A guide to the Champagne region in France

Known the world over as the drink of celebration, Champagne is a delicious effervescent wine that comes from the region of the same name in northern France. Many have imitated this delightful fizz (and imitation is, of course, the best form of flattery), but nothing quite measures up to the original – and some might say best sparkling wine. While the alcoholic beverage might lure you to the region, there is plenty of other delights that await you in this historic area of France.

If you’re visiting the Champagne region, you’ll likely be staying in Reims, the epicentre of the area. This quaint and quintessentially French city is just a short train ride from Paris making it easily accessible for a weekend break.

Like make French towns and cities, the local produce is something to be admired. Take a trip to Les Halles du Boulingrin market which is filled with fresh cheeses, charcuterie, breads and pastries, fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, and other delicacies. We recommend taking a picnic basket and filling it to the brim with delicious treats to enjoy in any number of the local parks and outside spaces. Alternatively, if you’re after a tasty brunch on the go, grab a crepe stuffed with something tasty from one of the food stalls that line the nearby streets. Feeling suitably full and ready to taste some wine? Let’s head to our first stop.

Gates to Pommery winery. Image: www.champagnepommery.com

Pommery

One of the most established wineries in the region, Pommery was taken over in 1858 by Madame Pommery after the death of her husband. She was the first wine producer to create a commercially successful Brut champagne in 1874. The legacy of Madame Pommery means that the Pommery champagne is still one of the most sought after in the world. The building itself is truly spectacular and is well worth a trip. A visit to the cellars is also a truly remarkable experience with bottles of champagne dating back hundreds of years. Of course, the best part of any winery visit is the tasting and you won’t be disappointed: from the Brut to the Blanc de Blancs, this is a gorgeous wine to be celebrated in its own right.

Taittinger

Among one of the ‘big-brand’ names known internationally, Taittinger is just a few steps from Pommery, making it the perfect pit stop on your wine tour of Reims. Again, the cellars of this established winery hold tons of bottles of their delectable vintages. Arguably one of the more glamorous names in the business, your tour here starts with a short film on the history of the wine, before a guided walk through the cellars, and finally ending with the all-important tasting room.

Ruinart

The oldest known champagne house is Ruinart which was founded in 1729 and still produces wine today. The distinctive shape of the bottle gives an insight into the delightful and unique taste of this champagne, which was popular amongst the nobility and the French monarchy from the 18th century onwards.

Reims Cathedral. Image: Getty

Eating out

After a long (and oh so arduous) day of wine tasting, you’ll likely be ready to soak up some of the alcohol with a delicious meal. If it’s lunch you’re after, we highly recommend one of the delightful cafes that surround the towering gothic cathedral in the centre of the city. It’s at this cathedral that French kings have been crowned for centuries. Bask in the sunshine from Spring to early Autumn on the terraces and enjoy a lazy afternoon watching the world go by.

Brasserie du Boulingrin. Image: https://www.boulingrin.fr

If it’s evening fare you’re after, you have plenty of choice for top restaurants in the area (this is France after all). For the lightest and most sublime seafood, head to Brasserie du Boulingrin where you’ll be served tasty French dishes such as buttery Sole meuniere, Fruits de Mer, or juicy Entrecôte steak.

Chez Jérôme. Image: @chezjeromereims

For hearty, home-cooked meals, Chez Jérôme is a one-man show. Little tables fill this small restaurant where the menu changes daily based on seasonal produce. Very reasonably priced, this is honest, good French food that will satisfy anyone’s hunger, all served with a smile by the owner himself.

If you’ve made your way to France via the Eurostar then you’re in luck as you’ll be able to take a few bottles back with you to give as gifts or save for a special celebratory toast. The most incredible wine shops can be found dotted around the cathedral square, including Cave des Sacres which sells bottles from almost every champagne house in the region.