Synonymous with one of the world’s most recognisable wines, France’s northern region of Champagne is a gourmand’s paradise. We’ve rounded up our highlights, from private tastings at some of the most prestigious champagne houses, to Michelin-starred dining and UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Where to stay
Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa
This luxuriously appointed hotel is nestled on a hillside in Champillon, with panoramic views of the Marne Valley, Champagne ‘capital’ of Épernay, and the historic village of Hautvillers. Alongside 51 suites, guest amenities include two restaurants (Michelin-starred Le Royal and the more relaxed brasserie, Le Bellevue), a sprawling spa with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a Champagne concierge team that can arrange access to private Champagne houses, tastings, and harvesting sessions with local producers.
Domaine Les Crayères
A former residence surrounded by more than 17 acres of parkland in Reims, Domaine Les Crayères was built by architect Charles Dauphin for the Polignac family (with ties to the Pommery Champagne house) in 1904. Operating as a luxury hotel since the 1980s, the guest accommodations have been designed in a classical French style by acclaimed interior designer, Pierre-Yves Rochon. Part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux portfolio, the hotel is home to two-Michelin-starred Le Parc, helmed by chef Philippe Mille (who has worked with acclaimed French chef, Yannick Alléno), and brasserie restaurant, Le Jardin.
Floating luxury aboard Coquelicot
Belmond’s latest luxury barge, Coquelicot, provides a new way to experience and explore Champagne. Three cabins with en suite bathrooms, an indoor salon with a Champagne bar, and an expansive deck were conceptualised by Humbert & Poyet, who have created a floating sanctuary for guests. Belmond has partnered with Maison Ruinart on an epicurean experience that includes a tasting lunch aboard the barge curated by Ruinart’s Chef in Residence, Valérie Radou, along with a private guided vineyard tour to discover the maison’s latest sustainability initiatives. Coquelicot will embark on her maiden journey in September 2023.
Manoir Henri Girault
Wellness and wine collide at 17th-century vineyard Henri Giraud, located just outside of Épernay. Guests staying at one of the five luxury rooms and suites at Manoir Henri Giraud can book the Bain de Terroir experience, which includes a private vineyard tour and tasting, fine-dining wine-paired menu, and a Craÿothérapie® wellness experience, consisting of a chalk bath treatment, paired with a glass of Champagne and grapeseed oil massages.
Champagne’s picturesque rolling hills and quaint towns belie its miles of underground cellars, holding bottles of prized liquid. The cellar door experience that many Australians are used to doesn’t tend to apply here, so it’s worth planning and booking visits to Champagne houses well in advance.
Regional heritage at Ruinart
Ruinart, located in Reims, is the oldest original Champagne house in the world, with a storied history that can be discovered on a visit to its cellars. Located 40 metres under the house, visitors can encounter the UNESCO-listed crayères (chalk cellars) that have been ageing bottles of Champagne since the 18th century. Book a private two-hour tour through this impressive site, which culminates with a tasting of two Ruinart cuvées.
Biodynamic innovation at Champagne Leclerc Briant
The boutique producer Leclerc Briant is regarded as one of the pioneering houses of biodynamic viticulture in Champagne, representing holistic winemaking methods that are sustainable and deeply attuned to nature’s rhythms. The vineyard is certified biodynamic and organic, with the innovative Champagnes by winemaker Frédéric Zeimett well-regarded for their authentic expression of the terroir.
Avenue de Champagne
L’Avenue de Champagne is a UNESCO-listed, one-kilometre-long stretch of road in the Champagne ‘capital’ of Épernay. While visiting the region, it’s worth walking or driving down the avenue; its pavements lined with historic, imposing properties that house some of the most well-known Champagne producers, including Moët et Chandon, Perrier-Jouët, and Pol Roger.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims
This striking cathedral in Reims holds national significance, as the traditional site of the coronation of French kings. Constructed in a High Gothic style, its façade was built in the 13th and 14th centuries — look out for the intricately carved sculptures of French kings and biblical figures, as well as two statues memorialising Joan of Arc.
This quaint, charming village on the hillside is linked to the heritage of Champagne as a wine-producing region. It was the home and burial place of the Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon, whose name is now synonymous with the wine. Stop by for a brief walk around the village, and stop at the nearby lookout point for a beautiful view of the surrounding vine-covered hills.
How to get there
With four stations in the region, travelling to and from Champagne by train is an efficient and eco-conscious option. High-speed TGV trains departing Paris or Charles de Galle Airport take between 30 and 45 minutes.
For those travelling around France and to other destinations in Europe, Eurail’s Global Pass is a flexible and convenient way to get around, available for unlimited travel in 33 destinations. Travellers looking to explore other wine regions can take advantage of the pass to visit other notable wine destinations such as Alsace (Strasbourg), Burgundy (Dijon), and Bordeaux.