For our second day in Champagne, we decided to check out the other “major” city in the region, Epernay. It is under an hour on the train from Reims through the vineyards of Champagne.
Considering both Reims and Epernay are located in the same region (Champagne) and known for their champagne houses, Epernay has a very different feel from Reims. This picturesque town is home to Moët & Chandon and Perrier Joet, among others. You can visit their caves, similar to the tours we took in Reims, and also stay at their stately hotels lining the Avenue de Champagne (ooh, la la!).
Since we decided to do our epic champagne touring at the best champagne houses in Reims the day before, we came to Epernay with the intention of hitting up some tasting rooms. I did some quick research on the train and we set off to try some lesser known champagnes. We had a lovely day trip exploring this cute little town.
Basic Bon Vivant’s Guide to Champagne: Epernay
After a quick walk to Reims train station, we got our tickets right there at a kiosk and hopped onto the champagne-ified train.
Our tickets were under €30 roundtrip for two and the train was nice and on time. It was a lovely ride through the vineyards.
The train station in Epernay is a quick walk from the Avenue du Champagne.
The first thing you’ll notice coming into Epernay from the train station is the lovely Église Notre-Dame. Like a mini version of of the incredible but imposing Notre Dame de Reims, this church is much more a part of the landscape in Epernay.
Though it is smaller than Reims Cathedral, it is stunning in its own right. We popped in for a peek and it is the same beautiful Gothic architecture inside, with beautiful arches at the ceiling. It was a lovely moment of peace before a day spent champagne tasting.
Avenue du Champagne
The main drag for the champagne tourism action is the Avenue du Champagne and it is indeed as posh looking a street as you would imagine. It is wide and paved with beautiful flat stones and lined with beautiful buildings.
The architecture of the buildings along the avenue are reason enough to take a stroll down this lovely street.
A friend had warned us about how empty Epernay would feel (especially in November, the start of the off season), but it is still a bit strange to see such a grand street with so few people on it!
It was great for pictures as the lack of cars meant we could pop into the middle of the street to get the shot, ha. Despite the lack of foot traffic, we were never the only people at the champagne boutiques we visited.
We ventured to Epernay to taste their champagnes, and we were not disappointed! In Epernay, it is easy to find places to taste different champagnes. We didn’t notice much of this in Reims, but Epernay is filled with champagne boutiques and wine stores that offer tasting flights and champagnes by the glass.
Both big names and smaller producers have their houses and storefronts on the Avenue du Champagne, and my favorite part of our visit was finding a shop to wander into and try what they had on offer.
We arrived in Epernay at lunchtime, which in France, wasn’t the best timing as most everywhere closes for an hour or so for lunch (oh, France). This made finding a place that was open for a tasting at 1:30pm difficult, but it helped us choose as only one small house we passed was open, Champagne Colllard-Picard.
Walking in, Champagne Collard-Picard has a more modern, non-traditional feel. We got seats at the counter and chose from their offering of tastings.
We opted for the fancier tasting at this house, and tried three different champagnes, including one rose. We tried the Prestige, Grand Cru and the Prestige Rosé.
Collard-Picard was interesting because they do not initially age their champagnes in the bottle, but in oak barrels instead. This gives their champagnes more body and they can be enjoyed with a meal. It was neat to try a more complex champagne.
We met some fellow expats at this tasting room visiting from their new home of Luxembourg. I loved it there when we visited, so it was interesting to hear from people our age what it’s like to live there.
Champagne Le Clerc Briant
The next little shop we stopped into was beautifully decorated in a modern style. Champagne Le Clerc Briant’s shop does not offer tastings, but it does offer champagnes by the glass. It was so cute that we decided to get a glass and enjoy the surroundings.
Andrew and I chose two different champagnes, so we could try both. I lucked out this time and got the tastier one, the Premiere Cru (he got the tastiest one at Taittinger!).
The shopkeep told us about the winery and its chief grape chooser, who was an early adopter of the organic movement in the Champagne region.
Champagne Jannison Baradon
I read really fabulous things about this champagne house online, so we popped in for our last tasting. The owner, who people rave about, was not there, unfortunately. The tasting rooms was cute and decked out for Christmas.
At Champagne Jannison Baradon, they did a tasting flight concept where we got to try smaller pours of more varieties of champagne. I thought that was pretty cool and it was neat to try some of the sweeter wines and compare those to the dry ones we knew we liked already.
At this room, we were given our flights and that was basically it. We didn’t receive the explanation we got at the other rooms, but it was still tasty.
Though we ran out of time to visit C. Comme, in my research this champagne store gets excellent reviews on their tastings. The website states that you should book in advance, so be sure to book and experience the fabulousness many others have loved! For us, there was only so much champagne we could taste in one day, ha!
Our day of tasting was unplanned and left to chance, but it worked out that we tried three very different producers. It was a lot of fun and I hope to return someday to try some more!
- Epernay is much smaller than Reims, so it is ideal for a day trip. You can see the whole thing in a matter of hours.
- For the smaller houses, you can just turn up and order a tasting!
- Book ahead for cellar tours in the warmer months.