The Champagne Route
Feast your eyes on over 30,000 hectares of immaculate vines in this world-renowned region of viticulture. The Champagne region is known the world over for the quality of its vineyards and wine cellars, which employ the talents of several thousand growers. Around 80 of the 5,000 independent producers have signed up to participate in the Champagne Route (Route du Champagne), welcoming visitors and offering a personal tour of their establishment. Look out for the ‘accueil’ sign outside which signifies that visitors are welcome, although calling in advance is advised. Visits are usually free for individuals, depending on how much you taste and whether or not you buy any champagne to take home! Also look out for the ‘Vignobles et Découvertes’ quality label, set up by the Ministry of Tourism and Agriculture in 2009 to distinguish quality wine tourism sites. Over 500 of Champagne’s sites and services have been awarded this label, covering everything from cellar visits to leisure activities, from museums to tourist offices and from restaurants to accommodation.
The Champagne Route stretches for around 700km across the departments of Marne, Aube and Aisne. There are eight marked trails that lead you to magnificent views from authentic villages, ancient monasteries and imposing châteaux and churches. From Reims and its prestigious champagne houses, take the road to the massif of Saint-Thierry and enjoy a beautiful viewpoint from Trigny, a flower-filled village with medieval ramparts. On the road to the Montagne de Reims, which connects Reims with Épernay, stop at the Verzenay lighthouse, which watches over a swathe of vineyards and now houses the Musée de la Vigne. Discover the Faux de Verzy at the heart of the Montagne de Reims regional park, and from Cumières, embark on the Champagne Vallée boat to discover the vineyards along the water in the Marne valley. Further south on the Côte des Blancs road, admire the panorama of the vineyards from Mont Aimé and enjoy the charms of the flowery village of Oger. In Aube around Bar-sur-Seine with its half-timbered houses, make a stop at Essoyes where Impressionist artist Auguste Renoir lived for a few years – and visit one of the 28 champagne cellars.