Learn how to do Champagne on a prosecco price range: a tour of France’s most well-known wine area | France holidays

Forgive me for sounding slightly smug. You’d too for those who have been sitting in trendy lodgings sipping a glass of grand cru minutes away from a prestigious handle, the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay, east of Paris. The mile-long avenue is lined with costly champagne homes, from Moët & Chandon to Perrier-Jouët.

However as an alternative of forking out a fortune, I’m indulging my champagne style on a prosecco price range. That cup of high quality grand cru? It’s from a half bottle I picked up on the impartial producer Mouligneaux-Gourdain for €10 (£8.70).

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As for the condo, it’s considered one of 4 in a constructing beneath the Bubble 8 title, every fantastically accomplished up with the texture of a boutique lodge, but at a fraction of the value, from €95 an evening. They’re extremely properly geared up, with a full kitchenette permitting you to self cater on a budget, and, bien sur, an ice bucket and champagne flutes.

A 3-hour drive from the Channel tunnel, Bubble 8 is a good place for me to stick with my son Christian, who has simply turned 18 and is eager to dive into the world of fizz.

Bubble 8 self-catering flats and studios. {Photograph}: Franck Kauff/PR

One other wonderful place to remain is Le Logis aux Bulles (€90 an evening B&B) in Verzy, between Rheims and Épernay, which has three fantastically adorned B&B rooms, presents a tour and tasting (€7) and sells Mouligneaux-Gourdain grand cru.

There’s no higher place to begin than the beautiful village of Hautvillers, lower than quarter-hour away from Épernay by automotive. It was right here within the hillside abbey that the Seventeenth-century cellar grasp Dom Pérignon supposedly cried out to his fellow monks: “Come rapidly brothers, I’m tasting the celebrities.” He may not have invented champagne, however he did refine its manufacturing, with the assistance of Dom Thierry Ruinart.

We pay homage to each their tombs within the quaint church earlier than visiting the native producer G Tribaut. I may have sat within the tasting room for hours gazing via the floor-to-ceiling home windows on the sea of pinstripe vines. However there’s tasting to be accomplished, and though it prices €5 a glass, or €7 for vintages, for those who purchase six bottles you get three samples free. Very pretty they’re, too, significantly because the least costly is available in at €20.10.

You possibly can style different impartial producers’ wares on the wine bar Au 36 (€21 for 3 glasses) in Rue Dom Pérignon, the place containers of six bottles are bought on the similar worth charged on the vineyards. My tip could be to keep away from Au 36’s costly dishes and decide up a sandwich or quiche on the bakery and take it to the picnic spot past the abbey.

By now we’re prepared for a tour and tasting at one of many large champagne homes, which provide introduction to the champagne-making course of of their labyrinthine cellars. All of them supply one thing completely different, and on previous journeys I’ve visited many in Épernay and Rheims, half an hour away.

Rheims’ Notre-Dame Cathedral is a world heritage web site. {Photograph}: Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Photographs

However they don’t come low-cost – Moët costs €40 and Veuve Clicquot €35. Among the best worth is Mumm in Rheims, with 15 miles (25km) of cellars divided into areas named after champagne-producing villages (look out for Bouzy and Dizy) branching off the central Champs-Élysées tunnel (€28 with tasting).

We make a day of it by prepare, taking within the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral, its gothic facade dripping with ornament and a few of its stained-glass home windows portraying the champagne-producing course of. Thirty-three kings of France have been topped in Rheims, a practice began when Clovis was baptised there within the fifth century by Saint Remi; you’ll be able to see his carved tomb on the different finish of city within the Basilica Saint-Remi.

Not removed from the basilica is Vranken-Pommery, which has began good-value self guided excursions (€26 with tasting). Whilst you don’t get the identical clarification as at Mumm, it’s price going to see the big chalk mines quarried by the Romans, which Madame Pommery utilized in her personal sprawling cellars, adorned with monumental chalk reliefs.

Close to the station, the realm round Rheims’ Les Halles du Boulingrin market is the spot to seek out someplace to mop up the champagne. I’ve eaten earlier than at Le Bocal with its choice of small seafood plates for beneath €10, so this time we settle right down to beneficiant cheese and meat platters at Cheese Bar for €12pp earlier than taking the prepare residence.

Mercier champagne house in Épernay.
Mercier champagne home in Épernay. {Photograph}: David Doyle/Alamy

Again in Épernay, Mercier presents the best-value excursions (from €20), with its underground prepare journey chugging via a few of its 11 miles of cellars. We gape on the scale of the galleries and admire the statue of Blanche Mercier – the daughter of founder Eugène – holding a glass. Even for those who don’t do the tour, pop in to see the big oak barrel within the foyer that wanted 24 oxen to tug it to the 1889 Worldwide Exposition in Paris.

There are a few first rate locations to line our stomachs not removed from the flat; Café le Progrès serves steak and chips for €17, whereas a wonderful three-course dinner on the Cave à Champagne is simply €27. And also you’re not in need of locations to drink: you’ll be able to benefit from the poshest bar crawl on this planet alongside the Avenue de Champagne, the place most champagne homes supply glasses for about €8.

To get good-value fizz to fill the automotive boot, although, you might want to drag your self away from this compelling avenue. A ten-minute drive away is the grand cru village of Aÿ, and Champagne H Goutorbe, with its very good excursions and tasting for simply €10. We tour the press, storage vats and rows of bottles within the cellars with Madame Goutorbe, whose husband’s household has been making champagne for the reason that Nineteen Forties whereas their vine-grafting enterprise dates to 1918. Their Brut custom (€21.50 a bottle) is available in on the even cheaper charge of €19.50 for those who purchase six.

The grand cru village of Aÿ.
The grand cru village of Aÿ. {Photograph}: Hemis/Alamy

One other grand cru village, Cramant, quarter-hour from Épernay, has lengthy featured on any journey I make to the area, as a result of it’s residence to Voirin Jumel. Their scrumptious brut prices €21.50 a bottle, and do you have to wish to make full use of their wine bar or tasting courses, additionally they have nice (although fairly small) B&B rooms from €74.

There’s one factor price forking out for on this journey, which we save till the top of our keep. Christian has lengthy needed to strive sabrage, the artwork of chopping off the tip of the champagne bottle with a sword.

And so up the Avenue de Champagne we go one final time, to Comtesse Lafond’s turreted chateau to strive sabrage. Lafond presents this with three tastings for €60. First up, within the atmospheric cellar with its wall of 53,651 bottles, Christian pulls off the feat with aplomb, and celebrates by elevating his first glass. My very own try, exterior the spectacular Nineteenth-century chateau, takes significantly extra time.

I’m about to surrender when, lastly, there’s a satisfying pop because the gasoline escapes from the sliced-off bottle high. It’s a unbelievable, fizzing finish to a bubble-filled journey.

The journey was supplied by Marne’s company for tourism and by Eurotunnel