Seven of the best Champagne houses to visit

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Tyson Stelzer delves into his little black book and shares his top Champagne houses open to the public, to help you plan a winter getaway that is under one hour on the train east of Paris.

Explore the hidden depths of Ruinart's chalk mine caverns... Image Credit: lvmh.com
Explore the hidden depths of Ruinart

Seven best Champagne houses to visit

Drink in your fill of wine and history at one of these Champagne houses open to the visitors…

Descend into the centuries-old chalk mine caverns at Ruinart… Image Credit: ruinart.com
Descend into the centuries-old chalk mine caverns at Ruinart… Image Credit: ruinart.com

Established in 1768, Ruinart is the longest-established Champagne house of all, claiming prime position at the top of the hill on Rue des Crayères and possessing the deepest and most spectacular crayères (chalk cellars) in the region – the only ones to be classified a national monument. Ruinart was the first to use these enormous chalk-mine caverns to age its Champagnes, and the score marks of their third-century Roman creators are still visible. A visit to the region is incomplete without an opportunity to explore this mythical underworld, topped off with a tasting of the graceful, Chardonnay-focused cuvées of this under-recognised house. Find out more

Champagne Ruinart

4 Rue de Crayères

51100 Reims

+33 (0)3 26 77 51 51

· €70 per person, open Tuesday – Saturday. Visits by appointment only.

Classic Champagne grandeur at the VeuveClicquot house. Image Credit: lvmh.com
Classic Champagne grandeur at the VeuveClicquot house. Image Credit: lvmh.com

A visit to the grand house of VeuveClicquot is a juxtaposition of old and new, with a reception room in the trademark Clicquot mango orange livery perched directly atop its splendid crayères. A dizzying annual production of 18 million bottles makes this the second-largest Champagne house of all, with a compelling focus on the power of the Pinot Noir grape in its blends. La Grande Dame is arguably the most affordable of Champagne’s top prestige cuvées, and a particularly rare privilege of the house is its enchanting Cave Privée range of vintages, released after more than two decades in the cellars. A guided cellar tour and tasting are a must, and you can also book an ‘In the footsteps of Madame Clicquot’ tour. Find out more

VeuveClicquot-Ponsardin

1 Place des Droits de l’Homme

51100 Reims

+33 (0)3 26 89 53 90

· €25-€120 per person, depending on your chosen tour. Open Tuesday-Saturday, reservations are essential.

Visit the home of the legendary Comtes de Champagne at Taittinger… Image Credit: Victor Grigas / WikiCommons
Visit the home of the legendary Comtes de Champagne at Taittinger… Image Credit: Victor Grigas / WikiCommons

Under the careful yet daring oversight of Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his children Clovis and Vitalie, the Champagnes of the fabled house of Taittinger are more refined than ever. A visit to its 4km of crayères is eclipsed only by a custom tasting accompanied by a hostess to tell the story of each cuvée. The legendary Comtes de Champagne – three million bottles of which reside in these galleries for up to a decade – ranks among the finest blanc de blancs in the world. Find out more

Champagne Taittinger

9 Place Saint-Nicaise

51100 Reims

+33 (0)3 26 85 84 33

· €15-€55 per person, depending on chosen tour and discounts. Open Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:30pm. Group visits available with prior arrangement, reduced rates for minimum 20 people.

Uncover the layers of history behind five generations of winemaking at Geoffroy… Image Credit: champagne-geoffroy.com
Uncover the layers of history behind five generations of winemaking at Geoffroy… Image Credit: champagne-geoffroy.com

Fifth-generation vigneron Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy is the finest grower in the village of Cumières, but such is his success that he has moved to an enviably large production facility in Aÿ. With exacting attention to well positioned vineyards, his wines express the generosity and purity of Pinot Noir-focused blends. His wife Karine themed their contemporary little tasting room, and she or Jean-Baptiste will guide you through their extensive range of Champagnes. Find out more

Champagne Geoffroy

4 Rue Jeanson

51160 Aÿ

+33 (0)3 26 55 32 31

· Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm. Visits available on request via telephone or email info@champagne-Geoffroy.com

The futuristic designer tasting room at La Boutique… Image Credit: Trésors de Champagne, La Boutique
The futuristic designer tasting room at La Boutique… Image Credit: Trésors de Champagne, La Boutique

Visiting Champagne growers and houses can be notoriously difficult, since most aren’t open like cellar doors in other regions. A modern tasting room and wine shop in Reims is a strong step in the right direction, initiated by grower AngélineTemplier (of J Lassalle). This ambitious shared project of 28 grower members of the Champagne Special Club is an achingly hip space where visitors can attend a masterclass, buy 170 grower Champagnes and taste a selection. As with all visits in Champagne, be sure to book in advance. Find out more

Trésors de Champagne, La Boutique

2 Rue Olivier Métra

51100 Reims

+33 (0)3 26 48 28 42

· Boutique open Tuesday-Saturday, daily hours vary please visit website for exact times.

Recieve a personal welcome from the Sousa family on a visit to their cellar… Image Credit: champagnedesousa.com
Recieve a personal welcome from the Sousa family on a visit to their cellar… Image Credit: champagnedesousa.com

For the past 29 years, the genius of third-generation Champagne grower Erick de Sousa has revitalised his family estate to become one of the finest on the Côte des Blancs. He and his family personally welcome guests over an enormous oak table in their newly renovated tasting room, then lead them through cellars that tunnel directly under the square in the heart of the quaint grand cru village of Avize, and up into their small fermentation room behind half-metre thick walls on the far side of the square. Here they demonstrate how cuvées are handcrafted to capture the personality of their family vineyards, which they tend according to painstaking biodynamic principles. Find out more

Champagne De Sousa

12 Place Léon Bourgeois

51190 Avize

+33 (0)3 26 57 53 29

· Open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, visiting and tasting by appointment only.

See the celebrated Champagne grower Pierre Larmandier at work in his cellar… Image Credit: larmandier.fr
See the celebrated Champagne grower Pierre Larmandier at work in his cellar… Image Credit: larmandier.fr

In the premier cru village of Vertus at the southern end of Champagne’s famed Côte de Blancs, there is no grower more lauded than Pierre Larmandier. His is one of Champagne’s most sensible and diligent regimes, upholding that the soil is the most important aspect of winemaking, while focusing on every nuance of detail in the vineyard and the winery. Make an appointment to visit his Larmandier-Bernier estate and he or his wife Sophie will personally introduce their cuvées and show you through their biodynamic vineyards. Their Champagnes are proof that diligence counts more than grand cru classification in defining the region’s finest growers. Find out more

Champagne Larmandier-Bernier

19 Avenue du Général de Gaulle

51130 Vertus

+33 (0)3 26 52 13 24

Open Monday-Saturday by appointment only, via phone or email champagne@larmandier.fr

Translated by Leo / 孔祥鑫

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