When planning a luxury vacation in France that includes a stop in the acclaimed Champagne region, it can be challenging to decide what to focus on when your time is limited. This is especially true if you’re visiting for only the day from the French capital. Once you’ve experienced some of the best things to do in Paris, your attentions may naturally turn to the charms of Champagne– and plotting a day or weekend stay there. But some careful planning and an expert guide are both in order if you’re looking for truly exceptional tastings of the pale golden, lightly effeverscent white wine. After all, contrary to popular belief, mediocre champagne does exist.
Luckily, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out of the equation, offering suggestions on which houses to beeline to for tastings, as well as cultural activities, gastronomic tables and high-end lodgings to enjoy in celebrated champagne-making cities including Reims. From houses with global renown such as Taittinger, Roederer, Dom Perignon and Krug, to exceptional but lesser-known producers, read on to learn more about some of France’s best champagne makers. Then, after narrowing your choices a bit, embark on a luxurious 24 hours of tasting and cultural experiences– preferably accompanied by an expert travel curator who will open the region’s exclusive places, experiences, and vintage bottles for you.
The true gateway to Champagne and its many cultural and gastronomic riches, Reims is the natural starting point for a one-day (or more extensive) tour of the region. Situated only about an hour from Paris, the city makes a convenient and fascinating hub, or a place to enjoy a full, luxurious day of tastings, gastronomic experiences, and culture, followed by an indulgent overnight stay.
Tastings and cellar visits
You are spoiled for choice in Reims, since most of the ultra-prestigious grandes maisons de champagnes (grand champagne houses) count breathtaking family domains complete with tasting rooms and extensive cellars in the old city. From Taittinger to Krug, Roederer to Veuve-Cliquot, Pommery and Bollinger (of James Bond fame), all of the champagnes from these hallowed makers are excellent to truly outstanding. There are generally opportunities to taste some of their more unusual or prized varieties onsite, including vintages from the aforementioned houses and a Pinot Noir champagne from Lanson, a royal libation of choice since the nineteenth century.
Choosing where to focus your time and taste buds will depend largely on your available time and personal tastes. We especially recommend a visit to the cellars and tasting room at Taittinger, one of France’s oldest champagne producers whose family history stretches back to the 17th century. Originally from Austria, the family was initially composed of weavers in the Lorraine region before moving to Champagne, where they began making the luxurious sparkling wine in the early 20th century. Taittinger is one of the only “grandes maisons” in Champagne to have retained its independence, as it is still family-owned and run. Boasting 288 hectares of vineyards in the region, the quality of their champagnes remains exceptional. They have also been recognised for their environmentally friendly production practices.
Also not to miss are the exceptional crayeres, or chalk quarry networks, that run for kilometres beneath the city of Reims, and supply ample storage and vinification space for many of the most acclaimed champagne houses. They provide the ideal temperature and humidity levels for the coveted sparkling white. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these crayeres can notably be accessed from the site known as the “Saint-Nicaise hill”, around which many champagne houses have their properties and cellars. You can access them from several producers’ cellars, including Vrankem Pommery, Charles Heidsieck, and G.H. Martel; the longest chalk quarries belong to the Veuve-Cliquot domain, while the tallest (at 50 ft high) can be found in the cellars of Ruinart.
Cultural Highlights & Medieval Wonders
A visit to Reims would not be complete without taking in the splendour and awesome beauty of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a gothic marvel rivalling the cathedral of the same name in Paris. The medieval construction is complemented by modern, and sublime, stained glass windows from French painter Marc Chagall— details that will stun and please anyone interested in modern art and architecture.
Other highlights in the city include the ancient Gallo-Roman “Mars Gate”, built in the 3rd century AD.
Gastronomic Discoveries & Luxurious Stays
One can’t survive on champagne alone, unfortunately, but luckily Reims is home to some of France’s finest tables. We especially recommend taking a short drive outside the city to Tinqueux, and Arnaud Lallement’s 3-Michelin star restaurant, L’Assiette Champenoise. Here, extraordinary and inventive French seasonal menus are paired with fine wines, including some exceptional champagnes. You can also stay overnight at the charming onsite hotel, boasting luxurious suites and a heated pool.
For a truly exclusive stay in Reims, the Domaine Les Crayeres is a 5-star hotel built in a former chateau, whose ultra-prestigious suites and gastronomic restaurant featuring some 600 different champagne labels offer countless ways to enjoy the riches and history of the region.
For many champagne aficionados, it is the charming town of Épernay, and not Reims, that is the reigning wine capital of the region. Moet & Chandon boasts an enormous cellar here, with tastings of its signature champagnes as well as the world-famous Dom Perignon (the latter is generally only possible through private tours– contact us to arrange one).
Mercier is more coveted still, drawing thousands of tourists each year to its prized cellars in Epernay for tastings and tours through their chalky, incredibly deep underground caves. The house is famed for its eccentric founder, Eugene Mercier, who in 1900 lugged some 250,000 bottles of his champagne to Paris in 1900 in a misguided attempt to draw attention away from the opening of the Eiffel Tower! Today, it’s widely considered one of the region’s most prestigious makers of the effervescent wine.
Another destination in Champagne we highly recommend is the domaine Jacques Selosse, an extraordinary site in the town of Avize between Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne that produces some of the region’s most lauded, and expensive, champagnes. The domain, on which is situated a Neoclassical mansion, has been producing wines since the early 19th century; today, Corinne and Anselme Selosse oversee the production of some of the most-prized varieties of champagne, including Cramant, Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil sur Oger. They produce over 50,000 bottles per year on their chardonnay vineyards.
In addition to the exceptional champagne on offer here, the Domaine Selosse also boasts a wonderful gastronomic restaurant and the charming Hotel les Avises guest house, meaning you might opt to enjoy a gourmet dinner and luxurious stay here after a day exploring Reims and/or Epernay. The hotel’s 10 intimate rooms offer the perfect setting for discovering the gorgeous environs, and for sampling gourmet French cuisine and wines.
Finally, any luxurious getaway to Champagne should involve tasting some exceptional special cuvées, or vintages, from some of the region’s most prestigious houses. We can arrange for you to taste incredible, rare, and expensive sparkling wines in VIP, private settings not generally open to the general public.
And if you’re planning an engagement party, destination French wedding, high-stakes business meeting, anniversary, or any other special event that might feature the world’s finest and most-expensive champagnes, we can plan an occasion that will be both extraordinary and unforgettable.
Founded in 1584, Gosset is Champagne’s oldest wine producer, and its sparkling wines are synonymous with excellence and prestige. Sixteen generations of Gosset family members produced fine wines and champagnes before the house was taken over by Cointreau in the late 20th century. Since then, the house has produced some truly extraordinary vintage cuvées under the “CELEBRIS” label, aged for a minimum of 10 years in Gosset’s cellars.
Enjoy the house’s finest cuvées from antique flasks identical to the ones made in the 18th century, when Gosset champagne was first conceived. Private, VIP tastings in the house’s historic Epernay-based cellars– some 16 meters underground– are a possibility. And of course, these lauded vintage makes an excellent and festive choice for a holiday-themed celebration, wedding or other prestigious occasion.
As mentioned earlier in this article, this creme de la creme among French champagne houses has maintained its prestigious reputation through uncompromising quality and an independent approach. In addition to its Cuvée Prestige champagnes, lauded for their fine, elegant bubbles, crisp, fruity notes and balanced acidity, why not taste exceptional vintages such as the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, produced from the very best vines of the Cote des Blancs appellation?
These remarkable vintages present with a pale yellow body and delicate bubbles that form a light foam at the surface. They are very sought-after by discerning wine tasters and gourmets. We can help arrange for a fascinating private tour of the prestigious house and its Champagne-based cellars, or build a festive event that features one of these spectacular sparkling wines, from gastronomic dinners in a magnificent chateau to elegant receptions, whether for an anniversary, corporate getaway or festive Christmas party.
This family-owned winery located in the Champenois town of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ is a more confidential producer of extraordinary champagnes, known for their reliance on ancestral, nature-focused practices and uncompromising quality. One of the few champagne houses to remain truly independent from larger producers, Billecart-Salmon’s sparkling wines are prized by collectors due to their remarkably distinctive flavors and relative rarity.
The house was established in 1818 and has a noble history that makes it the perfect choice for a private tasting or prestigious occasion in France, including during the holiday season or to celebrate the New Year. The house counts some truly outstanding and rare cuvées that gourmets and luxury-lovers should experience. In 1999, the Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 1959 was named “Champagne of the Millennium” by an independent body of blind taste-testers in Stockholm. Meanwhile, exceptional vintages such as the Cuvée Nicolas Francois Brut Millésime 2002 (named after the house’s founder) and Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Brut Rosé Millésime 2007 (named after the co-founder) make the perfect complement to a gastronomic French dinner or luxurious reception.
Nestled in Epernay, Pol Roger is another champagne house that knowledgeable and discerning wine collectors turn to in search of something extraordinary. Associated with great wealth and royalty– this house’s champagnes have recently been served at the wedding reception of Prince Harry of England and Meghan Markle — its sparkling wines make the ideal addition to a private event or festive, luxury-filled occasion.
With a history stretching back 160 years, Pol Roger is family-owned and has been run by descendents of the eponymous founder for several generations. The house produces some 110,000 cases of champagne each year, but its most-prized cuvée– the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill— is named after Pol Roger’s most-famous fan and British statesman. This is a robust, full-bodied and mature champagne composed exclusively from grapes sourced from Grands Crus Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards that already existed during Churchill’s time. Its elegance and maturity will be appreciated by guests at a reception or festive event, served– bien sur– against a backdrop of pure luxury and prestige.
This world-renowned champagne house is so famous that its prestigious sparkling wines are simply referred to by luxury aficionados as “Bolly”. The house was founded in the Champenois town of Aÿ by Hennequin de Villermont, Paul Renaudin and Jacques Bollinger in 1829, and has since become a champagne of choice for celebrities, wealthy wine collectors and royal occasions (especially in the UK). Its global renown has not prevented the house from remaining family-owned and dedicated to maintaining its standards of exceptional quality, which perhaps explains why discerning wine fans continue to seek out the finest “Bolly” vintages.
If you’re interested in experiencing the house’s most prestigious and sought-after cuvées, our luxury travel planners can arrange a VIP, private tasting at Bollinger’s Galerie 1829 showroom in Aÿ during your high-end exploration of Champagne. Vintages such as the Blanc de Noir Champagne – Vieilles Vignes Francaises are among the world’s most-expensive sparkling wines, with only around 250 cases produced annually from rare, ungrafted wines. Concentrated and intense, these champagnes are truly exclusive. Centering a special occasion or gourmet holiday celebration around the house’s finest cuvées is certainly one way to make your event extraordinary and unforgettable.
The house likely to be cited by your average champagne drinker as France’s most-prestigious winemaker is nonetheless behind some truly un-average, extraordinary champagnes– ones any discerning collector would be interested in adding to their portfolio. In fact, one reason why the house’s sparkling wines are so lauded by celebrities and wealthy collectors is that it only produces vintages. Each cuvée is unique and worth tasting, but some, of course, are genuinely exceptional specimens.
Since Dom Perignon’s cellars in Epernay are not open to the general public can only be visited by private arrangement, why not include a VIP tasting session on your whirl through the region? We can coordinate some truly exceptional encounters with the house’s sommeliers, who will initiate you to vintages such as Dom Perignon 2000, appreciated for its balanced fruit and acidity, distinctive aromas and lingering finish. And of course, any high-end occasion, celebration or event will be given an aura of genuine prestige when it includes a noble vintage from this house.
The astounding, tall chalk quarries where Ruinart’s cellars are situated make an exceptional setting for a VIP tasting of the house’s equally remarkable vintages and rare cuvées. Established by a monk of the same name in 1729, Ruinart was the first winery in Champagne to make sparkling wine; it remains a symbol of impeccable quality and high prestige.
While all of its champagnes are outstanding, certain cuvées and vintages are particularly prized by wine lovers for their rarety, distinctive, mature aromas and, of course, expensiveness. These include the house’s Blancs de Blancs Brut, an exclusive, rare cuvée from 2000 made from Chardonnay grapes, all sourced from grand cru vineyards. The superb bottle adds a prestigious touch to any table or event: it alludes to the house’s 18th-century packaging and features a conceptual “cage” in metal from the famous French silversmith Christofle. Why not consider making this extraordinary champagne a centerpiece of your next high-luxury themed evening or special occasion in France?
Last but most certainly not least, any luxury tour or prestigious occasion in Champagne will be complemented by the finest cuvées and special edition vintages from Veuve Clicquot, another house that’s practically synonymous with extravagance and elegance. Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot and made famous by his widow, Madame or “Veuve” Clicquot, the Reims-based producer is one of the world’s largest. This doesn’t mean, however, that they lack exceptional and rare cuvées to taste. One of its vintages, found at the bottom of a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea and over 200 years old, once sold at auction for an incredible $30,000!
Whether enjoying a private tasting within their cellars in Reims, or featuring one of their prized cuvées at a French wedding reception or exclusive soirée in a Champagne castle, this noble producer adds more than a touch of prestige and elegance to any occasion.
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There are so many more wonderful places to explore in Champagne, including small and exceptional producers whose cellars are accessible mostly through private and exclusive tours, such as Veuve-Fourny and Vilmart. This is why a bespoke tour of the region is the best way to make the most of all it has to offer: get in touch with us to start building one straight away. Your personally tailored and entirely private tour will include an exclusive look at some of the most closely-guarded secrets of Champagne, from encounters with small, elite family producers to private gastronomic dining in some of the region’s most prestigious private residences– accompanied, of course, by fine champagnes.
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