When Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon first sipped on what
would be called champagne, he is thought to have said, “Come quickly, I’m
drinking the stars.” Whether he made such a statement or not, the fact remains,
champagne would popularize to the degree that every New Year’s Eve, countless
bottles make their way into celebrations around the world. And while you pop
corks, pass the bubbly and drink the stars this New Year’s, you might want to
consider heading to France where true champagne hails.
Where Is It?
Champagne is not champagne unless it comes from a certain
area of France. The Champagne region sets up in northeastern France, home to
over 15,000 wine growers. The two biggest centers for champagne production are
in Reims, about 90 miles northeast of Paris, and Epernay. Travelers looking to
experience the champagne houses of the region can follow the well sign posted
Champagne Tourist Route, otherwise the Routes
du Champagne. A number of companies offer tours of the region and its most
esteemed champagne houses. Wine production in the region is said to date back
to the Romans who are thought to have introduced grape growing to the area. By
the 17th century, people began playing with and mastering the
natural bubbliness of the local wines.
What Is It?
What makes champagne from Champagne the bubbling product we
all know are the soils in the area. Once bottled, the mixture becomes
effervescent. The champagne producers then age their products slowly in wine
cellars carved out into the Earth. Some credit monk Dom Pierre Pérignon and
Frére Jean Oudart with coming up with champagne as we know it.
Where To Go
The charming town of Epernay rests on champagne caves so
bubbly is always at your feet. You can find a number of big name champagne
companies in town like Moët et Chandon and Pol Roger, both of which have
cellars you can tour. Moët et Chandon is particularly worth the stop to not
only see the statue it is most famous champagne namesake, Dom Pérignon, but
also to view the largest cellars within the Champagne region. The Moët et
Chandon cellars stretch 28 kilometers. Reims also makes for a good base for
exploring the region and its most famous drink. The largest city in the region
is the unofficial capital of champagne. You can also find other famous cellars
for tastings such as Mumms, Ruinart and Pommery, all of which offers tours and
How To Get Around
To explore the Champagne region and its cellars, travelers
can get away with taking a train from Paris to Reims and on to Epernay. Both
cities offer cellars right in town. You can make your way to some of big
players in the industry on foot in both cities. For a more off-the-beaten path
experience, you can rent a car to explore the cellars in smaller villages in
between Reims and Epernay.