Jon Catt is an Englishman living in the Champagne region who offers guided tours in the region – and he offers some tips to get the best out of your wine tour of the region.
“In the big houses if you take the basic tour you get the basic tasting. It’s what one of my clients described as wedding champagne.
Mercier. Take the train and learn nothing! In Mercier once you’re in the cellars you see nothing. The guide’s commentary is never complete because the train is too fast. The tasting room is an equivalent of an airport lounge and a mortuary.
Castellane. They just want to get you through and out. The tasting is in what looks like a large dance hall. There’s little help with the details of the different champagnes.
Moet et Chandon – the best big house visit in Epernay. If you take the basic tour the tasting is in an underground room that’s as damp and warm as a changing room after a football match. Pay a bit more and it’s class.13 – 15 December 2019 Les Habits d’Epernay takes place when Epernay celebrates Champagne with Champagne stalls and tastings, cookery demonstrations, son-et-lumiere, vintage car display – see https://habitsdelumiere.epernay.fr/
Pommery. The tour of the former quarries is very impressive. If you take the basic tour you do the tasting in the large impersonal welcome area. I once had champagne there that was like a drink you find after a party.
Ruinart. You have to book but it’s worth it and the champagne is always very good.
Small growers. First get the guides from the different tourist offices. There’s always one in English. They’ll tell you if the owner speaks English. There’s always a family welcome. You’ll often be guided in the tasting by the person who made the champagne. Find one you like and you’ll want to come back. When you visit a small grower you’ll often see English clients who come regularly to fill the boot of their car. Small growers are the proof that the best champagne is not the most expensive.
NB Champagne Leclerc Briant owns the Royal Champagne Hotel in Epernay
Do not forget the Aube (the most southerly Champagne producing region – often overlooked)e.g. Champagne Veuve Devaux in Bar-sur-Aube(10 Aube, Grand Est). This department has some of the top small grower champagnes”
See more about Jon Catt’s Champagne Tours
There are numerous Champagne vineyards which offer holiday accommodation (B&B, self-catering or hotel) – see our other site at Frenchvineyard.co.uk
By Train/TGV to Reims with Rail Europe