Épernay, the self-proclaimed capitale du Champagne was pretty magical. No, scratch that, really rather magical. We visited as Epernay, Champagne as guests of the Agence Regionale du Tourisme Grand Est but all enjoyment was very much our own.
A good friend of ours had visited Èpernay on a ladies weekend, and had told us of the beautiful champagne houses, the rolling countryside laden with grapevines and the blush stone Avenue de Champagne, which only served to fuel our excitement.
We rolled into Epernay on the train from Reims (read here for that little adventure) just in time to check into our lovely accommodation – Magna Quies, a manor house on the crest of the Avenue de Champagne. The Avenue de Champagne is included in the “Champagne hillsides, Houses and Cellars” which is registered on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The house is 3 minutes walk to the Mercier cellars, to the tower de Castellane, a 5 minute walk to Moët & Chandon and 10 minutes walk to the town center and its restaurants. Perfectly located in other words. (Don’t do what we did and walk up the Rue de Verdun way from the train station. That way involves a steep hill, make sure you wander up the gently ascending Avenue de Champagne.)
The manor home is where the owners live with the first floor dedicated to guest rooms – and both our rooms were spacious and well appointed. Oh, did I mention that Pasha lives there too, a beautiful golden retriever? (She’s kept in the family rooms, but we may have encouraged her to break out…)
A Champagne Tasting
We tripped merrily down the Avenue des Champagne to C. Comme, a champagne tasting bar in the middle of the town centre, specialising in local, smaller champagne houses.
We were treated to a tasting with 6 glasses, taking us from very Brut bubbles, to very sweet Rosé glasses which was fascinating to see how much they varied. (We shared the 6 glasses which was perfect.) We quickly discovered the difference between the 3 main champagne grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, and learned all about the two different ways that Rosè champagne is made.
Dinner at La Table Kobus
Considered one of the best restaurants in Epernay, our meal was fine French dining personified – accompanied unsurprisingly with a glass of local champagne.
Breakfast at Magna Quies
Waking up the next morning incredibly refreshed, we enjoyed breakfast in the beautiful dining room of Magna Queis – from the continental spread we both enjoyed freshly baked croissants and a vat of coffee (with a couple of peeps from Pasha, her nose peering guiltily into the dining room.)
la petite train touristique
Our first stop of the day was hopping on board la petite train touristique. We trundled through the history of Epernay’s great champagne houses on very relaxing and interesting route around the city.
Take a Static Balloon Ride
We weren’t quite sure to expect on our static balloon ride – and we were thrilled to discover that it’s a helium balloon that quietly rises 150ft to give gorgeous views over the countryside of Epernay, Champagne and the surrounding villages. Presented with a glass of local Champagne (the Champagne house changes daily) we simply stepped on to a circular platform at our ticketed time, and began to rise smoothly into the air.
The view is lovely!
Enjoying a glass of champagne whilst overlooking the beautiful countryside the grapes come from was rather special.
Lunch at La Banque
We stopped for a leisurely lunch at this former bank, a restaurant with an incredibly extensive champagne menu. We sat in the terrace, soaking up the sunshine and watching the bubbles dance in our stemmed glasses. I enjoyed a main sized portion of the glorious steak tartare – one delicious enough that I’d travel back just for it.
Explore the Champagne Houses on the Avenue de Champagne
We couldn’t leave Èpernay without popping into a couple of the champagne houses.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get into Perrier Jouet as it was shut for lunch (if you’re pushed for time, make sure you research ahead) but we did pop into the glorious Champagne de Venoge for a glass of their resident champagne. Relaxed under their garden umbrellas it was hard to bring ourselves to leave…
Tour of Maison du Champagne de Castellane
It was wonderful to be really taken behind the scenes of Maison du Champagne de Castellane, currently under the ownership of Laurent-Perrier. The house, founded in 1895, produces both vintage and non-vintage cuvee as well as a blanc de blancs Chardonnay Champagne.
It was truly fascinating to have such a thorough behind the scenes look at the champagne bottle process – and then have a sip of the delicious result in their private tasting room. Epernay Champagne.
All I could think about on our trip to Èpernay, Champagne, was a quote by the infamous Dom Perignon “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” It’s a fabulous place for a ladies weekend, compact but with enough to do. Well, between sipping glasses of champagne obviously! (You could also tie in a foodie style visit to ReimsReims France…)
What is your favourite French dish or drink?
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