Mama Loves Champagne!

Sometimes we endure great hardships at MLP to bring you all the news and info about what to do in Paris and beyond.  And sometimes we don’t.  Jennifer Hamerman went for a whole day of champagne tasting in Reims and the surrounding countryside and unsurprisingly seemed to enjoy every minute.  She reports back for MLP….

Champagne indulgence on a Tuesday

What could be more fun than seven women spending a day in the champagne region, enjoying some tastings, seeing some beautiful sights and countryside and a delicious lunch? Well, we decided to go all out and book our own wine expert to drive us there and show us around.  The day was booked off work and dads, babysitters and friends were enlisted to do school pick-up.  The mamas were officially checking out for the day and going to Champagne Land!

The Champagne Region

We are a group of parents with kids at the same school and we booked our private trip with Hélène Goble of Do You Speak Wine? She is a French and English-speaking wine expert. Our Tuesday trip was firmly booked on our calendars and we all met at 8am on Avenue Kleber at a cafe. Coffees in hand, we piled into Hélène’s car (she has an eight-seater vehicle for trips like this). Even the drive east through Paris was fun as we left the city. We were lucky with the weather, with blue skies and beautiful autumn colours as the countryside opened up outside Paris.

Reims and the cathedral

One coffee break later, we drove into the town of Reims (always a tricky one for English speakers – “Rance” is the best way to describe how you should pronounce it). We strolled around the impressive cathedral and took some photos (had to prove to the folks back home that this day wasn’t only about the bubbles!).

Taittinger, a girl’s best friend

All those tantalising bottles ageing at Taittinger

Next stop was my personal highlight of the day, the Taittinger champagne house. We enjoyed a video in English about the history of this prestigious brand and then went deep down into the chalk caves to learn about how the champagne is made and stored. Taittinger’s own English-speaking guide was great and we were glad to also have Hélène with us to answer our questions. Once the tour was finished, we went to the tasting room, where our tickets allowed us to taste two different champagnes. It was only 11.30am but we were more than ready to get started on the bubbles.

Professionally poured chez Taittinger

Our group formed our own mini tasting lesson, with Hélène getting us to describe what we could see, smell and taste. This champagne house steeped in tradition and so proud of their history was definitely my favourite part of the day. Rest assured quite a few purchases were made and safely stowed to the boot of Hélène’s car.

Lunch in Epernay

We then moved on to the lovely town of Epernay where Hélène had booked us a three course lunch as part of our package with her. The food was delicious, a seasonal mushroom tart, a choice of fish or rabbit (and they kindly whipped up an omelette for our one vegetarian) and poached pear or a café gourmand for dessert. Naturally lunch was served with two different champagnes and our tasting lessons continued.

Thoroughly modern Nicolas Feuillatte

The ultra modern vats at Nicholas Feuillatte

Next stop was a completely different champagne house. Nicolas Feuillatte is much more modern and processes the juice from many different vineyards and offers a service all the way through to labelling for many other champagne producers. It was fascinating to see this thoroughly modern approach and yet again Hélène had booked a tour for us with another great in-house English-speaking guide.  We tasted two glasses again and some of the group made some more purchases to take home. While I really enjoyed seeing this modern contrast, I much preferred the old school approach we saw at Taittinger and I certainly preferred the taste of Taittinger champagne. Clearly I am not a cheap date!

Dom Perignon’s grave at Hautvillers

Dom Perignon’s final resting place in Hautvillers

Just to be sure we mixed a bit more culture in ( and frankly I think most of us had enjoyed enough champagne by then – we were about seven glasses in!) we stopped at a very sweet village of Hautvillers to see the grave of Dom Perignon, the monk who discovered the ‘prise de mousse’ and helped create champagne. Our group enjoyed a chatty drive back into Paris and Hélène dropped us and our champagne bottles back at Trocadero, tired and happy after a fun day.

Need to know

Our trip with Hélène Goble of Do you Speak Wine? cost 170 Euros per person. This included all transport, lunch, entrance and tours at the champagne houses and many, many glasses of champagne! The cost would have been slightly less if we had chosen to visit a less fancy champagne house than Taittinger. If you’d like to book a similar trip or get more information about Hélène’s wine tastings in Paris, you can reach her at … and rumour has it she might be starting some trips to the Loire Valley next year.

Alternatives with the kids

If taking a day out to do a trip like this isn’t an option for you, there is a sneaky way to weave some fizz into a family trip.  If you book a weekend at Center Parcs Le Lac d’Aillette in the champagne region, the kids would get their water parks and outdoor fun, and you could incorporate a half day in Reims and the Taittinger champagne house.

We hope you enjoyed this post and please report back if you do a trip to the Champagne region.

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