When visiting France, the backpacker’s first instinct would be to explore the popular, well-loved city of Paris. Sure, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Musée du Louvre and many charming bistros and patisseries. However, if you want to have a taste of fresh, sparkling champagne, you must visit Reims.
Planning for the Trip
All you need to get to this beautiful and time-honored city is to hop on a train at Paris’ Gare de l’Est. You have about an hour and a half to prepare yourself to begin tasting some bubbly.
The trip may be fairly easy, but do note that most champagne houses will require you to make reservations well in advance. This is, therefore, not an experience you can get at the spur of the moment. You may want to give your chosen champagne house a call in advance.
Many large champagne houses like Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin offer tasting tours that mix history, production and samples. But tour prices in these popular houses tend to be a bit steep, at least €15 and above.
The backpacker’s secret to finding a good champagne tasting experience is to visit the lesser-known houses and villages just out of town. These houses tend to be rustic, at least in comparison to the splendor of large champagne houses. However, they’re a great way to get to know a different side – but just as delicious – side of France.
Champagne M. Brugnon
Tour and Tasting Price: Free
First on our list is Champagne M. Brugnon in the commune of Ecueil, a ten to twenty minute drive from the Reims city center. The Brugnon family has been creating champagne for five generations. The family champagne house was then established by Maurice Brugnon 70 years ago. They offer a free tour, which includes a taste of four of their vintages.
As you might expect from such an old and intimate house, the good-natured owner Alain Brugnon is passionate about wine. He usually takes time to conduct tours through the vineyard and give you an in-depth explanation of the process of making bubbly. Our favorite part? How Mr. Brugnon takes time to explain the interconnectivity of everyone in the champagne-making process, from the small grape growers to the production houses.
R. Blin & Sons Champagne
Tour and Tasting Price: Free
Another intimate, family-run champagne house is R. Blin & Sons Champagne, found in Trigny, a cheerful little commune about twenty minutes west northwest of the Reims city center. Like Champagne M. Brugnon, they also offer a free and friendly tour that will most likely be conducted by one of the Mr. Blins!
They’re pretty well-versed in the art of champagne-making, which you will see from their in-depth explanations. The tour itself is an in-depth journey through the process, taking you from the grape to the bottle.
Pré en Bulles
Tour and Tasting Price: €7
If you’re willing to try something different and go a bit further from Reims, try visiting the commune of Trépail. It is a thirty-minute drive southeast of the city center. There, you will find Pré en Bulles, a museum dedicated to champagne! For an entrance fee of €7, although you can knock down the price to €6 for large groups, you can view the innovative exhibit dedicated to the creation and glorification of champagne. After this spectacle, you may proceed to a sampling of local champagne.