Champagne Bucket List
Disneyland, Hawaii, Hong Kong, or Champagne. Everyone has that dream destination they want to travel to with their children, spouse, or maybe as a getaway on their own. I would hope that Paris is at the top of everyone’s must-do list, and the minute you are there and goosebumps surface as you witness the Eiffel Tower at night, you will know why. Copious amounts of mouth-watering pastries, boulangeries, masterpieces in museums, and oh, my favorite thing about France, the wine and champagne!
But no trip to France is complete without visiting the Champagne region, located in northeast France. Get a babysitter or let the teens off their leash for a day, or surprise your partner, but whatever you do, hop on the 1 ½ hour TGV train for a quick, easy, comfortable day trip to Epernay or Reims. Who doesn’t like a day drinking champagne, and once you comprehend the procedures and processes of creating these marvelous bubbles, you will appreciate the history and artisanship it takes to create such exquisiteness.
Below are three vineyards I highly recommend, as this article is not to educate but rather to entice you to book that flight and hightail it via TGV to northeastern France and begin your bubbly academic expedition through the world of Champagne!
It’s not every day you get a private tour with comprehensive insight into the oldest champagne union of over 5,000-member growers, the largest in Champagne. When Nicolas Feuillatte created his brand in 1976, he strived (and succeeded) to gather just a few fellow grape growers to create what is now a supply covering over 2,250 hectares of vines! The modernization of this contemporary location is impressive, and a tour here is the most thorough, giving you unlimited access to the behind-the-scenes that I have never had at any other Champagne house. As large and vast as it is, I truly felt like I was part of the process, roaming through the bottling, tank room, riddling, and labeling. It was a touch and feel experience like no other, and you will come away enlightened with an array of information, giving you a different perspective of this bubbly deliciousness which has existed as far back as medieval times.
Moët et Chandon
It may be the most visited and commercialized of all houses, but I would still make this a mandatory stop for first-timers in this region. While your average tour here is in a large group setting, you still get the touch and feel of the process, along with all the savoir-faire and elegance expected from a brand for nearly three centuries, founded in 1743 by Claude Moët. Transformations throughout the years have kept this global brand in the forefront and you will quickly learn why. While you shouldn’t expect your champagne tasting to include a glass of Dom Perignon (but 2 glasses of Moët will do fine!), do expect to come away with an enlightened and enriched understanding of how this extensive estate has maintained its success throughout the years and will continue to be consistent in taste and a constant global presence in the champagne world.
It was like I was home with family. Well, not my family, and I wish it was my home, but they made it feel like it was. This year will be the 200th anniversary of this independent family-owned house in the charming village of Mareuil-sur-aÿ. It was quite incredible to learn about the legacy of these gentlemen going strong for six generations, with each generation head continuing to reside on the property (I am sure they will invite me in the house for bubbles next trip!). I was in awe learning about how their vinification process has been handed down through the generations, perfecting and modernizing along the way. Walking along the vines was exhilarating and something you do not experience at most of the champagne houses. I heard the tasting room was under construction upon arrival and almost clicked my heels and left–I mean, drinking champagne is the goal, right? But to my benefit, we had the glorious pleasure of tasting in an intimate sit-down setting, which is as special as it gets, well, until the day I am asked into the residence for a glass!
Add Champagne to Your Bucket List!
The Champagne Region of France is a magical place, and once you understand the history, the process, the why and how a label became what it is today, you will have more appreciation for this sparkling wine. A word of note, reservations are mandatory at all houses, so make sure to email or call ahead, especially in the summertime. TGV train tickets are costly when purchased last minute, so book those in advance also.
A trip to Europe is not complete without a visit to the Champagne region for an abundant day of beautiful surroundings, historic and informative knowledge of the process, along with a few glasses of bubbles along the way!