of winegrowers produce a wine entitled Bouzy Rouge, and this is a particularly expensive Pinot Noir, the reason being is that quite simply they could be selling the grapes to be making Champagne! At this 5th generation winemaker you will see some traditional practices that are sure to impress.
But, for tourists there is a quite remarkable cave that can be visited that will impress even the most seasoned of Champagne tourists, and the reason why this cave is so impressive? The cave here spans over a quite remarkable 4 floors of cellars! They have everything that a tourist would want – here you will find tastings of their luxury Champagne and a whole host of other specialities. www.champagne-barnaut.com
For this top Champagne house we depart from Reims and we find ourselves in Épernay, which if you didn’t already know is the true capital of the Champagne region. Here you will find a whole array of wine bars, restaurants and bistros – and a whole host of other Champagen related history. Champagne Mercier has an incredible cellar to visit, spanning a quite incredible 27km.
This Champagne house is owned by Moet & Chandon and was closed for a period to allow renovations to take place. This Champagne house is very popular as roughly 100,000 visitors come here every year, and Mercier is also probably the most popular Champagne that is consumed in France.
The founder of this Champagne house was Eugene Mercier, and he was a kind of publicity seeking character of his generation, a bit like Richard Branson is today if that makes sense. Lots of his past publicity seeking stunts are on show in his building including a huge wooden barrel that was built to hold 250,000 bottles of Champagne, which is a truly incredible sight.
You will see this as you enter the building, and you will see many sights and taste many Champagnes here as there are a whole host of options here that will impress for sure. For more information please visit their website shown here in the link – www.champagnemercier.fr
One benefit that this great Champagne House has that others will find hard to replicate is the fact that it is based in the superb village of Hautvilliers, and this village is regarded by many as being the birthplace of Champagne.
In this village you will find a Rue Dom Perignon, which of course is named after the monk who is said to have been the first person to start the process of the double fermentation which creates the bubbles that are unique to Champagne.
Passionate Champagne Owners
The owners are still massively passionate about their business and the thought of retirement is still some time away for them, and who can blame them when you have such a great business in such a wonderful part of the world?
They sell a lot of the grapes they harvest to the likes of Krug and Taittinger, but they still save enough grapes to produce some 150,000 bottles themselves. Not that it matters though as this particular Champagne house is doing rather well. www.champagne.g.tribaut.com;
The owner of this great Champagne house is Paul-Vincent Ariston and this individual labels himself as an ‘artisan vigneron’, and this is quite evident if you pay a visit to his over 400 year old farmhouse as this is just like walking back in time.
To fully savour the experience we would recommend that you not only taste the fine Champagne but also stay the night in his B&B. They will have a full tour of his great cellar which will impress you no doubt.
Traditional Champagne Methods
You will also see his huge wooden grape press, it looks like an antique but works perfectly well. He employs some very traditional methods and sticks to the original ways of doing things whenever possible, and why not, he has built up an enviable reputation by doing so.
Another peculiarity is that he has some rare grape types, namely Le Petit Meslier, Pinor Blanc and L’Arbanne which have been grown here for centuries before Champagne became popular. You not find these grapes types in your averageChampagne bottle, but that is not to say they are not a quality vine. www.champagneaspasie.com
When it comes to the winemakers that are the best known, Pannier is an obvious choice. Not only that but he has a growing reputation as having a particular focus on quality as he produces some truly fine Champagnes. He is based near Château-Thierry, and this is where you will find a great deal of the Pinot Meunier that is produced.
What is their speciality is producing a great Champagne, and this is evident if you pay their cellars a visit. if you get the chance, please take a look, you will not be disappointed. For more information, please check their website shown here – www.champagnepannier.com