Visiting Champagne’s vast network of caves
The underground cellars of Champagne are a major component of the ‘Coteaux, Maisons & Caves de Champagne’ (Hills, Houses and Cellars) bid for a UNESCO world heritage listing. The Caves are ideal stage sets forming endless galleries for audiences to visit and discover the styles and tastes of Champagne. Grandes Marques, groups and family growers offer visits that are entertaining, historical or educational, sometimes above but most often below ground. There are tool museums, trains and riddling racks, films, art and designer boutiques.
A natural constant temperature of ten to twelve degrees Celsius, combined with high humidity and the absorption characteristics of chalk create the ideal conditions for storing Champagne, in addition to the natural beauty of each location.
Five internationally renowned Champagne Houses share the original and famous chalk cellars that were excavated by hand in the fourth century by the Gallo-Romans in Reims. Four – Taittinger, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot and Pommery - are open to the public for year-round visits. The fifth one, Charles Heidsieck, is closed to the general public and hosts private functions.
Caves in Champagne run under villages and vineyards throughout the region. Some may not be as unique as the star cellars in Reims, however the city is home to equally prestigious Houses with impressive caves to visit, such as Lanson and Mumm.
Following the Champagne route along the Montagne de Reims, Canard Duchêne houses one of the largest cellars. Arriving in Epernay, 200,000,000 million bottles lie in the cellars under the Avenue de Champagne, where you can visit many of the famous Houses such as Moet & Chandon and Mercier and smaller family-run companies such as Gonet-Sulcova.
The Marne valley has many themed visits such as G.M. Gobillard in the famous village of Hautvillers and Dom Caudron further east from Epernay. There is a museum of curiosities at Launois on the Côte des Blancs and finally, almost as far south as you can go in Champagne, a delightful tour at Drappier.
Standard visits are run almost daily for a fee which includes and is often offset by a tasting of Champagnes. Depending on visitor profiles, guided tours are offered in many languages and visits can be tailored to the size and experience of the group.
Major brands and hand-dug caves
The Champagne dream originates and lives on in the hundreds of kilometres of chalk cellars belonging to the prominent Houses where you can still see traditional wooden riddling racks or pupitres, stacks of bottles maturing patiently over time, and be entertained by the dramatic disgorgement process.
Champagne Taittinger, Reims
Champagne Taittinger is an independent Champagne House. Continuing a strong family heritage as important benefactors to the infrastructure and charities of the city of Reims, the House is today run by the charismatic Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his son Clovis and daughter Vitalie. With 288 hectares of vines, Taittinger is one of the largest Houses in Champagne and the vineyards are managed with respect, producing internationally-praised Champagnes of superior quality.
Taittinger Champagnes are blended with a high proportion of Chardonnay resulting in wines showing elegance and finesse. The range includes non vintage and vintage Champagne and the multi-award-winning prestige cuvée Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.
All year round, you can discover the art of producing Champagne Taittinger in the stunning cathedral-like chalk galleries that run 18 metres underground in their unique fourth century Gallo-Roman chalk cellars. Champagne Taittinger has the added attraction of housing the remains of the foundations of the 13th century Abbey of Saint-Niçaise that was destroyed during the French Revolution.
An exhibition gallery also shows off the Taittinger Collection of contemporary artist-commissioned bottles.
One-hour guided walking tours start with a film and are followed by a tasting. Individual tickets cost €16 and visits take place from Monday to Friday (check seasonal openings) from 9:30 to 11:50 am and 2:00 to 4:20 pm. Group visits are available by appointment only.
Entrance: 9, Place Saint-Nicaise, Reims 51100
Tel:+33 (0)3 26 85 84 33
Champagne Lanson, Reims
Founded in 1760, Champagne Lanson celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2010.
Since its inception, Lanson has maintained a very specific style for both taste profile and the design of its Champagne labels. Blending Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Lanson does not use malolactic fermentation to preserve natural, fresh acidity and fruit purity. Its range of Champagnes is colour-coded: the Classique Collection includes the original Black Label – the perfect aperitif style Champagne – as well as the Rose Label and the sweeter Ivory Label. Then comes the vintage Gold Label followed by a 250th anniversary commemorative Extra Age, the bespoke Vintage Collection which undergoes a specific disgorgement process, and a Limited Edition Pink Label.
Personally guided tours start with a presentation of the vineyards surrounding the caves, including the special walled vineyard of Clos Lanson. The underground network is vast offering a chance to witness part of the Champagne-making process, including tirage, bottle ageing, riddling, disgorgement, bottling and labelling.
Visits are conducted from Monday to Friday by appointment only. The House is closed at weekends, on bank holidays and throughout August.
Visits start from 9:00 to 11:00 am and from 2:00 to 4:00 pm and last approximately one hour, finishing with a guided tasting in the winery store.
Rates are €10 per person and €8 for groups of more than 25 people. Free admission for chauffeurs and guides.
Winery entrance: 66, rue de Courlancy, Reims 51100
Champagne Pommery, Reims
Enter the fairytale 1868 gates and be transported to another world. Pommery’s Elizabethan-style castle juxtaposes past and present with historic architecture and modern art exhibitions in the gardens, reception area and Gallo-Roman chalk cellars. The winemaking facilities are a contemporary work of art in their own right. The tour begins with the spectacular descent of a 30-metre staircase followed by eight kilometres of caves housing 20 million bottles.
‘Experience Pommery’ contemporary art exhibitions in the caves and grounds have been held annually since 2004, showcasing sculptures, paintings and facilities amongst the Champagne bottles stored underground.
Pommery Champagne ranges in style from the innovative ‘Pop’ Pommery quarter bottles sporting themes such as Brit Pop Union Jack and the environmentally-friendly Earth Pop, to non vintage Champagnes that follow the seasons by matching blends and tastes with Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Pommery Louise is the House’s prestige cuvée.
Self-guided or group tours are available in a choice of languages every day. Visits end with a tasting in the stylish bar area forming part of the winery store. Champagne Pommery is open every day including weekends from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm from April to mid-November and from the end of November to March from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Individual admission rates start at €12.
5 place Général Gouraud, 51100 Reims
Tel: +33 (0)3 26 61 62 56
Champagne GH Mumm, Reims
Champagne Mumm offers three one-hour themed tours of cellars buried deep underground in Reims. Visitors can enjoy one of the most comprehensive museums on Champagne production and enjoyment, ranging from cocktail parties to the oversized bottles of Champagne spraying Formula 1 winners around the world every year.
The style of Mumm Champagne has improved in recent years, combining elegance and power like the best sports cars. The packaging and labelling have also had a stylish makeover.
Champagne Mumm is open to visitors daily by appointment.
1 March to 31 October 9:00 to 11:00 am and 2:00 to 5:00 pm; November to February: Monday to Saturday 9:00 to 11:00 am and 2:00 to 5:00 pm. Check ahead for seasonal closing dates. Admission ranges from €10-20.
The cellars at Mumm are also available for private dinners or cocktail parties for up to 250 guests. In addition to the winery in Reims, GH Mumm also owns the famous windmill in Verzenay and hosts private receptions for 15 to 32 people offering spectacular views over the vineyards. Available for hire at weekends only from Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime.
34, rue du Champs de Mars, Reims 51100
Tel.: 03 26 49 59 70
Champagne Veuve Clicquot, Reims
Veuve Clicquot occupies one of the five unique Gallo-Roman chalk cellars in Reims. Its fame derives from the legacy of Veuve Ponsardin who invented the now ubiquitous riddling rack, reducing the time and effort involved in riddling Champagne bottles. The brand is also famous for its patented orange colour that is inseparable from the image of this ‘grande marque’.
The range starts with the recognisable orange label non vintage brut style Veuve Cliquot and culminates with the prestige cuvée in honour of the famous widow, La Grande Dame.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot is open to visitors by appointment only. Visits can be tailored to suit individuals or groups. Tours for a maximum of 15 people last one hour, followed by a glass of non vintage Champagne. Tours entitled ‘Discoveries’ for €20 and ‘In the footsteps of Madame Clicquot’ for €35 are also available.
Visits run from Tuesday to Saturday, from 4 June to 30 November 2013 (closed on 1 November), from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm.
1, place des Droits de l’Homme, 51100 Reims
Tel: +33 (0)3 26 89 53 90
Champagne Ruinart, Reims
Dating back to 1729, Ruinart claims to be the oldest House in Champagne and also boasts one of the five Gallo-Roman chalk cellars in Reims, 38 metres underground.
A sponsor of annual international art fairs around the world, Ruinart also commissions artists to craft sculptures and livery reflecting the House style. As Chardonnay is the soul of Ruinart, the Blanc de Blancs in particular is bottled in striking clear glass whilst the prestige cuvée Dom Ruinart is an inspiration for works of art. All Ruinart Champagnes are identifiable by their special shapes, reflecting the elegance and luminosity of the House style.
Check current availability as renovation work will prevent visits until Spring 2014. Under normal circumstances, Ruinart offers individual, group or private visits and receptions. Guided tours are conducted Tuesday to Friday by appointment only, with a maximum of eight people per visit. Visits finish with a glass of your choice from the Ruinart collection.
4, rue des Crayères, 51100 Reims
Tel: +33 (0)3 26 77 51 51
Champagne Moët & Chandon, Epernay
There are magical moments when you visit Moët & Chandon. When you step off the Avenue de Champagne you are welcomed by a statue of the legendary Dom Perignon in the courtyard. Guided tours start with an artistic introductory film, then take you past the salons visited by Napoleon which still display his hat, and on to another world of 28 kilometres of underground caves.
The tour finishes with a flute of Champagne before you browse the boutique offering stylish seasonal accessories designed to match the range of Champagnes.
Still the most uncorked Champagne brand in the world, the style is constantly evolving, going beyond the designer packaging to acknowledged improvements in the quality of the entire range from non vintage to vintage Champagnes in recent times.
Moët & Chandon is open every day with visits available from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00 to 4.30 pm. Check for seasonal changes to opening days. Individual and group rates range from €16.50 to €29.
20, Avenue de Champagne, 51333 Epernay
+33 (0)3 26 51 20 20
Champagne Mercier, Epernay
Champagne Mercier has been entertaining the public in spectacular style since it was created in 1858. Mercier commissioned the first publicity film ever by the Lumière Brothers, depicting the Champagne making process in its cellars. Its publicity stunts continued to impress all the way to the Universal Fairs in Paris, with the world’s largest wine barrel towed by oxen and Mercier-branded hot air balloon flights around the Eiffel Tower. These legendary stories live on in the museum reception area.
Visitors can take audio or guided tours, starting with a surprise descent in panoramic lifts 30 metres down into 18 kilometres of underground cellars. They can then board an automated train for a leisurely ride through the chalk galleries accompanied by explanations of sculptures and the network of underground alleyways. Back above ground, the tour is followed by a Champagne tasting.
Admission rates range from €11 to €19 for individual visitors and groups. Visiting hours are 9:30 to 11:00 am and 2:30 to 4:00 pm. Check for seasonal changes of opening dates and times.
75, avenue de Champagne, Epernay 51200
Tel. +33 (0)3 26 51 22 22
Champagne De Castellane, Epernay
The imposing tower of De Castellane is visible when you enter and leave Epernay. At the top of the Avenue de Champagne, the visit is multi-faceted, starting with a display of 20th century Champagne advertising posters then taking visitors down to a museum where cellars are lined with mannequins exhibiting the history and development of the equipment and tools used over the centuries to produce Champagne.
You can climb to the top of the 66-metre tower for an exceptional view over the Marne Valley. Each visit finishes with a tasting of brut Champagne.
De Castellane is usually open every day from 10:00 am to 12 noon and from 2:00 to 6:00 pm (and by appointment from January to March). Individual admission fees are from €10 per person and groups from €6.50 per person, including the guided tour plus self-guided entry to the museum and the tower.
Please note that De Castellane will be closed from 22 December 2013 throughout January, February and March 2014. It reopens on 1 April 2014.
63, avenue de Champagne, 51200 Epernay
Tel.: +33 (0)3 26 51 19 11
Champagne Gonet Sulcova is a fourth-generation family firm based in the centre of Epernay just behind the Avenue de Champagne. With origins in the grand cru villages of Avize and Le Mesnil sur Oger in the Côte des Blancs, Gonet-Sulcova offers non vintage Champagnes with a majority proportion (80 %) of Chardonnay, and 100% Chardonnay Grand Crus.
Individual visitors and groups are invited to visit the traditional house and brightly-lit cellars. Weekend visits are encouraged. The personal tour is followed by a tasting of the Champagne range on sale in the winery shop.
Visits are by appointment only.
An annual open house weekend every July welcomes visitors for €5 or a buffet barbecue for €15.
13 rue Henri Martin, 51200 Epernay
Tel: +33 (0)3 26 54 37 63
Champagne Guy Charbaut, Mareuil-sur-Ay
Champagne Guy Charbaut is a third-generation family affair with twenty hectares of vineyards around the village of Mareuil-sur-Ay. A fairly humble entrance opposite Champagne Philipponnat belies an astonishing and extensive tour. A secret doorway across the road suddenly leads down to 1.5 kilometres of underground chalk cellars 25 metres below ground that were built in 1825 and house up to three million bottles. Champagne making facilities are divided between a number of buildings in the adjoining streets.
From the courtyard, one entrance leads directly into a large tasting hall with long medieval-like wooden tables for entertaining groups. Another entrance leads to the charming guesthouse offering five rooms and meals which takes on another dimension with most windows overlooking a spacious garden facing the Canal. Guests are invited to use the gardens where cleverly installed furniture creates an impression of private garden rooms.
Visits last approximately 40 minutes followed by a tasting of five cuvées. Group visits cost €8 per person. Tours of the press house are available at harvest time.
Visits from Monday to Saturday 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 to 5:00 pm. Visits are by appointment only on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings for tasting only. Closed on Sunday afternoons.
12, rue du Pont, 51160 Mareuil-sur-Ay
Tel.: +33 (0)3 26 52 60
Champagne Canard-Duchêne, Ludes
Fifteen minutes south of Reims city centre, visitors can discover facilities covering six kilometres over four levels. Cellars drop to 38 metres below ground and were dug by hand in the nineteenth century after the company was established in1868.
After renovation work this year, new tours take in barrel cellars and an exhibition on the history and art of Canard Duchêne. Weather permitting, the vineyards and century-old park can also be visited.
The ‘Authentic Tour’ offers a tour of the cellars with one glass of Champagne for €10. It can be upgraded to the ‘Royale Tour’ for two flutes of Charles VII at a price of €20. Contact the company for group rates.
Guided tours are available Monday to Saturday from March to December at 10:45 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:15 pm and 4:30 pm. Contact Canard-Duchêne to arrange a visit.
Tel. +33 (0)3 26 61 11 60
Champagne JM Gobillard, Hautvillers
Enjoying an ideal location opposite Hautvillers abbey famous for its Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, the Champagne family JM Gobillard warmly welcomes visitors. The entrance features historic tools and equipment leading into a tasting bar and a room full of large round tables where groups can enjoy Champagne tastings in a jovial atmosphere.
The winemaking facilities are located just outside the village in Dizy and are open for an annual open weekend at the end of June or beginning of July.
The range of Champagne is broad with non vintage, blanc de blanc, blanc de noirs and rosés, vintages and a tribute blend honouring the neighbouring monks.
Visitors are welcome every day in June, July, August and September, on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays in March, April, May, October, November and December and on Saturdays only in January and February. Groups are welcome by appointment. Rates depend on tastings and purchases.
38, rue de l'Eglise 51160 Hautvillers
Tel.:+33 (0)3 26 51 00 24
Champagne Launois, Le Mesnil sur Oger
An extensive collection of curiosities covering Champagne-making equipment over the centuries is presented by Champagne Launois.
The Champagnes themselves are presented in narrow neck bottles with decorative labels. A wide array is available from non vintage to Special Club vintages.
During the grape picking season, you can spend a day experiencing the harvest first-hand, picking grapes in the vineyards and having a picnic lunch with the harvesters.
Guided visits last up to 2 hours finishing with a tasting of three Champagnes. The tasting can be enjoyed without the museum visit. Group visits are by appointment only. Lunch can be booked for groups and individual visitors.
2 Avenue Eugene Guillaume, 51190 Le Mesnil- sur-Oger
Tel.: +33 (0)3 26 57 50 15
Champagne Drappier, Urville
A charming and entertaining visit takes you from the immaculate flower beds at the entrance through an ethereal entrance back in time down to the seventeenth century Cistercian cellars and their family connections to Château Clairvaux dating from the 12th century. The underground caves dating from 1152 are the perfect stage if you are lucky to have the charismatic Michel Drappier as your guide. Drappier brings historical Champagne making equipment and his library of old vintage bottles to life, while recounting stories and engaging visitors to discover the excitement of Champagne production.
Visits finish with a tasting in the welcoming drawing room. The Pinot Noir dominant wines contain little or no sulphur. Champagne Drappier is made with as little intervention as possible, but with very careful experimentation of shapes and sizes of tanks and barrels, and the less familiar grape varieties of Champagne such as Arbane and Petit Meslier.
Tasting and sales are possible without appointment. Visits to the cellars are by appointment only.
Open to visitors Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 12 pm and 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm, closed on Sundays and bank holidays.
Rue des Vignes, 10200 Urville
+33 (0)3 25 27 40 15
Nicolas Feuillatte, Chouilly
Champagne Nicholas Feuillate has an international focus and proudly puts technology on show, allowing visitors to experience the various production stages of Champagne. From riddling, disgorgement and bottle ageing in the contemporary winery, bright lights and art collections detract from the lack of underground cellars and long-standing history.
The style of Champagnes range from non vintage to the prestige cuvée Palmes d’Or Brut or Rosé.
The venue can be hired for private functions.
Open to visitors from Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 to 5:00 pm. Closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Individual admission rates from €7 to €18 and from €5.50-16 for groups.
Chouilly, 51206 Epernay
Tel. +33 (0)3 26 59 64 61
Champagne Dom Caudron, Passy Grigny
Named after a wine-loving priest from the village, this particular experience has more nightclub than religious references and is called ‘Les Confidences de Dom Caudron’.
The self-guided visits of the facilities are vibrant. The interactive eco-museum follows the story of Champagne starting with fluorescently lit wooden presses and other equipment, shining a contemporary light on the history of Champagne making. A photo exhibition leads into a blacked out cinema room that shows virtual tours of vineyards. Suspended walkways then take you over the top of the winery with stainless steel tanks and wooden barrels under blue and pink spotlights.
Two Champagnes of your choice from a range of four cuvées are available for tasting at the bar at the end of the tour: Brut old vines, Rosé, 100% Pinot Meunier or a Vintage Champagne.
Picnic hampers are available by reservation in July. The virtual vineyard tour can be turned into a genuine vintage visit during harvest time. Live music events coincide with national festivals
Ideally situated close to the Paris motorway, visits are available Monday to Friday (except Tuesdays) from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 to 5:00 pm. Open on Saturdays and Sundays (April to December) from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Individual entries cost €7 per person and €5 per person for groups of more than fifteen.
Rue Jean York, 51700 Passy Grigny
Tel.+33 (0)3 26 52 45 17