“Burgundy makes you think off silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them and Champagne makes you do them. Think of silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them and Champagne makes you do them.”
– Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French gastronome, (1755-1826)
After visits to Burgundy, Alsace, Côtes du Rhône, and Bordeaux, how could we not visit this wine French wine region? Champagne is located in in north-eastern France. Although it is doable as a (long) day trip from Paris (the region starts 120 kilometers/75 miles from the city) , I did it as part of a visit to the World War I battlefield of Verdun. There were people on some of my tours that were out from Paris for the day. Trust me when I tell you that with a driver taking them from one producer of Champagne to another, they were having a very, um, fun educational experience.
Champagne has 4 main cities: Reims, Troyes, Chalons en Champagne and Epernay. Most of the guidebooks recommend either Reims or the smaller Epernay. I wanted to visit the famous (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) cathedral at Reims, so I chose to go there. If I’d had more time, I would have done the Champagne Tourist Route. It covers more than 500 km between Reims, Epernay and the Côte des Bar, and has around 80 welcome centers. Growers offer tours in personalized settings, but you need to be better organized than I was and arrange them in advance. Squeezing it in at the last minute meant that I could only tour producers like Tattinger and Pomeroy.
Let me explain. Like Burgundy, Champagne’s vineyards are classified as Grand Cru, Premier Cru or Deuxième Cru. However, in Champagne this does not give an indication of the vineyard’s quality or potential. It functions more as a means to establish the price a grower gets for his harvest. The producer or skill of the wine-maker in Champagne means that it is possible to have an outstanding performer in a second classed village and a moderate grower in a higher classed Grand Cru (just like Bordeaux, but different from Burgundy). Confused yet?
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