Day trip to the champagne region
We had one planned activity during our week. It was a self-guided day trip to the Champagne region to go on a cellar tour. By all accounts this day worked out very well.
tour: Self vs. guided
During planning it became obvious that several tour groups offer this as a day trip. Overall, each tour company essentially offered a drive out to the Champagne region, cellar tour, lunch or dinner, and then return to Paris.
I’m accustomed to planning and booking on our own. This time was no exception. Our friends who joined us for the week in Paris selected the cellar to visit, and I arranged the rental car. Initially it would be easy, renting whatever vehicle would comfortably fit 4 adults on a 2-3 hour drive. The wrinkle to the car rental started when the husband commented he wasn’t interested in joining the cellar tour and wanted to explore some backroads. Cue the requirement to find a driver’s car, that would fit 4 people.
Our rental car for the day ended up being an Audi A5. Definitely better than any underpowered basic sedan or tipsy SUV. We agreed that he & I would split the driving duties, with the focus of him being the chauffeur after the cellar tour. With something more sporty he gladly explored the area while we went for our cellar tour. I hoped his excitement for finding winding roads in the afternoon would be something like this:
The escape from Paris was an adventure in its own. Returning to the apartment came to a halt as the neighbourhood butcher was receiving its delivery.
Once everybody was in the car, it was time to battle Paris’ ring road. Just like our visit in 2017, it won. We slowly snaked our way around and eventually out of Paris. The main highway to the Champagne region is well maintained and we arrived in the outskirts of Reims where we had lunch. Connecting Reims and Épernay was a scenic road, and soon enough the GPS had us in front of the Moet and Chandon building.
Greeting us upon entering the courtyard (that doubled as designated as a parking lot) was a statue dedicated to Dom Perignon.
Once inside and checked in for our tour, we had time to take in some of the history and artifacts that were on display before the tour began.
Moet and Chandon Champagne Cellar Tour
With our tour under way the first thing our guide informed us, was that most English speakers mispronounce Moët, with both syllables getting equal emphasis to be moe-et.
Before we descended into the cellars, the first room in our tour had a selection of special bottles on display:
Once down the stairs we had found Little Miss’ ideal room temperature — the cellars! It was a comfortable temperature, a few people in our group put on a sweater. Both of us found it fine — somebody has to keep the stereotype that Canadians enjoy chilly weather alive. 😉
Here magnums (1.5L) are stored at an angle to allow the yeast to settle in the neck before the process of extracting the yeast and bottling the champagne occurs.
Under each arch off of the main hallway was storage for champagne in different stages of aging. Another item we learned was that the bottles are not to remain stationary for too long. We walked by staff who were rotating the bottles.
I didn’t get tired of taking pictures of all the bottles. Supposedly the total distance of the cellars in the town is greater than the actual distance between the town and Paris.
The tours vary once you enter a tasting room. We had selected the vintage tour, where we got to sample their 2012 vintages. The benefit of purchasing 4 tickets swung into action! That meant there were 8 drinks to share among the 3 of us. With Little Miss not requiring a full champagne flute for either vintage, I happily played clean-up to ensure no Champagne went to waste.
With the tasting complete we made our way out of the cellars and back upstairs exiting to their store that had no shortage of items available for purchase.
After a quick pit stop before we left Epernay, stopping to take in the scenery as we headed towards the highway.
The return trip to Paris was uneventful. As Little Miss requested, we stopped at Disneyland Paris to have dinner. Sadly the restaurant we selected wasn’t anything memorable. The upside to the late return to the city, the ring road was finally moving, after 9pm. The GPS didn’t have us take the ring road to the south-western portion, but instead had us drive past Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and Arc D’Triomphe on our way back to the apartment.
With the wives safely back at the apartment, instead of trying to find parking for the night we headed back to the car rental garage and returned it without issue.
Explore other parts of this trip:
Part 3 – Day trip to Champagne Region, Moet and Chandon Cellar Tour – this one!