If you’re a fan of champagne, the only (literally) place to do a tasting is the Champagne region. After all, to actually get the title of champagne, this bubbly drink must be made in the area. Otherwise, it’s just considered sparkling wine. (The horror!!)
While most of you have probably heard of the big names in the Champagne industry, the smaller producers actually produce better quality champagne at a lower price. You’ll get way more bang for your buck by visiting one of the lesser-known producers and better-tasting champagne and in most cases, you’ll be supporting a family-owned business. (A lot of champagne producers have been doing this for generations and have kept the business in the family. It’s not uncommon to meet 4th or 5th generation producers.) Intrigued? Let’s dive in and find out the best way to do a champagne tasting in Reims!
Go to a Small Producer for Better Taste and Quality
The big champagne names make up a huge part of the champagne market and revenue (think Veuve Cliquot, Mumm, etc). And these big houses have tours available you can easily access from the city center of Reims. But, if you ever get the chance to go to Reims, make sure to visit one of the smaller Champagne house producers rather than these big known labels.
The smaller producers actually own 70% of the land in Champagne while the big houses just own 30%. While the big houses always have a large clientele, they do not have enough grapes to manufacture the champagne demanded. This means that they buy grapes from the small producers! And of course, the small producers keep the best grapes for themselves and sell their poorer quality grapes to the big houses.
Furthermore, the big champagne houses are concerned with getting their champagne to always taste the same so they have that brand recognition. The smaller champagne producers, however, are much more concerned with getting the best tasting and best quality champagne from their grapes each harvest. This means that when you open a bottle of champagne from one of these smaller producers, you know they put in all of their effort to giving you the best taste possible rather than trying to replicate the taste of a bottle from the previous year.
Consider Hiring a Champagne Tour Guide/Driver
Let’s face it, when you’re on vacation, the last thing you want to do is be a designated driver. Or go to the trouble of renting a car in the first place!
You can definitely schedule and visit small champagne producers on your own, but having a driver and guide is very convenient and a great way to learn about the region.
While visiting Reims, I found a great tour guide through Airbnb’s “experience” feature. Our visit included a convertible ride from the apartment we were staying in, to the family-owned Champagne house we visited, Couvreur-Prak. We received an in-depth visit of the estate and explanation by the owner of how the champagne was produced in addition to the stories that went behind each of their champagne bottle’s names. Plus, received a few tips along the way! Afterward, we were treated to a tasting of about five different champagnes! For €80/person plus tip, the experience was definitely worth it.
Of course, we couldn’t resist and went ahead and bought some bottles from the estate after our tasting! Pricing was very reasonable with the cheapest bottle being €21 and the most expensive bottle ranging to €34. (If you don’t have the chance to visit in person, this producer also sells online with international shipping available!)
Pop the Bottle
While I am definitely not a champagne expert by any means, I’m still a big fan of the stuff! And this tour was the highlight of my trip. I learned a lot and it was really wonderful visiting a family-owned estate and listening to the history behind the property.
Moral of the story is:
What about the rest of you? Are any of you champagne connoisseurs? What’s your favorite kind?
Let me know down below!