Wine enthusiasts will want more from Champagne than tourists craving a bubbly one-night pit-stop with a quick visit to a big name house as they break up their journey to somewhere else.
But wine enthusiasts exploring Champagne face a challenge. You may have visited famous houses’ cellars and reception centres in Reims and Epernay before, but this often means you miss out on the vineyards, scenery and myriad small family producers of the region, all situated outside of the main towns.
So here is the inside dope on Champagne’s rural hotel havens which will get you up close to the soul of the world’s favourite fizz.
Authentic pilgrims you may be, but you will also sleep well, be delighted and eat good food. Have no fear that you are virgin trailblazers of unknown Champagne: I have tested all of the recommendations firsthand, most quite often, and they offer stunning stays for a range of tastes and pockets.
How this guide works:
Each hotel recommendation includes a price range indicator (£-£££££), but do check hotel websites as prices can vary with the season and availability. Book as early as you can, and check if your booking allows you to cancel and by when.
I also comment on the quality of the hotel’s restaurant, or of those nearby if the accommodation does not have one. And of course, I recommend the very best Champagne producers to visit close by.
Remember to contact houses and domaines in advance to reserve a time to visit and taste – and be on time. It goes without saying that getting off the beaten track means travelling by car with a good GPS system – all the better if you plan to take bottles of Champagne home with you. Current rules specify that 12 bottles of sparkling wine per person can be taken over the UK border. Most recommendations here have secure free parking.
The below recommendations are grouped by area: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Côte des Bars.
Montagne de Reims
Having promised bucolic bliss, my first tip is one for those who prefer to stay in Champagne central. The group behind Champagnes Charles Heidsieck, Piper Heidsieck and Rare Champagne have lovingly restored this large, grand townhouse which billeted General D Eisenhower as the allies swept through northern France in 1945.
The building is newly and impeccably restored in period but mod con taste, with money seemingly no object. With its gorgeous garden, this is currently Champagne’s most exclusive luxury bolthole. Résidence Eisenhower is heaven for private parties, with salon space for socialising as well as privacy. Booking only by private enquiry.
Restaurant: There is no restaurant per se, but breakfast is available and lunches and dinners can be organised. Discuss with the management if you have catered occasions in mind, as Reims has some top food specialists for private events.
Producer visits: Easy access to all of the famous big Champagne houses in Reims. You can also arrange expert-led tastings of the wines from Charles and Piper Heidsieck and Rare at the Eisenhower, in one of the best tasting rooms I have seen in all of Champagne.
Price indicator: £££££
Address: 17, Boulevard Lundy, 51100, Reims
Sleeping four couples, this is maybe the best roomy, gite-type self-catering hideaway in all Champagne. The property is set in the courtyard at Champagne Nicolas Maillart. There are four king-size doubles and oodles of living space. A spotless and painstakingly modernised chic house. Book your own tutored tasting of the Maillart range with Nicolas or Lucie. The house is bookable via AirBnb – book well ahead as this is much in demand. If the tranquillity begins to irk, and you need hotspots, Reims is 20 minutes away.
Star producers to visit nearby: The current hot village for grower creativity, Écueil is home to highly-rated Champagnes Savart, Nicolas Maillart and Lacourte-Godbillon, all a short walk away. Champagne Emmanuel Brochet is in the next village, Villers-aux-Nœuds.
Price Indicator: £££
Address: 5, Rue de Villers-aux-Nœuds, 51500, Écueil
Château de Sacy
A relatively recent addition to smart hospitality outside Reims with willing, thoughtful and amiable service. There are spa treatments too – not tried by me (yet). The rooms are romantically styled, retro and over-the-top, in a good way. Genuinely luxurious cosseting is the order.
Restaurant: The restaurant consistently gets good reviews, and if you book the right table there are jaw-dropping views from its commanding position (see image below).
Star producers to visit nearby: Champagnes La Closerie (Jérôme Prévost), Lelarge-Pugeot (Vrigny), Roger Coulon (Vrigny) and Yann Alexandre (Courmas).
Price Indicator: ££££
Address: Rue des Croisettes, 51500 Sacy
Vallée de la Marne
Auberge le Relais
Set in the west of the Vallée de la Marne region of Champagne, this is perfect for visits to elite small growers and the sleepy villages along the winding Marne river with its steep and dense vineyard slopes. Smiling and prompt service, and great vistas over the valley from the south-facing rooms, some of which are really spacious. On my first visit we stared over the valley from the car park, transfixed.
Restaurant: The restaurant is rather good, and the wine list is gold dust, with bottles at prices which would make Paris and London blush.
Star producers to visit nearby: Champagne Benoît Déhu (producer of one of Champagne’s greatest single-vineyard wines, La Rue des Noyers); rising star Champagne Chevreux-Bournazel; and Champagnes AR Lenoble, Caillez-Lemaire, Christophe Mignon, Dehours, Georges Laval, Nowack, and Tarlant.
Price indicator: £££
Address: 2, Rue de Paris, 02850, Reuilly-Sauvigny
Hotel Castel Jeanson
The sense of an oasis without pretension – the pool and courtyard with their meditative atmosphere have always attracted me here, even if the decor of some of the comfy rooms whispers ‘please update me’. But the top producers to visit are handily located on the same street.
Restaurant: No restaurant, but the taxi ride to my favourite restaurant in Épernay, La Grillade Gourmande, is short.
Star producers to visit nearby: Champagnes Ayala, Bollinger, Deutz, and Geoffroy are nearby, while Billecart-Salmon and Philipponnat are in the nextdoor village of Mareuil-sur-Ay.
Price indicator: £££
Address: 24, Rue Jeanson 51160, Aÿ
The modernised town-centre hotel rooms are pleasant enough, but if your visit is as foody as it is winey, the one-star Michelin restaurant here (with its own respectable brasserie too) is a mini-temple to the rising-star cooking of Jérôme Feck.
Restaurant: Restaurant Jérôme Feck and Le Bistrot Les Temps Changent.
Star producers to visit nearby: Champagne Joseph Perrier.
Price indicator: £££
Address: 19, Place Monseigneur Tissier, 51000, Châlons-en-Champagne
Côte des Blancs
Located at the southern tip of the famous Côte des Blancs escarpment, this is a visually arresting moated mansion with charming service, characterful rooms and vast grounds. Children will be enchanted by the building and its extensive fields, complete with swings.
Restaurant: There’s a good restaurant, L’Orangerie, and a new informal brasserie, L’Atelier, on site.
Star producers to visit nearby: A fine base for visits to exquisite boutique house Veuve Fourny & Fils and leading growers André Jacquart and Larmandier-Bernier, all three in nearby Vertus, as well as the fabulous Ulysse Collin, a top grower further south in Congy.
Price indicator: £££
Address: 4, Rue de Richebourg, 51270, Étoges
Côte des Bars
The River House
The Aube is Champagne’s current hotbed of creativity and informed Champagnistas will spend time there. There is now good accommodation in the magical countryside, saving a stay in Troyes, an hour’s drive to the Côte des Bar vineyards. This is a tiny Seine-banked hideaway in the western Aube – the Bar Séquanais area. The rooms have a farmhouse-meets-cool boutique hotel vibe.
Restaurant: You are 10 minutes from their partner restaurant Le Garde Champêtre (with a Michelin entry, naturally), cooking organic and classic French country dishes adorned by a short but knowing list of local Champagne growers to drink. It’s a gem set in a converted old train station, with its own organic garden supplying the kitchen a doorway away.
Star producers to visit nearby: Champagnes Cedric Bouchard (Roses de Jeanne), Devaux, Domaine La Borderie, biodynamic Marie Courtin, and Vouette et Sorbée are all close by, as well Olivier Horiot in Les Riceys, home of Rosé de Riceys and the useful lunch spot Hôtel Le Magny.
Price indicator: £££
Address: 42, Rue des Vannes, 10250, Gyé-sur-Seine
Hostellerie La Montagne
For visiting the eastern Aube – the Bar-sur-Aubois – where better than this outpost of gastronomy (with its Michelin star, and a simpler brasserie too) with lovely rooms to stay. This village was the home of General de Gaulle, and the fascinating De Gaulle Foundation museum is worth a visit, with its huge Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of the Free French, towering over the countryside for miles.
A short drive away is the Cistercian glory Clairvaux Abbey, which is now, somewhat bizarrely, one of France’s highest security prisons, with notable and infamous inmate Carlos the Jackal. My guided trip around the monastery, with the click of razor-wired gates under the sullen gaze of watch towers, was certainly memorable. But with Champagne feet back on the ground, your priority will be visits to Champagne Drappier in Urville, the most important house of the Aube, and nearby grower Nathalie Falmet in Rouvres-les-Vignes, whose unprepossessing corrugated steel winery cocoons high quality Champagnes.
Restaurant: Restaurant Natali and La Table du Général.
Price indicator: £££
Address: 10, Rue Pisseloup, 52330 Colombey-les-Deux-Églises
Logis de la Monnaie
A coolly-styled but simple two double bedroom apartment in the centre of Troyes. It’s best booked by AirBnb, but note that it is a dedicated rental, so the property is free of any owners’ belongings. The real point of being here is that you stay a cock-stride from the relaxed Aux Crieurs de Vin wine bar (Michelin-listed). With rustic, authentic food and brilliant Champagnes that you choose from the on-site shop, you may rub shoulders with leading winemakers from the Aube. Troyes is also a great base to visit Champagne-makers in nearby Montgueux, a curious but high quality chalk hill outlier jumping out of the plain of Troyes.
Restaurant: Aux Crieurs de Vin
Star producers to visit nearby: Try for an appointment with superstar Emmanuel Lassaigne of Champagne Jacques Lassaigne; you may get lucky!
Price indicator: ££
Address: 11, Rue de la Monnaie, 10000, Troyes