It is a must to visit one of the Champagne-houses and take a tour through 28 kms of tunnels that are cut out the chalk-rock-underground of Epernay. Here the Champagne waits until it is 'ready'. In the winehouses they also explain about how Champagne is made (three grapes stand at the bases of this sparkling drink). Oldest of the houses is Moët & Chandon (first block on the right side of the Av. des Champagnes). We visited them and I can recommend their tour as - I think - it is very informative. Of course, at the end of the tour, there is some tasting!
There is only one Champagne-region in the world and only here you find the true Champagne-wine. Unique enough, I think.
We went to Nicolas Feuillatte at Chouilly nearby to Epernay.
The "factory" is much more modern than the traditional houses in the centre of Epernay and Reims.
The tour was led by a member of staff aided by an audio visual show at the various points around the public access areas. Amazing to see the ages old traditions turne don their heads.
For non-champagne experts, like us, the difference in taste and the wine was unoticable.
This was an all walking tour, no elevator but very easy only about 30 steps up and down. This tour they showed us the actuall bottling machines along with a lot of history. There is a lot more mold in these tunnels than the other houses.
In answer to a question on "visiting vineyards during a day trip from Paris", I answered with advice to visit Epernay by train, then walk or take taxi to the Ave de Champagne to visit a major Champagne house for a full touristic tour and champagne tasting which requires Payment for the tour!
Ever the pessimist, I figured that the day trip did not allow the poster of the question to economically fulfil his major objectives in such a short time.They included "non-touristic" vineyard visits x 2; soaking up some local culture & a do-it-yourself approach to the trip.
Here is my alternative Plan. Do it yourself = car!
Have a hire car pre-booked. Pick up at station Epernay on a day suitable for making visits to Champagne Houses (not a public holiday). Drive 4.5 kms north to Cumieres on the Marne. Visit Vadin Plateau (130 Rue de la Coopérative, 51480 Cumières, France +33 9 75 74 87 86 - champagne-et-croisiere.com). House is eastern side of town on the D1. approx Lat & Long: 49º04'22.70"N - 03º55'53.50"E. Have always been made welcome there and there are vines in the back yard. If Monsieur is present, he may give the full run down on the method traditional. There are other small houses in the township if more visiting is required.
From Vadin Plateau, head one block east along D1- take a left on Route d'Hautvillers and continue approx 2kms north east from Cumieres up the hill to Hautvillers. Stop at the well-marked "Point de Vue" approx 1 kms up the road before reaching the town. There is a wonderful view of the surrounding region from there.
Hautvillers has history: Dom Pérignon was cellarmaster of the Abbey located near the View Point from 1668 to 1715. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dom_P%A9rignon_%28person%29) or click to open.
Drive back into Epernay via a different route. Photograph the vineyard "head-stones" along the way...they indicate the names of major houses using grapes from vines they mark. At the right time of year, a photo opportunity of red roses blooming at the end of rows of vines may present itself.
In Epernay, have Lunch at Café / Tarbac /Brasserie Le Khédive in place Auban-Moët (350 metres west of roundabout at start of Ave de Champagne). Check out the other customers. Buy a Lotto ticket! There's a bit of local culture for visitors especially if you ask in French for "une selection rapide pour c'est soir, s'ilv ous plait. (If you win Lotto, send me some € for giving you the idea!! ha!)
Take a visit to one of the major houses on AveChamp. Despite the "touristy" nature of such a visit, the experience is very worthwhile!! You get to taste some typical major-house Champagne and compare it with small-maker styles tried earlier in Cumieres.
Drop car at station and head back to Paris.
Read more on pedro's Champagne Ardenne Intro Page including a Travelogue at bottom of the page
While visiting the town, don't miss the HQ of the famous Champagne company Moet et Chandon.
There's a great guided tour in their chellars (a total of 29 km of chellars, but you'll see the essential), they will tell you the story of the company, the key persons and how they make the fabulous champagne well known everywhere.
The entrance fee for the guided tour is EUR. 13.00
Then at the end of the tour, don't miss the champagne tasting offered by the house and have a look at the shop inside.
The company has first estabilished back in the 1743 by Claude Moet and quickly the simpathy of a lot of the important people of the era, such as Napoleon I Bonaparte.
M&C was also the official producer of champagne for the King Charles VII.
In the area there are many places to visit if you are interested in the Champagne making, how they do it etc...
At the touristic office you can find all the information you need, directions, best places, maps etc.. all that for free.
Great service and nice people.
This area of France, it's all about wine and champagne.
Here you can find the best wines and champagne of France.
At the tourist office you will find perfect information for you in order to find out which vineyards you can visit and make a tour.
This tour was nice and started a short movie and then an elevator ride downstairs that took 4-5 minutes, not because it was a long way but because they had a diarama to view on the way down(cheesey). When you get off the elevator the put you on a tram that is laser guided so you cant take flash pictures out the front of the tram or it will crash into all the bottles. There is some walking but not much and there is an elevator to take you back to the top. Lots of chalk carvings and some good things to see with a lot of information.
The most popular champagne brand in France, Mercier, headquartered in Epernay, has thrived on unabashed self-promotion since it was founded in 1858 by Eugène Mercier, a trailblazer in the field of eye-catching publicity stunts and the virtual creator of the cellar tour. Everything here is flashy, including the 160,000 liter barrel that took two decades to build, the lift that transports you 30m underground, and the train taking you along part of the 18km of champagne cellars.
Moet et Chandon is a popular champagne and a beautiful champagne house. Before you even enter the Champagne House, a quick picture with Dom Perignon, Whether or not he was the first to make champagne, the words attributed to him "Brothers, I am drinking stars" is enough to peek my interest.
Tours are available in French and English and consist of a walk through the house and the caves followed by tastings. The tour lasts about an hour and is quite informative.
Open daily. Tour prices run from Euro 15 to 28 depending on the amount and type of tasting you're interested in.
Definitely worth a visit.
The champagne and tour at Champagne Mercier was quite pleasant. The champagne house has a long history that they are happy to share with all that visit.
The tour includes an audio-visual portion and then a ride on a guided tram through the cellar and caves and ends with a champagne tasting.
One of the coolest things was the story of the giant barrel, which holds 200,000 bottles of wine. It took over 10 years to build and was actually transported to the Paris Exposition in 1899. It was one of the biggest draws, with the exception of Gustave Eiffel's Tower.
Very nice tour and delicious champagne. Worth a visit.
The Little Tourist Train is a pleasant way to get a look at Epernay. The train navigates the main streets and the Avenue de Champagne for just shy of an hour as a guide tells you the story of Epernay.
Along the way you'll see many of the famous champagne houses and get to do some people
Price is Euro 6 for adults, 4 for children.
The train runs every day except Mondays and Tuesday:
10.30 am - 11.30am - 2.30pm - 3.30pm - 4.30 pm - 5.30 pm
All Champagne comes the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. So if you go, you've got to see at least one of the Cellars. We picked Moet & Chandon and took the 3 sample tour.
I'm not a big champagne drinker but almost everyone knows of Moet-Chandon. The tour cost €8 or about $10, and last about 45-minutes.
Worth the stop, but don't plan on getting any deals in the gift shop...the tour guide was very good.