Champagne Route, France

Champagne Village France
Champagne Village - France
Pat Dunlap Tasting Champagne France
Pat Tasting Champagne - France
Moet & Chandon Epernay Champagne Route France
Moet & Chandon
- Epernay, Champagne Route, France
Who Says Monks Didn't Have Fun
Who Says Monks Didn't Have Fun?

Early Mercier Champagne Advertisement
Early Mercier
Champagne Advertisement
Typical Champagne Village Champagne Route France
Typical Champagne Village 
- Champagne Route, France
Pat  Don Perignon Champagne Moet & Chandon Epernay France
Pat Eyeing the Don Perignon Champagne
at Moet & Chandon - Epernay, France

Visitor to Our Room Epernay France
Visitor to Our Room 
- Epernay, France

Champagne Route, France (6/19-22/2011)

The Champagne region is wonderful to explore. It produces 200 million bottles of the coveted bubbly each year!

See the history of champagne making below.

Free champagne tastings were available in the southern Cote Des Blancs area, famous for its champagnes made of chardonnay grapes. 

Free tastings were difficult to find in the northern pinot noir champagne route area of Valle De La Marne but the views of the beautiful countryside and wine villages overlooking the Marne River were stunning. 

On the way to Reims (main city of the Champagne region), we drove through the Montagne De Reims area having a free Champagne tasting (and convinced to purchase a bottle) and a picnic of French pastries. 

We visited small champagne-producing villages along the Champagne Route around Epernay and Reims such as Oger, Cramant, Avize, Vertus, Mardeuil, Venteuil, Reuil, Villlers, Chatillon, Damery, Cumiers, Dizy, Mutigny, Ay, Avenay, Louvois, Verzenay, and Rilly La Montagne. 

Staying in or near the villages of the Champagne Route area was not as fun as in the other French wine regions we visited (Alsace and Burgundy) because nothing was going on in the smaller Champagne Route villages. 

Even restaurants in the villages were extremely limited so we stayed each night in Epernay, the nearby centrally located capital of the Champagne area with many good restaurants. Epernay is very nice and one night Epernay had a music festival with bands playing throughout the city - great fun. 

The Champagne Route is located in northeast France surrounding Epernay. A number of the world’s most famous Champagne brands are produced and cellared in the miles of tunnels dug through the chalk below the streets of Epernay. Notable brands at Epernay include Moet & Chandon (18 miles of cellars), Mercer (11 miles of cellars with one ¾ mile long and one of the world’s largest wooden barrels with a capacity of 200,000 bottles), and De Castellane

In Epernay, we toured and had tastings at the Champagne cellars of Moet & Chandon (makers of Don Perignon champagne) and the Mercier (most popular brand in France). Moet is proud of its brand name exporting 80% of its production and Mercier is proud of its marketing.

The time of year we visited (June) is a great time to come to the French Champagne Route (Route du Champagne) although we did have some light rainy times a few days. 

Champagne White Chalk Cave
Champagne White Chalk Cave
Interesting facts... Champagne is sparkling wine made of pinot noir, pinot meunier, and/or chardonnay grapes. The cellars (caves) carved out of white chalk (this area was under ocean millions of years ago) are essential for making Champagne providing a cool temperature (50 degrees Fahrenheit), high humidity (90%), and darkness. 

People Love the Sound of a Champagne Cork Popping
People Love the Sound 
of a Champagne Cork Popping
Some history of champagne making... The making of champagne was discovered somewhat by accident in the 17th century by a monk with a now famous name – Don Perignon. He was making wine for the abby Saint Peter of Hautvillers and one year was very cold and the fermentation stopped yielding just grape juice that would spoil if something was not done. By placing the corked bottles in a warmer but cool place, the second fermentation occurred creating this unique sparking brut (extra dry) wine. 

Automatic Champagne Bottle Riddling
Automatic Champagne Bottle Riddling
The process was improved and additional sugar and wines added at the end to create sweeter Champagne (in order of sweetest: extra-sec, sec, and demi-sec). To remove sediment in Champagne the millions of bottles produced were slowly turned daily by hand. Now a machine turns a large lot of them all at once several times a day for 15 months to three years.

See our other post on the 'capital' of the Champagne region:

Reims (Champagne Capital), France

Please see our other 9 travel posts on beautiful France:

Paris, France

Loire Valley, France

Mont Saint Michel & Saint Malo, France

Strasbourg - Alsace, France

Alsace Wine Villages, France

Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux Wine Country, Saint Emilion, Paulliac, & Cognac, France 

Burgundy & Cote d'Or Wine Country, France

Chablis, Dijon, & Vezelay, France

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