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Exploring the Champagne Wine Region in France

Visiting the land of champagne bubbles

When we think of France – aside from Paris and it’s Mediterranean French Rivieran beaches – our minds go directly to vibrant wines and bubbly champagnes! Some of the worlds premiere wine growing regions … Burgundy, Bordeaux ahhhh, champagne! (click any photo to enlarge)or the Loire Valley and Champagne call out a few. Its glorious Cabernet’s, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays pull out a few of the most popular still wines, but let’s talk bubbly!

Champagnes are a delightful class of its own! White and Rose wines infused naturally with those tiny never-ending bubbles make for a decadent celebratory treat! Dry on the palate with its own unique grapey notes, these delightful creations are accentuated with naturally-occurring tiny bubbles that just trickle continuously up your glass. Just to tease, and enthrall you, and make you understand how special a champagne treat is.

Where is the Champagne Region?

The Champagne region of France sits under 2 hours east of Paris – about 100 miles (an easy get-out-of-Paris getaway option). rolling countryside of the Champagne regionWe recommend centering between Reims and Epernay to best the greatest selection of Champagne Houses to visit and explore – there’s well over 200 in the area. Check the story footer for our recommendation on a great chateau to stay in that puts you right in the center of things.

Situated in the northern corner of the country, conditions are cooler, yet still moderated by the jet streams trajectory. The natural relief of the hillsides make for excellent drainage conditions (and beautiful vistas to see) and combined with the chalky, limestone soil – a trifecta of conditions allow the key champagne grapes – hillsides of grapevinesChardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier – to thrive. Wait til we take you into the underground chalk cellars hewn from the limestone rock that many champagne houses use for their cooling and fermentation processes.

Our bet is you will truly enjoy the scenery as you tour the area! The rolling hills are covered in luscious champagne vines. The picturesque chateaus and small villages become the heart of the vineyards. And centuries old churches, buildings and estates throughout the area offer a charm and testament to the Notre Dame Cathedral - Reims - the crowning place of French Kingsgenerations old origins of this region and its world-renowned bubbly.

Central to the Champagne Region is its main city Reims – where the Kings of France have been crowned for centuries – but many other smaller cities lie within its boundaries waiting to be explored, like:

  • Epernay
  • Troyes
  • Chaumont
  • Charleville

Is any sparkling wine a champagne?

As a means to protect the area and promote the specialization of the “Champagne terroir”, the International Organisation of Wine and Vine carefully defined the geographical limits of France’s Champagne Region and incorporated the strict processes and traditional rules for making champagnes – officially characterizing champagnes as only coming from France’s Champagne Region. All other wines of its kind and bubbly likenesses were legally called sparkling wines, creating the prestige and specialty of this effervescent nectar.

The champagne story begins with two widows and a monk

Two widows a monk change the face of champagnes foreverSo, two widows and a monk change the face of champagne forever!

The champagne story, by all accounts, begins with Monk Dom Perignon's inadvertent wine-making error that created the bubbly liquid crediting him as the father of champagne (immortalized with the famous champagne offering – Dom Perignon - at Moët & Chandon's Champagne House). His surprised phrase "Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!" was the first hint the process had created this bubbly delight.

the Veuve Clicquot Champagne House, ReimsThis was but the beginning of the transformation from still wines to the new emerging sparkling treat we enjoy today. Further to Monk Dom Perignon’s new process, Madame Clicquot's (of the Veuve Clicquot Champagne House) innovative riddling process helped fine tune the clarity of the champagnes with it’s gentle rotation process of the magnum bottles to funnel the sediment into the neck of the bottle. With a quick skilled disgorgement of the sediment (lees) losing only a few drams, the remaining champagne now becomes clear and clean.

La Maison PommeryOur second widow changing the face of champagnes forever is Madame Pommery (of La Maison Pommery). Her innovations changed the taste profile of champagnes by making a “Brut” series of champagnes. Using grapes harvested later for the added natural sweetness and no longer the need for additional sugar to be added, this Brut style became a favored diversion from the sweeter, sugary champagne options of the day.

What began as the inadvertent process of secondary fermentation adding bubbles to the wines by monk Dom Perignon, to Madame Clicquot’s riddling process to clarify the wines and Madame Pommery’s “Brut” styling taking this new delight to it’s bubbly awesomeness, we celebrate with natural bubbles this wine creation!

Touring with the widows of Champagne

Would you like to tour some champagne houses and taste their sparkling delights? Continue with us as we tour two great champagne houses – Vranken Pommery in Reims and the Bollinger Champagne House in Epernay. Explore some limestone caverns, some art history, the art of cooperage and some James Bond 007 champagnes.

Chief of Wine Happiness ~ Natalie MacLeanAnd we’d be remiss if we didn’t do a shout out to Chief of Wine Happiness - Natalie MacLean who reviews and blogs extensively on wines of the world. Natalie gave us the idea of touring the Champagne Region with a “Widows of Champagne” focus 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. A champagne toast to @NatDecants for a suggesting a wonderful tour focus … Cheers!

Continue with us to “Touring the Land of Champagne Bubbles” with information on how to book your champagne tours, a tour of La Maison Pommery and Bollinger Champagne houses as well as a suggestion as to where to stay in the area.

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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