I get a lot of emails and DMs from people who are travelling to Champagne and want to know how to go about booking tours and tastings and what I recommend.
And I was recently asked by a new email subscriber to write a blog post about it. So because I LOVE nothing more than when people reply to my Sunday brunch emails (you can get on my list here)… Anne – I wrote about it just for you.
In this post:
- I recommend local guides I have had personal and fabulous experiences with.
- Let you in on a secret site where you can book tastings at HUNDREDS of houses (it’s not really a secret but not nearly enough people know it exists!) AND
- I give you links to the big houses you can book with directly.
And make sure you check out my other posts to help you nail your trip to Champagne at the end of this post.
My Top Tips For Booking Tastings And Tours In Champagne
If you are travelling to Champagne and want to book tours and tastings, my most important piece of advice before I suggest HOW you choose to book your tastings and tours is… BOOK AHEAD!
So let me say that again, BOOK AHEAD! And if you are planning to go in the French summer, book way ahead! I mean months or weeks ahead – NOT days ahead – to get the dates and times that will fit your itinerary.
And now, my top tips for booking tours and tastings in Champagne
1. Book with a local guide who has great reviews or personal recommendations
There are many guides and tour companies in the region to choose from. The hard part is knowing which one to go with. Just because I don’t list a local guide here doesn’t mean they aren’t any good – I just haven’t personally toured with them. So please ask me if you want to know more about a local service and I will contact my local spies and find out for you.
But here is who I have used and recommend…
Isabélle Rousseaux From Aÿ-Champagne Experience
I love Isabélle, her tours, her picnics and her little red electric convertible. Her cute red car fits 3 people but if you have a bigger group, she’ll provide a bigger car.
I toured with Isabélle initially because she was different. Her car was small and personal for just me and my friend. And now I recommend her for the same reason and because I love her.. she is kind and funny and knowledgeable and genuine and connected, and she wants her guests to fall in love with Champagne.
Isabélle’s super-power is her connections in the remarkable village of Ay (home to Bollinger and Ayala and many more) where she personally knows many small and large producers. This area is the most visually stunning in all of Champagne and she know all the best viewpoints and picnic spots to show you why this area is word-heritage listed… it is so beautiful it will break your heart.
Valentin from Sparkling Tour
Valentin was born and raised in Champagne and has worked at a number of smaller champagne houses so he too is connected and clever!
I toured with Valentin because he was young and new in the game and taking a fresh approach to his tours. A lot of mini-bus tour companies will roll out the same tour day after day and stick to the safe, big houses but Valentin mixes up his itinerary, he visits smaller producers you will never have heard of and he take requests on where you want to go.
Larry and The Champagne Tour Company
I picked Larry to tour with because he offered a LOT of options and travelling on my own wasn’t an issue because he runs private tours. My advice is to email him, tell him what you’d like, and let him set up your itinerary. He’ll give you a 10% discount if you mention I referred you too.
Larry’s tours are also a good option if you are coming from Paris and want your guide to drive you from Paris to Champagne. Reims is about a two-hour drive from Paris and while it is quicker on the train, I get that not everyone can be bothered with trains and during that two hours you can see and learn a lot about the region that you won’t on the train. (FYI – I can’t usually be bothered with trains but I have to admit I found them so quick and easy from Paris to Reims or Epernay).
There is a little-known but magical website called Champagne-Booking.com. And it’s a hub for hundreds of champagne houses tour and tasting options, that you can book all in one place. No money exchanges hands until you arrive at the champagne house for the tour and tasting.
I used the site for three visits while I was in Champagne and it is so easy.
The team are adding more and more houses and experiences every day and it makes it SO easy to plan your itinerary. You can even book a tour and tasting at Bollinger via Champagne Booking – to me this reflects a huge shift in thinking in the Champagne region that they are embracing tourism more (although there are still many big houses who only offer tastings to wine industry media. I think they risk losing their relevance entirely if they don’t make the shift like Bollinger).
The upside of Champagne Booking is you can book 300+ champagne experiences in one place! The down-side is you can book 300+ champagne experiences in one place! How do you choose??? It’s also organised by the name of the producers and the five champagne regions. Most people won’t be familiar with more than a handful of champagne brands and NONE of the regions so that may not help much. But look at the reviews on the site of other visitors or ASK ME!!! I have visited a lot more houses than the average champagne fan and won’t rest until I have visited them all.
Visit the website to book Champagne-Booking.com.
3. Book directly with the big houses
A lot of the big houses accept bookings online for their cellar tours and tastings and they offer options for different tastings at the end.
My bonus tip for when deciding which tasting you are going to do is… this is NOT the time to be cheap! If you are in Champagne, doing a tasting at a Champagne house, with a guide who lives and breathes the champagnes they pour, taste the very best the house has to offer! You can down a glass of NV Mumm or Taittinger at your local on a Friday night, go vintage or go home!
Here are some links to where you can book tours with the big brands online. (And this IS in a particular order, based on my personal experiences and tastes of course).
Ruinart – Based in Reims, they offer tours on Saturdays (not as common as you would think!). It is the oldest of all Champagne houses so the history is amazing and Ruinart has my favourite crayeres. Crayeres are ancient limestone quarries dating back centuries that were bought up by 5 champagne houses in more modern times because they represent perfect cellaring conditions for Champagne. The other four crayeres are at Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot, Pommery and Charles Heidsieck (who don’t offer public tours).
Book here Ruinart.
Taittinger – Also based in Reims, oodles of history for the house and the site of the crayeres, they offer tours Saturdays and Sundays (very rare so if you are in Champagne on a Sunday, the list of options is a very short).
Book here Taittinger.
Veuve Clicquot – Again, based in Reims, tours and tastings Tuesday – Saturday. I love the history and the story of Madame Clicquot and if you visit Reims you simply must do a tour and hear it for yourself.
Book here Veuve Clicquot.
GH Mumm – Still in Reims, tours and tastings every day in high season (April to October). If you are a seasoned champagne-fan and want to visit Mumm, I highly recommend one of their ‘out of the box experiences’ or you might feel a bit disappointed. I make no secret of my love for Mumm and I have visited the house three times and by far and away my favourite experience was a tour to the vineyards at Verzenay. They only offer this option on request now.. if you visit the link in the heading above, and find The Mumm Box option on their website (accurate at time of writing this March 2019), it requires you to contact the Mumm guides directly to book that tour so I would ask if you can arrange a tour to the Moulin de Verzenay as an option. It will take longer and costs more but WELL worth it!
Book here GH Mumm.
Moet and Chandon – In Epernay now, Moët & Chandon offers public tours and tastings every day. Their cellars in Epernay are very modern so if you are going for the historic champagne feel, you may not feel that as you approach the building. A lot of the big name houses in Epernay (Pol Roger, Perrier-Jouet for example) don’t offer public tours.
Book here Moet and Chandon.
Mercier – Still in Epernay, Mercier offers tours daily. I haven’t actually toured Mercier but am listing it because they have a little train to take you around which I am told is helpful if you have kiddies or mobility issues.
Book here Mercier.
Nicolas Feuillatte – The largest co-op in all of Champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte is in the top ten champagne producers for volume and probably better known in France than Australia. They are based in Chouilly, which is just 15 minutes from Epernay and are open seven days a week from March – November. I haven’t visited the house in Chouilly but they have a boutique in Paris where you can book a private tasting and that’s where I had my experience. (Still book ahead for the Paris boutique!)
Book here Nicolas Feuillatte.
That’s a wrap on my main tips for booking tours and tastings in Champagne.
Make sure you check out my other travel tips especially my My top five tips for travelling in Champagne where I…
- recommend when to travel to Champagne and
- how to get around the Champagne region
I would LOVE for you to email me and let me be your personal Champagne Travel Concierge! I will work with my network of local Champagne spies to plan a personalised itinerary to match the time of year, the occasion, your group size, and any of your personal preferences!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org so I can start planning the Champagne trip of your dreams now!
Have you been to Champagne and have a hot tip? If you do visit after reading my tips, make sure you post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute #bubbleandflute #happychamper #champagnefan
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