Tyson Stelzer delves into his little black book and shares his top Champagne houses open to the public, to help you plan a winter getaway that is under one hour on the train east of Paris.
Seven best Champagne houses to visit
Champagne is poised for more visitors than ever in the wake of its 2015 listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the 40-minute tGV train connection to Paris means it has never been easier to get to the homeland of fizz.
Drink in your fill of wine and history at one of the best Champagne houses open to the visitors…
Established in 1768, Ruinart is the longest-established Champagne house of all, claiming prime position at the top of the hill on Rue des Crayères and possessing the deepest and most spectacular crayères (chalk cellars) in the region – the only ones to be classified a national monument. Ruinart was the first to use these enormous chalk-mine caverns to age its Champagnes, and the score marks of their third-century Roman creators are still visible. A visit to the region is incomplete without an opportunity to explore this mythical underworld, topped off with a tasting of the graceful, Chardonnay-focused cuvées of this under-recognised house. Find out more
4 Rue de Crayères
+33 (0)3 26 77 51 51
- €70 per person, open Tuesday – Saturday. Visits by appointment only.
Veuve Clicquot Reims
A visit to the grand house of Veuve Clicquot is a juxtaposition of old and new, with a reception room in the trademark Clicquot mango orange livery perched directly atop its splendid crayères. A dizzying annual production of 18 million bottles makes this the second-largest Champagne house of all, with a compelling focus on the power of the Pinot Noir grape in its blends. La Grande Dame is arguably the most affordable of Champagne’s top prestige cuvées, and a particularly rare privilege of the house is its enchanting Cave Privée range of vintages, released after more than two decades in the cellars. A guided cellar tour and tasting are a must, and you can also book an ‘In the footsteps of Madame Clicquot’ tour. Find out more
1 Place des Droits de l’Homme
+33 (0)3 26 89 53 90
- €25-€120 per person, depending on your chosen tour. Open Tuesday-Saturday, reservations are essential.
Under the careful yet daring oversight of Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his children Clovis and Vitalie, the Champagnes of the fabled house of Taittinger are more refined than ever. A visit to its 4km of crayères is eclipsed only by a custom tasting accompanied by a hostess to tell the story of each cuvée. The legendary Comtes de Champagne – three million bottles of which reside in these galleries for up to a decade – ranks among the finest blanc de blancs in the world. Find out more
9 Place Saint-Nicaise
- €15-€55 per person, depending on chosen tour and discounts. Open Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:30pm. Group visits available with prior arrangement, reduced rates for minimum 20 people.
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Fifth-generation vigneron Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy is the finest grower in the village of Cumières, but such is his success that he has moved to an enviably large production facility in Aÿ. With exacting attention to well positioned vineyards, his wines express the generosity and purity of Pinot Noir-focused blends. His wife Karine themed their contemporary little tasting room, and she or Jean-Baptiste will guide you through their extensive range of Champagnes. Find out more
4 Rue Jeanson
- Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm. Visits available on request via telephone or email info@champagne-Geoffroy.com
Visiting Champagne growers and houses can be notoriously difficult, since most aren’t open like cellar doors in other regions. A modern tasting room and wine shop in Reims is a strong step in the right direction, initiated by grower Angéline Templier (of J Lassalle). This ambitious shared project of 28 grower members of the Champagne Special Club is an achingly hip space where visitors can attend a masterclass, buy 170 grower Champagnes and taste a selection. As with all visits in Champagne, be sure to book in advance. Find out more
Trésors de Champagne, La Boutique
2 Rue Olivier Métra
- Boutique open Tuesday-Saturday, daily hours vary please visit website for exact times.
De Sousa Avize
For the past 29 years, the genius of third-generation Champagne grower Erick de Sousa has revitalised his family estate to become one of the finest on the Côte des Blancs. He and his family personally welcome guests over an enormous oak table in their newly renovated tasting room, then lead them through cellars that tunnel directly under the square in the heart of the quaint grand cru village of Avize, and up into their small fermentation room behind half-metre thick walls on the far side of the square. Here they demonstrate how cuvées are handcrafted to capture the personality of their family vineyards, which they tend according to painstaking biodynamic principles. Find out more
Champagne De Sousa
12 Place Léon Bourgeois
- Open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, visiting and tasting by appointment only.
In the premier cru village of Vertus at the southern end of Champagne’s famed Côte de Blancs, there is no grower more lauded than Pierre Larmandier. His is one of Champagne’s most sensible and diligent regimes, upholding that the soil is the most important aspect of winemaking, while focusing on every nuance of detail in the vineyard and the winery. Make an appointment to visit his Larmandier-Bernier estate and he or his wife Sophie will personally introduce their cuvées and show you through their biodynamic vineyards. Their Champagnes are proof that diligence counts more than grand cru classification in defining the region’s finest growers. Find out more
19 Avenue du Général de Gaulle
+33 (0)3 26 52 13 24
- Open Monday-Saturday by appointment only, via phone or email email@example.com
This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of Decanter Magazine. Click here to subscribe to Decanter Premium and to see tastings from the magazine and other articles online now.
Tyson Stelzer is an award-winning wine writer, presenter and author of The Champagne Guide 2018-2019. Click here to buy
Original text by Tyson Stelzer. Edited for Decanter.com by Laura Seal.