Champagne houses hold many untold pleasures, but they can be a tough nut for tourists to crack. Avoid the pitfalls with Tyson Stelzer's 10-step guide and blend in with the chicest Champenois...
Top 10 tips for visiting Champagne houses
1. Always make an appointment well in advance. You’ll be better looked after if you’re expected, and most houses and growers don’t accept visitors at all without an appointment.
2. Dress up. Visiting a Champagne house is a grand experience, so rise to the occasion. The Champenois dress up and it’s respectful to do the same.
3. Book accommodation and top restaurants months in advance during the peak seasons of summer and autumn.
4. Start out in French. Every house and grower I’ve recommended here speaks fluent English, but they will always warm to any attempt to speak their language.
5. Avoid weekends and public holidays – most estates only receive visitors on work days.
6. Allow plenty of time for appointments. Two to three houses or three to four growers a day is a busy schedule.
5. 9am is an early start in Champagne, and many prefer 10am appointments. Avoid 12pm-2pm, as everyone stops for lunch (as should you). You might have time for two appointments after lunch, and it’s often fine to continue a visit into the early evening.
6. Arrive for appointments on time. The Champenois appreciate punctuality. Allow time to get through traffic in Reims and Epernay.
8. Champagne’s cool northerly climate calls for a coat in the evening and layers during the day. Cellars maintain a cool 10ºC. During the day, wear shoes that are comfortable and practical. Cellar and winery tours are on foot and can include climbing of long flights of stairs and uneven surfaces.
10. Do your research and ask intelligent questions.
This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of Decanter Magazine. Click here to subscribe to Decanter Premium and get a first look at expert tastings and a digital copy of the magazine.
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 and edited for Decanter.com by Laura Seal