Travelling to Champagne

Updated 20th August, 2019

The Best Guide book

French readers will no doubt enjoy the green Michelin Guide to Champagne-Ardennes, but English speakers should obtain a copy of Essi Avellan’s excellent CHAMPAGNE A Guide for Champagne Lovers and Gourmet Travellers.

Only a Day in Champagne?

Set in the centre of Champagne, Épernay is a delightful stop, with a lot of attractions close together for walking, and very handy to its train station. Parking is easy for a fee. Or catch the train from Paris Gare de l’Est. Relax and enjoy Champagne’s vineyard scenery from Chateau- Thierry onwards, and watch out for Madame Clicquot’s wonderfully palatial home, the neo-Renaissance style Château de Boursault, which is not visible from the road.

Train time-table and ticket purchase is available on the SNCF’s site   Or buy your ticket from the English friendly machine at the station.So, having parked, or walked from the station, consider this little champagne stroll, under 450 metres or 1700 metres if you can manage it all. Total return journey is 3.4km, but you won’t notice it.

Almost directly opposite the station, across the square (place Pierre Mendès), you’ll see Restaurant Sardaigne, on the corner of rue Gambetta. On its opposite corner is Restaurant Le Chapon Fin. Proceed between them, along rue Gambetta to your first stop.

On the left sits La Cave à Champagne Restaurant, at number 16. Tel 03 26 55 50 70 Email cave.champagne@wanadoo.fr Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  The proprietors are passionate about champagne, with a great fat list of 9 sets of village champagnes totalling 78 different bottles. They also have 76 bottles from the big champagne Houses. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to try their food, but it looked promising. And suffice to say that every restaurant on this little walk possesses a decent champagne list of bottles, half-bottles, and at least one magnum.

Opposite is Restaurant Champenois. Open M – Th 6.30 to 11.30, Fr and Sa 6.30 – 1am. Also open for lunch, and on Sundays by arrangement for groups. Email: contact@lafinebulle.fr  Their many champagnes are associated with the bar next door, La Fine Bulle Bar à Champagne, 17 rue Gambetta. Tastings, sales, open 7 days. Tel 03 26 32 05 37  Over 200 champagne brands, including the greatest houses and their best cuvées de prestige, and some super tasting opportunities at their bar.

A place which I visit most times that I visit Epernay, just so I can have 6 champagnes side by side, to smell the differences in this amazing wine of varied styles, is C-Comme, 8 rue Gambetta. Open 7 days. Tel: 03 26 32 09 55  Tastings (€37.50 for the weekly flight of 6 grower champagnes, each coupe 100 mls, or €43.50 with each coupe of 140 mls). Theme tastings, snacks, sales and more. Daily except Wednesdays, when opening hours are from 3:00 pm.

Continue the walk to the Place de La République at the end of rue Gambetta. An optional walk along rue Flodoard to the right brings you to Ets. Salvatori, the famous wine shop, and further along at No. 6 on the left, the tasting and sales venue of Les Grands Vins de France. Have a look!

Enough before lunch? Retrace your steps to Pl de la République, turn right, and take the little street to the right of La Banque, rue Berceaux. Here, the ‘name’ chef in town is Patrick Michelon, with one Michelin rosette and a noted wine list for his Restaurant Les Berceaux. Excellent value, Bistrot Le 7, (from Є19.50 two courses), 13 rue des Berceaux, also has delicious, but simpler, food by Patrick Michelon. Recommended by the Michelin Guide, too. Tel 03 26 55 28 84  . The link to Le 7 is at the bottom of their web-page. Restaurant Les Berceaux, naturally more comfortable than the bistro, is capable of excellent food, beginning, for example, with little cheese biscuits known as sablé, and some delicious sweet crab on an avocado mousse with just a touch of cayenne, continuing to a many course dégustation, or à la carte offerings such as Dover sole and prawns. Plenty of excellent champagne.

Or return to La Banque Bar Restaurant, Tel 03 26 59 50 50 email contact@brasserie- labanque.fr You can look at their wine list at http://www.brasserie-labanque.fr/ Open 7 days, another fabulous champagne list, and a very comfortable place to dine. A long bar with seating runs the length of the room. And for those who want a change from champagne, yes, there are other wines, too, apart from the champagne by the glass, plus even more bottles of champagne. Try two different champagnes from the same area side by side to explore the very different aromas and palates derived from small differences in terroir, and variations in production. Service is perfect. For a bottle, the cork in its cage is expertly hooked to the side of the not-too-cold chiller. Cheeses served are nicely ripened.

Other restaurants are nearby – all are good; all have great champagne lists

Restaurant Le Théâtre, 8 pl Mendès France, Epernay. 27 different delicious NV champagnes by the bottle. You pass this one from the station. It’s on your left.
Tel 03 26 58 88 19

La Grillade Gourmande (excellent) a particular favourite, at 16 rue de Reims, Epernay. Tel: 03 26 55 44 22

La Table Kobus, 3 rue Dr. Rousseau, 51200 Epernay. Tel: 03 26 51 53 53

Visits to Champagne Houses

On the other side of the Pl de la République, begin a walk along the delightful and historic Avenue de Champagne, graced on either side by many fine Houses, some of which are open for visits.

At No. 20, visit the very popular caves of Moët & Chandon, with a glass of their product to consume at the end, the style depending on how much you have chosen to pay. Reserve at their desk, or by phone, 03 26 51 22 00, or online here  Opposite is the sumptuous mansion which Jean-Remy built for Napoleon’s visits. Enjoy yourself during your visit, but take some of the ‘facts’ with a pinch of salt.

At No. 33 Champagne de Venoge is open daily 10:00am–6:00pm. Make bookings here

Champagne Boizel (I recommend it) is at No. 46. Open daily. Bookings for visits can be made here or here

Champagne Mercier, at No. 75, provides a Disneyesque elevator descent to a laser guided train through their caves, with audioguide adjusted to the language of your choice. Depending on your selection, consume one to three glasses of very traditional champagne which is very popular in France, and, if you choose three types, expect some attentive and informative service from their knowledgeable staff. Book here

Nearby, open for visits, is Champagne de Castellane (notice the tall tower as the landmark). Just off the Ave de Champagne, turn left at the roundabout before you reach Mercier; it’s at 57 rue de Verdun. Approximate opening times are 10am–midday and 12–5:30pm daily. Bookings can be made here.

On your return along Ave de Champagne, at No. 15 find the tasting room of the delightful grower champagne, Collard-Picard. Open daily.

For Those With A Car….

Or a helicopter….. , Forbes’ recent article guiding you for an indulgent 24 hours may be read here.