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Touring French Champagne Houses

Touring the land of champagne bubbles

Did you enjoy the overview on exploring France’s Champagne Region?

The beauty of France’s Champagne Region opened to us as we road-tripped our way east from Paris. Picturesque rolling hills covered in grapevines, estates and small villages dotting the valleys, and the over 200 champagne houses revealed the historic character of the region.

the rolling hills of the Champagne Region, FranceFollowing our tour route of the Champagne Region with a “Widows of Champagne” focus (thanks to the Chief of Wine Happiness - Natalie MacLean for the idea) honoring the 18th & 19th century widows who ran some of the most powerful champagne houses in France - Veuve(s) Clicquot, Pommery, Roederer, Laurent-Perrier, and Bollinger – we chose two Champagne Houses to visit – La Maison Pommery in Reims and Champagne Bollinger near Epernay.

Champagne Tours tips and tricks

With 200+ major and entrepreneurial champagne houses established in the Champagne Region, picking your tours takes some understanding and planning.

  • Pommery displays it's bubbly history back 120 years!Champagne tour tips – in planning for your champagne tour, understand there is a broad palette of options depending on the experience you want to have (champagne vineyard dinners, estate tours by helicopter or simple tour and sampling as a few examples). Some houses only offer tours on particular days and in particular seasons and tour prices range from inexpensive to gold-plated. 
  • Where to book your champagne tour – most champagne houses require a pre-booked tour. We found that very few houses book their own tours, but the appellation has a booking engine that pretty much covers every champagne house in the region. Visit Champagne Booking and use the list feature to sort tours by Recommended or Price – or we found handy reviewing the map feature based on our route.
  • Short straw who become the Designated Driver – After a few samples of Champagne’s bubbly delight, it will be clear the bubbles easily muddle the senses. Driving after just a few samples is simply unsafe. With a little 9 million bubbles per glass, eh?pre-planning, choosing a designated driver will be your safest way to sample, tour and enjoy the wonderfulness of the area (or choose a moderated bus tour available through Viator or Expedia). We recommend you purchase a bottle to bring back to your Airbnb for the driver to sample and enjoy that evening.
  • Important note if bubbles tickle your nose: Scientists have calculated that in there are approximately 49,000,000 bubbles in a 750ml bottle (26 oz) of champagne! That means your champagne flute holds about 9.4 million tickly bubbles!

Champagne House - La Maison Pommery – Reims

Walk through the impressive iron gates framing La Maison Pommery in Reims to a stunning blue Elizabethan beautiful Pommery architecture (click any photo to enlarge)neo-gothic collection of turreted, towered buildings as a nod to her British customer base. Below ground sits 18 km (11 miles) of interconnected limestone (chalk) tunnels, with Roman era history, for the aging stage of champagne production. Endless bottles aging in magnums up to 30 years enjoy the climate consistent temperatures and atmosphere that make visiting La Maison Pommery a wonderful learning experience.

Pommery uses art to enhance the experienceThe tour visitation Center houses a number of creative art works, an introduction to Madame Pommery herself and her influence on the industry, numerous historic milestone markers that honor their 150 years history and their Pommery store. Within the Visitation Center is the entrance to the underground cellars – those 160 stairs leading downwards about 100 ft. to the start of the tunnel system. This is where the tours begin!

Pommery's 160 stairs take you down to the chalk cellarsNow let me say that these stairs could be simply rough-hewn out of the limestone and industrially lit for safety. But the Pommery team doesn’t deliver a simple 60-minute tour, they create an experience in art, in light and in the elevation of the tour experience like they elevate the delight of their champagnes – above ordinary! A light show pulls your attention down the long staircase and artistically lit tunnel passages create illusions of light. Sculptures, engravings and art installations decorate the cavernous chambers. And endless magnums of champagne fill the alleys, corridors and closes aging in happy delight.

artistic lighting illuminates the passagesPommery engages with cavern art deep underground in the cellars

The Magnums aging in the limestone cellars for up to 30 years ...Pommery tour educates you to the stages of champagne production, the multiple fermentation processes, the riddling and disgorgement stages and the art of archiving the aging process in creating the bubbly nectar ending back in the visitor center with a sampling of their Brut Royale, their Grand Cru and possibly a vintage champagne selection. Quite a tour experience at a premium champagne house run by one of the original women of champagne – Madame Louise Pommery!

Highly recommended, tours are available on the appellation’s Champagne Booking site … or uniquely through Le Domaine Pommery itself. For review commentary on the Pommery tours, see what Tripadvisor says and follow the latest insights with Pommery on Facebook.

Champagne House – Bollinger - Aÿ /Epernay

A leisurely drive through hills covered in grapevines and small estates nestled in the valleys brings you to Epernay – central to the Champagne Bollinger - Ay, FranceChampagne Region and home to numerous prestigious Champagne Houses. Infamous for it’s James Bond 007 legacy of Bollinger Champagnes, the Bollinger Champagne estate stands as a powerful statement matching the famous class of its champagnes. One of the few champagne houses with its own master cooper, Bollinger still creates and repairs their suite of barrels used in the wine making process.

Bollingers cooper assists in making a high quality productThe Bollinger tour is top rated, walking you through one of their vineyards to educate the importance of the quality of the grapes (owning their own grand cru and premier cru vineyards) themselves critical to the greatness of the end champagne product. Into the cooperage to see the barrels in various stages of repair or creation following into the tunnels and storage systems storing the endless magnums within the aging process, it’s apparent the quality process stages build a quality champagne product.

Bollinger cellarways staging magnums in the aging processBollinger’s partnership with the James Bond 007 franchise, beginning in the early 70’s with the movie Live and Let Die, helped immortalize the brand with this creative marketing enterprise. Also awarded the Royal Warrant as the Official Champagne Purveyor to seven British monarchs, the Bollinger prestige sets it in a class few champagne houses can boast.

sampling delightful Bollinger ChampagnesIn the tasting room post tour, it’s evident in the sampling that this is not an everyday champagne – this is a premium product with subtle nuances, perfectly balanced elements producing a wonderous nose and palate and an exquisite finish worth every penny the hefty price this champagne commands. A true treat to experience and taste!

Highly recommended, tours are available on the appellation’s Champagne Booking. For review commentary on the Bollinger tours, see what Tripadvisor says and follow the latest insights with Bollinger on Facebook.

The region is home to nigh on 200 major and minor Champagne Houses. For more tour opportunities to tease and whet your palate, visit the regions Champagne Booking site and see what’s nearby.

A historic Chateau B&B for your Champagne Region stay

While you visit and explore Reims and the Champagne Region you certainly need a place to rest your bubbly head. We found this La Baleiniere historic B&B, Reimsgem of a historic B&B just outside Reims that served as our base for the couple of days we were in the area. A quick 10 minute drive into the vineyard-edged fields to Jouy-Les-Reims brings you to La Baleiniere (Translation).

La Baleiniere LibraryBuilt in 1773, La Baleiniere, as a bed and breakfast, offers 4 amazing historic rooms, all with modern amenities. A large dining room, sitting area and library/games room with antiques and period furniture welcome your relaxation. Just looking at some of the pre-WWI books in the library is a treat to experience!

La Baleiniere Marie Laurence roomHere’s 4 of our La Baleiniere photos from our GoGirlfriend Facebook page (click forward the next few pics) to get a feel for this historic property. We loved our stay (and Patricia was very welcoming) – here’s what others have said on Tripadvisor about La Baleiniere.

Exploring the Champagne Region was a true treat in taste, in learning and in the beauty of the land. Our next trip will hopefully take us to the Burgundy or Bordeaux Regions and south to the French Riviera ... oui, oui!

Have you visited France’s Champagne Region and tasted your way through some of it’s amazing Champagne Houses? Check out our Facebook album on our France travels for more pictorial details. We’d love to hear more from you … Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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