My “Insiders’ Guide to Champagne” is born out of experience. If you want to travel to Champagne, it’s hard to know where to start. Exactly how do you decide where to go and what to do and where to stay and how BEST to use your limited time? I remember from my first trip, I had no idea what I was doing.
But now that I have been a few times and have some great local contacts, I am sharing all my insider’s tips with you. For free (you’re welcome!)
So for Part Two in my series of insiders’ guides to the Champagne region sharing all the best things to do in Champagne (you can read Part I here) I want to introduce a very special friend, Isabélle Rousseaux, from Aÿ-Champagne Experience.
(And I am writing my own guide – as an outside insider lol – but for what it’s worth my number one tip for anyone visiting Champagne is … book a tour with Isabélle!)
Bubble & Flute Insider’s Guide to Champagne Part Two
I LOVE Isabelle from Aÿ-Champagne Experience. SO much so that when I was in Champagne in June and July, I did THREE tours with her and I have since sent two other groups of Aussies to join her and her little red car… and everybody has loved her!
Isabelle takes tours with a difference. There’s no mini-bus with Isabelle, or big groups. Instead she takes private tours and drives you around in a cool little red convertible which is 100% electric so when you drive through the vineyards in her car, there is minimal impact on the vines. Isabelle can arrange an amazing itinerary for a private tour for up to 3 people and her specialty is the town of Aÿ-Champagne, which is just 5 minutes away from Epernay but she can pick you up from wherever you’re staying.
And because Isabelle lives in Aÿ and has amazing contacts… she has taken me to Henri Giraud (doing some incredible things with wine and producing stunning wines) and Ayala and introduced me to some other small, local producers we will never have heard of in Australia.
Her secret weapon though are her picnics. Isabelle’s picnics in the middle of a vineyard will let you see the most spectacular locations and the food she provides is delicious and all sourced locally (the champagne is too, of course!). Her picnic is just about the best, most authentic and unique thing you can do in Champagne.
Because I love Isabelle and her tours so much and I so highly recommend her, I asked her to share with you what she thinks are the best things to do in Champagne. So here is the Bubble and Flute Insiders’ Guide to Champagne Part Two.
Isabélle Rousseaux from Aÿ-Champagne Experience
First I asked Isabelle to introduce herself to us…
My name is Isabelle and after long legal studies, history of art, development of historical heritage and cultural tourism, I have just set up my company Aÿ-Champagne Experience.. I want to share my village and its treasures, its exceptional terroir (classified 100% Grand Cru) and its historic hillsides classified as UNESCO World Heritage (see Marnie’s video below, which still doesn’t do the true beauty justice!)
And of course, I want to share its wonderful houses of champagne and winegrowers.
All my visits are in my private E-Mehari 100% electric car. I also organize visits to other villages and vineyards such as Hautvillers with its church where the famous Dom Perignon “Spiritual father of Champagne” is buried, or an unforgettable picnic with champagne in the heart of the vineyards and this exceptional landscape.
I particularly like organising tours tailored for my clients who are “champagne lovers” (like Marnie), with private visits to prestigious champagne houses and vineyards… the real Champagne tour!
Isabelle’s Top Five things to do in Champagne
Visit the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay
One kilometre of what is said to be the most expensive street in the world… because of all the champagne stored below the ground. Below street level there are more than 100 kilometres of caves and cellars dug out of the chalk, where millions of bottles of champagne are stored.
Some of the houses are private and you can’t tour and taste (like Pol Roger and Perrier-Jouët) but most of them are open to the public for tours or tastings.
Visit the village of Aÿ
Just 5 minutes from Epernay, Aÿ is an historic village, vineyards and winemakers (or vignoble et vignerons as the French would say).
Aÿ is an important village historically in Champagne and is home to some very famous names in champagne like Bollinger, Ayala, and Lallier.
Spend a day at Villa Bissinger in the school of champagne
There is actually a champagne School in Champagne. Marnie and I spent a morning there and learnt so much. It is used by the local industry to train staff but is also open to tourists for a fun learning experience.
Hautvillers is a stunning village which sits on top of a hill overlooking Epernay and the surrounding Marne Valley.
It is also home to the Abbey of Dom Pérignon, the final resting place of the man credited as inventing champagne.
Do a lot of tastings and drink a lot of champagne
The most obvious thing is to taste champagne. There are thousands of producers who are open for tours and tastings and dozens of bars scattered in villages throughout the region where you can try things you’ve always wanted to, and things you didn’t even know existed!
Time of year in Champagne
There are two times of year that I just love and they are linked to some big local events “Habits de Lumières” in December each year in Avenue de Champagne, and every two years “Fêtes Henri 4” in Aÿ.
Villages in Champagne
Aÿ and Hautvillers
Place to holiday in France
Corsica of course… it is always beautiful
Tips for planning a trip to Champagne (based on all the feedback Isabelle gets from her guests)
Make sure you do a mix of tours of big champagne houses, négociants and winegrowers with family history, and drink a lot of champagne to know what you prefer.
Champagne moment… ever
Watching the fireworks during “Fêtes Henri 4” from the Champagne Ayala rooftop (I told you about the rooftop in my Champagne Ayala post).
If you ever get to visit Champagne (and you really, really must!) then PLEASE email Isabelle for a tour…. you will love it!
And tell her that I sent you… firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need a Champagne Travel Concierge?
I am available as your personal Champagne Travel Concierge! It is hard to piece together everything I post about, what you’ve found out on your own, and to narrow down what to do in an itinerary for the few days you might have in Champagne…. so let me do the hard work for you.
Email email@example.com to ask about my rates for being your Champagne Travel Concierge and preparing an itinerary for your holiday. Depending on how long you are staying, it could cost you as little as $100 for my help. That’s less than a bottle of champagne. And much less than the cost of a bottle of champagne in France (it is so much more affordable to buy champagne in France, you will never want to leave!)
And when you do, (note I said WHEN, not if) post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute #bubbleandflute #happychampers
Bubble & Flute promotes the responsible consumption of alcohol for individuals of legal drinking age in their country.