When one hears the word ‘Champagne,’ images of celebration, sophistication, and perhaps a touch of luxury might dance in the mind. For enthusiasts like myself, Champagne is not just a drink but an experience, varying in its bubbles and bouquets across different labels and vintages. There’s no better place to immerse oneself in the heart of this sparkling experience than Reims, the crown jewel of the Champagne region in France. Situated just a stone’s throw from Paris, a visit to Reims offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and, of course, exquisite Champagne tastings.

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The Unique Charm of Champagne

Two champagne glasses clinking in front of quaint champagne house in Reims, France.

Champagne’s exclusivity stems from its geography; only the sparkling wines produced within the Champagne region can bear the prestigious title. This distinctiveness separates Champagne from other sparkling wines like Italy’s Prosecco or Spain’s Cava. The Champagne region, a beacon of viticulture, initially catered to Paris’s thirst for still wines before sparkling Champagne stole the spotlight. Its status as a premier wine region is undisputed, further celebrated by UNESCO’s designation of the area as a World Heritage Site in 2015. Tourists flock to Reims and Épernay, the region’s heart, where the world’s most esteemed Champagne producers reside.

The Craft of Champagne

Contrary to popular belief, Dom Perignon did not invent Champagne but did refine its production. The méthode champenoise, or traditional method, involving two fermentation stages, was developed long before his time, attributed to the inventive Benedictine Monks in the early 1500s. This method is critical for the distinct effervescence and taste of Champagne, demanding precise vineyard practices and grape-pressing techniques unique to the region.


Why Choose Reims?reims-city-center

Reims, alongside Épernay, stands as a primary gateway to the Champagne region. While both cities boast illustrious Champagne Houses, Reims captivates with its rich World War II history and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, making it an ideal base for exploring the region’s vinous and cultural treasures.

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Visiting the Champagne Houses of Reims

Spiral staircase to the cellars at Reims Taittinger champagne house.

Spiral staircase to the cellars at Reims Taittinger champagne house.

Among the myriad of Champagne producers in Reims, a few stand out for their exceptional offerings and unique experiences:

  • Taittinger: Distinguished for its UNESCO-listed caves, Taittinger is a testament to the region’s deep history, offering tours that traverse through ancient Gallo-Roman mines.
  • Veuve Clicquot: Synonymous with luxury, it commands higher prices but promises an unforgettable experience.
  • Charles Heidsieck: Offers an intimate encounter with its celebrated Blanc des Millénaires amidst a less crowded setting.
  • Ruinart: A haven for art and history enthusiasts with the oldest cellars dating back to 1729.
  • La Champagne Pommery: Known for its innovative Brut Champagne and art exhibitions within its vast cellars.

Taittinger: A Deep Dive into TraditionRow of champagne glasses half filled for a tasting at Taittinger Champagne House in Reims, France.

Taittinger Champagne House holds a storied past, interwoven with the rich tapestry of French history. The journey to its cellars is a descent into history itself, through ancient chalk mines recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These mines, originally quarries for chalk blocks, invite visitors to touch their historic walls, connecting with centuries of craftsmanship and nature.

The storied Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, despite its destruction during the French Revolution, whispers tales of the past just beneath the surface. Venturing 18 meters below ground, guests are transported back in time, amid the remnants of history that span over 18 centuries.

In 1932, Taittinger emerged as a sparkling beacon of innovation in Champagne production. With a pioneering focus on Chardonnay—a grape that bestows elegance and vivacity to their Champagne—Taittinger distinguished itself. This focus, coupled with the meticulous selection of Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes, underlines their commitment to quality and distinction.

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Taittinger, with its expansive 288-hectare vineyard, embodies this craft. Covering approximately 50% of their grape requirements, the house further enriches its offerings through strategic partnerships with independent winemakers and cooperatives, ensuring a diverse and rich palette of flavors.

Taittinger’s dedication to its legacy and the art of Champagne making is palpable through their range of tour offerings. Whether it’s a journey without a tasting or an immersive experience featuring their most exclusive bottles, Taittinger opens its doors to connoisseurs and curious minds alike. The tours encapsulate the essence of Taittinger, blending an informative film, guided exploration of the cellars, and a detailed exposition of the Champagne production process with tastings that leave a lasting impression.


What to Wear and Champagne Buying Tipspurchases-taittinger-reims

On my visit, clad in black leggings, a vibrant t-shirt, and a jean jacket, I quickly realized that my casual ensemble felt slightly out of step with the more polished looks around me. This moment of fashion dissonance highlighted an important lesson: the significance of dressing for both comfort and context.

Champagne cellars, with their ancient allure, are not just repositories of history and bubbly; they are environments characterized by their cool, damp conditions. These underground spaces, far removed from the warmth of sunlight, offer a unique atmosphere that calls for thoughtful consideration in attire. The primary recommendation for visitors is to prioritize comfort, especially given the cellars’ lower temperatures and sometimes uneven flooring.

However, the realization that I might have chosen my outfit with a bit more care brought to light the delicate balance between comfort and appropriateness. While the informal nature of my attire didn’t detract from the enchantment of the experience, it underscored a desire to blend in more seamlessly with the setting and its attendees. This isn’t to suggest that one must don formal wear but rather to consider a middle ground that respects the occasion’s semi-formal undertone while still embracing personal style and the practical need for warmth.

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For future Champagne house visits, aiming for smart casual attire could bridge this gap effectively. Pieces that combine elegance with ease, such as tailored pants, smart blouses, or structured jackets, can elevate the casual comfort of leggings or jeans. Moreover, layers are your ally in these cooler environments, offering both style and practicality.


Is Champagne Cheaper in Reims?Inverted champagne bottles in Taittinger cellars in Reims, France champagne tour.

At first glance, buying Champagne in Reims may not seem significantly cheaper than purchasing it elsewhere. This perception stems from the global availability of Champagne at competitive prices, thanks to international distribution networks. However, the absence of duty fees on Champagne in France can tip the scales in favor of buying directly from the source.

The real secret to unlocking savings when buying Champagne in Reims lies in the approach to purchasing. Many Champagne houses in Reims, as well as in Épernay, offer the option to buy in bulk. This method is not just about acquiring larger quantities; it’s about embracing the tradition and craftsmanship of Champagne production. By purchasing cases, visitors can enjoy a direct connection to the producers, often with the opportunity to select from a range of vintages and exclusive cuvées not readily available on the international market.

Moreover, buying in bulk allows for significant savings, especially when considering the shipping of these cases back home. Champagne houses are adept at facilitating international shipments, making it convenient for enthusiasts to expand their collections with authentic, region-specific selections.

 

Beyond the Bubbles: Exploring Reims

Reims is a treasure trove of history, housing three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and playing a pivotal role in WWII history. The city offers a rich tapestry of sights beyond the vineyards, ensuring a well-rounded experience for visitors seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris.

In sum, a visit to Reims is more than a Champagne tasting—it’s a deep dive into the heart of French culture, history, and the meticulous craft behind the world’s most celebrated sparkling wine. Whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or a curious traveler, the Champagne region promises an unforgettable journey into elegance and effervescence.

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2024-03-14T09:16:35-05:00By |Categories: France|2 Comments

About the Author:

Meagan is the author and host of Mommy Travels a family travel and lifestyle blog. Meagan is a travel expert and has been traveling the world with her three kids for two decades. She loves sharing her adventures and tips with others.

2 Comments

  1. Emma at

    Sounds like a terrible task, but I guess someone has to do it ;-) What a great experience. I love food and drink tours so a tasting sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon to me. I haven’t been to Reims but it looks very pretty, I’d love to check it out

  2. Krista at

    This would definitely be the ideal experience for people who love champagne! I’m not a big drinker but would like to give this a try.

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