Champagne, part of the region Champagne-Ardenne, is only about
45 minutes by train from Paris through lovely farms and vineyards,
chateaux, typical champenois timber-framed churches
and pretty villages. The region, rich in history and culture,
is perfect for leisurely strolls, fine food and sampling the king
of all wines that is used for so many celebrations and joyous
The wine made from grapes in this area have a natural tendency to sparkle, but in the late 17th century Dom Perignon, cellar at the Benedictine abbey of Hautvillers near Epernay, discovered that giving the wine a second fermentation could produce a wine that had lots more sparkle. He also discovered that by blending grapes from different vineyards and mixing with wines from different harvests, the overall quality and uniformity improved and became more consistent in character. Perignon was the first to initiate the practice of aging, conserving and transporting champagne in bottles, and he is credited with being the first vintner to use corks to seal the wines and thicker, English-made glass bottles that held up better under pressure.
Epernay, Reims and Chalons-sur Marne, not too far from each other,
are the three towns most associated with the great Champagne Houses
who give tastings and tours of their cellars.
Epernay dominates the champagne industry with its Rue de Champagne lined with the offices, warehouses, factories and cellars as well as the mansions of the premier champagne producers: Moet et Chandon, Perrier Jouet, Charbaut, De Venoge and Pol Roger.
Moet et Chandon, founded in 1743, has a walk through its
very large champagne cellar and gives an explanation on how champagne
Mercier is near one end of the Rue de Champagne and has a modern visitors center. The tour of its cellars is very sophisticated using a glass-sided elevator down and an electric train to take you through their vast caves.
De Castellane in rue de Verdun, offers a more personalized tour accompanied by a "degustation"
Chateau Perrier, built in the 19th century by Charles Perrier, now accommodates the town museum where you can learn more about champagne production. There is another museum housed in the Maison de Castellane.
Reims is home to some world-famous champagne houses who
give tours and tastings:
Maison Mumm - film, guided tour of the cellars, and tasting
Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin - film and tour
Pommery - film, guided tour of the cellars and tasting
Piper-Heidsiek - tour of the galleries in six-passenger cars with dioramas and explanations.
Tattinger - tour includes a video, visit to the 13th century cellars and tasting
Chalons-sur Marne is the center of the vineyards producing Blanc de Blancs. It is a picturesque town with canals overlooked by half-timbered houses. It is also famous as the scene of Attila's great defeat in the fifth century, one of the world's fifteen decisive battles.
Moet et Chandon can trace its history back to 1743 when it was established in Epernay by Claude Moet, a wine trader descended from an old family resident in the Champagne region since the 14th century. In the company's archives can be seen an invoice of 1743 when Moet shipped Champagne to Paris for t he first time. The real rise of Champagne was in the reign of Louis XV and became a favorite for romantic suppers for the king and his favorites, including Madame de Pompadour. Moet et Chandon expanded and its Champagne was shipped to new markets: From 1750 to England, then Germany, Spain, Russia, America, Poland, and Bohemia in 1791
In 1794 Claude Moet bought the walls and the vineyards of the former Abbey of Hautvilliers, the same Abbey where Dom Perignon founded the method for producing Champagne. Hautvillers is a charming flower-filled wine village with sweeping views of the Marne River valley, and the Abbey has now been converted into a museum describing the process of making Champagne.
In the 19th century his grandson, Jean-Remy Moet, expanded Moet et Chandon even further afield. by opening up new foreign markets. .Jean-Remy Moet handed the house over to his son and his son-in-law, Pierre-Gabriel Chandon de Briailles. It then took on the Moet & Chandon name.
In 1734, Jacques Fourneaux, a merchant of champagne wines, established the company that would some day become Taittinger. The Taittinger family had its roots in Lorraine, but left its native province in 1870 following the Treaty of Frankfurt and settled in the Paris area in order to retain its French nationality.
Around 1912, Pierre-Charles Taittinger was running a business involved in the distribution and export of champagne with one of his brothers-in-law. After the First World War, a merger occurred between the company, which had come to be known as Fourneaux-Forest, and the Taittinger family, who would ultimately take control. From 1945, Pierre-Francois, the third son of Pierre Taittinger, along with his two brothers Jean and Claude, oversaw a period of remarkable growth for the champagne house. At this time it also began operation in the cellars of the Saint-Nicaise monastery in Reims, built in the 13th century on magnificent Gallo-Roman chalk cellars dating from the second century. Remains of the Abbey, destroyed during the French Revolution are still visible today throughout the tunnels, in an excellent state of preservation.
Pierre died in a tragic car accident in 1960 and since then Claude Taittinger has presided over the destiny of one of the last great champagne houses to bear the name of the family that runs it, himself overseeing the quality of its products in line with tradition.
The Mumm brothers, Jacobus, Gottlieb and Philipp, who were from a rich family of German wine merchants and who also owned vineyards in the Rhine valley, arrived in Reims in 1827. Along with their business partner Friedrich Giesler, they set up P.A. Mumm et Cie., the initials standing for the forenames of their father, Peter Arnold Mumm.
Florens-Louis Heidsieck was the son of a Lutheran minister from Westphalia. He moved to Reims to work as a cloth merchant, and discovered winemaking there. He started making his own wine in 1780 and founded his own House on 16 July 1785. He dedicated one of his wines to Queen Marie-Antoinette which he was granted the honor of presenting to Her Majesty in person. Piper was exceptionally gifted in business and as an entrepreneur of his time, he traveled the world promoting Heidsieck champagne. Fourteen royal and imperial courts made the House their official supplier, and quite soon, "Heidsieck from Piper"was the only champagne which true aficionados would drink. And thus the wine with quality standards rigorously defined by Florens-Louis Heidsieck himself very quickly became known as "Piper-Heidsieck". In October 1838, the two names came even closer together when Henri Piper married Christian Heidsieck's widow! In 1851, Henri Piper teamed up with his cousin J.C. Kunkelmann.
For the House's centenary in 1885, he commissioned Faberge, the celebrated jeweler to the Russian imperial court, to make a gold, lapis lazuli and diamond ornament to adorn the special champagne created for the occasion. When J.C. Kunkelmann died, his son succeeded him. Then his daughter and son-in-law took over the business, and the House remained in the family. At the end of the 89's Piper-Heidsieck joined the internationally known Remy-Cointreau Wine and Spirits Group.
Philippe Clicquot-Muiron established Veuve clicquot in 1772. However, it was Phillipe's daughter-in-law, Nicole-Barbe Clicquot, who really laid the foundations of the modern company. . It is after her that "Grande Dame" is named, and of course Veuve Clicquot. The world "Veuve"means "quotidian". She became a widow in 1805, at the age of 27. Madame Clicquot had a young daughter and no knowledge of the business, but she eagerly took control of the organization and did quite well by it. It was she that developed the system of removing sediment, 'remuage', from the Champagne bottles - by cutting holes in her kitchen table! Now it is part of the LVMH Group.
In February, 1858, Alexandre Louis Pommery, Reims wool trader, was just starting the Pommery Champagne House when he abruptly died. His widow, Louise, took over the control of the Pommery winery at the age of 39, with two children to care for as well. She built elaborate buildings over her cellars, and developed a brut style of Champagne that the British adored. She brought her winery from a small, multi-wine shop to a large Champagne house, respected the world over. The Pommery estate extends over a large patch of land in the southern part of Reims, called the Butte Sainte-Nicaise.
When to drink:
Champagne can be drunk as soon as you buy it. You can keep the bottle for three to four years after purchase but the wine will not improve. Champagne is something you should not put away.
Champagne is stored for drinking just like any other wine - at around 55F, in a dark, damp location, stored on its side to keep the cork from drying out.
How to open Champagne:
As the pressure in the bottle is so high, it is dangerous not to open the bottle correctly:
1. Remove the foil from the top of the bottle.
2. Place your hand on top of the cork, never removing your hand is very important
3. Take the wire off
4. Wrap a towel around the bottle for safety and spillage
5. Remove the cork gently, slowly turning the bottle in one direction,and the cork in another. The idea is to ease the cork out gently rather than cracking the bottle open with a festive pop and letting it foam. When you pop the cork off the carbon dioxide escapes and the carbon dioxide is what Champagne is all about.
Cooling the Champagne:
Champagne should be served at about 45 degrees. Always chill Champagne in the warmest part of your refrigerator, e.g. the vegetable bin. If you need it quickly put the Champagne in an ice-filled bucket with water. It should be ready in twenty minutes. Don’t put Champagne in the freezer as it can freeze and explode in a matter of fifteen minutes. Do never store in fridge for more than a few days.
Glasses for serving Champagne:
Flute and tulip-shaped glass are most commonly used as the Champagne does not lose its bubbles and flavor as fast as in the old-fashioned wide and shallow glasses.
Sweet or dry:
The process of producing Champagne is a long and complicated one. Towards the end of the “Methode Champenoise”, the special process by which Champagne is made, there is a stage called ‘Dosage’ when a combination of wine and cane sugar is added to the bottle.At this point, the winemaker can determine whether he wants sweeter or drier Champagne. The following shows you the guidelines the winemaker uses when he adds the dosage:
• Brut - driest
• Extra dry - less dry
• Sec - more sweet
• Demi-sec - sweetest
Brut and extra dry are the wines to serve as an aperitif or throughout the meal. Sec and demi-sec are the wines to serve with desserts. Pink Champagne, often with a touch of fruit flavors, gains its color from blending white wine with the red wine from the vineyards of Bouzy or leaving the red grape skins in contact with the ‘must’ for a short period of time.
Determine the style of Champagne you prefer, full-bodied or light bodied. The more white grapes used in the blend, the lighter the style of the Champagne, the more red grapes used in the blend, the heavier the style. Also wines fermented in wood have stronger characteristics than those fermented in stainless steel.
Krug - Ruinart - -Pol Roger
Roederer - Pommery - Taittinger
Bollinger - Veuve Cliquot - Perier-Jouet
Mumm Charbaut - Moet & Chandon - Laurent-Perrier - Deutz
Vintage bottles, like most wines, are from a single year's worth of grapes. Unlabeled or non-vintage bottles are from a blend of years. ‘Vintage’ in Champagne is different from other wine regions as each house makes its own determination on whether or not to declare a vintage year. Usually each house declares a vintage three years out of each decade.
The reasons for the tremendous price difference between non-vintage and 'luxury'Champagne is:
• Made from the best grapes at the highest-rated vineyards
• Usually made from the first pressing of the grapes
• Spends more time aging in the bottle than non-vintage Champagne
• Made only in vintage years
• Made in small quantity, and the demand is high. Price is dictate largely by supply and demand
Champagne that is non-vintage often tastes as good as luxury or vintage Champagnes and is definitely the best value for money.
Vintage Champagne must be 39 months old before it is sold, that is 3 years after the 1st January following the harvest around September. Many 'Marques' will age their wines for longer than this legal minimum.
1996 - Very good year
1995 - Good year
1994 - Average year
1993 - Average year
1992 - Average year
1991 - Good year
Most Champagne houses produce a special bottle in a vintage year and these are normally deemed to be "Prestige or Deluxe cuvées". The most famous of these is perhaps Moët's Cuvée Dom Pérignon, and in fact it was Moët who invented the Cuvée Prestige with D.P. in 1921. Prestige cuvées represent the pinnacle of a house's achievement and can be a vintage or occasionally a blend of vintages. They cost around three times more than a Non-Vintage, and around double the price of a Vintage.
First and foremost, Champagne has to come from the Champagne region of France which has the perfect conditions to produce the best sparkling wine in the world. Sparkling wine is produced in many areas and the quality varies from wine to wine. Spain, Germany, Italy, and the United States all produce sparkling wines, some of which are good and of excellent value. Unless it is a very fine sparkling wine, other methods than the "Methode Champenoise" are used.
A few Quotes:
"I only drink champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty."Lily Bollinger
"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more champagne."John Meynard Keynes
"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right" Mark Twain
"I'm only a beer teetotaler, not a champagne teetotaler."George Bernard Shaw
"Who took the cork out of my lunch?" W.C. Fields
"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully."Graham Greene
Over 1000 references of sparkling Champagne in stock and ready to ship door to door with no local sales tax and competitive pricing. Great buys and rare vintages! Dom Perignon, Cristal, Bollinger and smaller brands
Discover how to appreciate various Champagne styles - store and serve - Pair it with food - evaluate sparkling wines from the United States and other countries. If you are more interested in the fascinating history of Champagne then we have some interesting books about Madame Clicquot and Russian Champagne.
The region Champagne-Ardenne is only 45min by fast train from Paris through lovely farms, vineyards, chateaux, typical 'champenois' timber-framed churches and pretty villages. The region, rich in history and culture, is perfect for leisurely strolls, vineyard hikes, fine food and sampling the king of all wines that is used for so many celebrations and joyous occasions, Champagne.
We operate tours throughout the year as the region offers beautiful scenery all year round. There is always activity and things to see or do in the vineyards, such as tasting the grapes, helping with the harvest, seeing the different techniques of pruning or in the Houses themselves, the first fermentation, management of the new and reserve wines, blending, second fermentation, degorgement and needless to say, tastings!
Visit the cellars of some of the most world renowned champagne producers such as: Moet & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Tattainger or Mumm and a few lesser known growers as well. We can organize special tastings, private visits, balloon and helicopter rides, and a visit to the Hautvillers home of Dom Perignon.
We offer half, full and multiple day tours in the three main Champagne Vineyard regions: Montagne de Reims, Marne Valley and Cote des Blancs. During our tours we present the entire process of creating the magic that is Champagne and the legends, traditions and culture behind it, visiting small producers and offering tastings to compare Champagnes by region or grape variety. Semi-private tours start at 60€ pp departing Reims.
Discover the Cote de Bar. Learn about the wine legacy and cellars of the Monks de Clairvaux as well as medieval Troyes home to the Knights Templars . You will taste the evolution of Champagne starting with the clear wine and ending with a prestige Champagne in this little know region. If you have been to Reims or Epernay this is a perfect complement.
Spend a few days in Reims and enjoy all the city has to offer from its UNESCO cathederal, food and chocolate stores, gourmet restaurants, and of course Champagne. Tours are private with local guides speaking English and can start in Reims so you can driver fly or train here. We can reserve TGV tickets from Paris if you wish.
Stay at Chateaux d'Etoges listed as a historical monument, this chateau resembles a ship sailing on the waters of Champagne. Discover wide moats, and a horizon of gardens, ponds and orchards brought to life by natural springs that astounded Louis XIV
Champagne, Burgundy, Loire Valley
Multi day private tour to 3 regions with a private driver/ wine expert and staying in prestige or luxe accommodation
You'll soon be cruising down the Seine River with the Champagne bubbles flowing while chatting, laughing and enjoying your sommelier's champagne presentation and commentaries on the famous monuments which line the banks of the Seine.
Adults 45€pp Secure Online Booking
Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Presentation 5:45pm - cruise at 6pm - Duration: 1:00
1. Cruise on the Seine River in the center of Paris in a private saloon,
2. Champagne Appreciation Class
3. Champagne making Presentation
4. History of Champagne
5. Champagne region overview
6. Monuments of Paris comments
7. Three Champagne tasted (Demi sec, Blanc de blancs, Rose)
Your 1 hour cruise with the Vedettes de Paris will start from the dock by the Eiffel Tower promptly on the hour.
The sommelier will reveal the secrets of three Champagnes: Brut, Demi sec or Blanc de blancs and Rosé while you discover the marvels of Paris on the foredeck’s glass panorama room reserved exclusively for champagne cruise guests.
The Savoir Faire (formerly "Etoile de Champagne") dates back to 1932 when she was built as a transport barge in the Belgian estuaries. During World War II, her bow was replaced with a landing bow so she could sail up on the beaches. She was sunk during the war but later lifted from the river bottom .