Mercier: Love at first sight
Visitors to Mercier take a tour on a small train around part of its 18km of cellars, 30 metres under the chalky soils of Épernay – before rising to the surface for a tasting. En route, a giant barrel makes you stop in your tracks. Eugène Mercier built this barrel – the world’s largest – in the 19th century and presented it at the 1889 World Fair in Paris. It won second prize… just behind the Eiffel Tower.
Moët & Chandon: History and tradition
Considered one of the most famous champagne houses at the head of the largest vineyard in the region, Moët & Chandon also has the largest cellars, a 28-kilometre labyrinth carved into the white chalk of Champagne, under the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay. Whether you opt for the ‘Traditional’, ‘Grand Vintage’ or ‘Imperial’ visit (the latter a nod to Napoleon, a great lover of the place), you’ll soak up history, beginning in the domaine’s courtyard beside the statue of Dom Pérignon. Allow time for the tasting rooms and shop.
Mumm: The iconic red ribbon
Its white label with red ribbon became known around the world. To understand the manufacturing process of this iconic vintage, the Mumm house, founded in Reims in 1827, offers a ‘Cordon Rouge Experience’ which engages the senses, 7 or 14 metres underground. A small museum retraces the history and savoir-faire of Mumm, before a tasting break during which other vintages can be sampled on request.
Taittinger: A family passion
Located on Reims’ Place Saint-Nicaise, where the abbey of the same name stood in the 13th century, the Maison Taittinger contains some beautiful remains. At a depth of 18 metres, the journey through time continues in the whitewashed Gallo-Roman spaces that are part of the UNESCO-listed ‘Coteaux, maisons et caves de champagne’. Some 15 million bottles rest here, where the ancestral savoir-faire of an enthusiastic family continues to work – proven by the tasting at the end of the visit.
Veuve-Clicquot: Champagne for women
In 1810, Barbe Nicole Ponsardin, Clicquot’s widow and the first woman to run a champagne house, created her own vintage. She also invented the ‘riddling table’ process to clarify the champagne. Since then, the yellow-gold label of Veuve-Clicquot has become a worldwide reference. The visit, aided by giant screens, tells this beautiful story – followed by a tasting.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot
Lanson: From the vineyard to the flute
A plot of vines in the heart of Reims is Lanson’s privilege. The visit, entitled ‘From the vineyard to the flute’, begins out in the open air in this miniature vineyard before going through the champagne-making method, step by step, in the vat rooms. The visit ends in the ‘Corridor of Time’ under the portraits of the house’s successive leaders, before a tasting.
Ruinart: Magic in the basement
The oldest champagne house, founded in 1729 in Reims and listed as a historic site since 1931, deserves its two-hour visit. Lying 38 metres underground and kept at 11 degrees, the chalk cellars housing Ruinart’s precious flasks are a splendour – as are the walls of bottles stretching as far as the eye can see. Also moving are the tiny sculptures carved into the chalk by generations of workers. The tasting then has even more meaning.
Vranken-Pommery: Champagne makes art
Imagine a beautiful Elizabethan-style estate, just a stone’s throw from Reims Cathedral. Built by Madame Pommery in the 19th century, it houses one of the most famous champagne houses. A magnificent staircase leads to 120 chalkboards connected by 18km of underground galleries decorated with mural frescoes. There, an immense barrel of 75,000 litres – equivalent to 100,000 bottles – will leave you speechless. An annual exhibition of contemporary art completes the public space, adding an artistic touch to this champagne house.