There’s more to Champagne, France, than sparkling wine. An hour northeast of Paris on the TGV, the region is bubbling over with new spots to sip, eat, and stay. An 18th-century mansion turned 12-room eco-retreat, the Hôtel Jean Moët opened in 2010 in the heart of Épernay. Its wrought-iron-and-glass atrium doubles as a tea salon that serves—yes—champagne cocktails. For classic French fare with a playful twist (a mille-feuille of Bresse pullet with foie gras butter; coquilles St.-Jacques in a puff pastry), head to Le Parc, at the historic Les Crayères hotel, in Reims. The restaurant has a collection of more than 300 rare vintages—and a chef, Philippe Mille, lured from Le Meurice. Les Crayères is named for the region’s 100-foot-deep chalk-pit cellars, which date to Gallo-Roman times; some of the most beautiful belong to Ruinart, the first champagne house to use them for aging wine, and Vranken Pommery, renowned for its bas-relief carvings. The region’s most inventive tasting room is Perchingbar, a solar-powered tree house in the Verzy forest. Inside, you’ll find white leather furnishings and a selection of sparklers from both les grandes maisons and lesser-known producers. The weekly-changing menu at C.Comme, Épernay’s most stylish new champagne bar, also offers flights from independent names. Buy your favorite—at a very reasonable price—in the underground wine cave.
Champagne Affordable Tip: Le Bocal is a tiny gem of a restaurant located in the back of a fish shop near the Boulingrin Market, in Reims. Reserve ahead for unpretentious seafood (including the best oysters in town) and a small but excellent wine list—all for less than half the price of dinner at many of the area’s top restaurants. 27 Rue de Mars, Reims; 33-3/26-47-02-51; dinner for two $90.
Champagne Active Tip: Take an “off-road” tasting tour via Land Rover into the vineyards around Verzy with outfitter Oenovasion. Regional expert Nicolas Rainon will teach you all about the terroir and steer you to a few secret champagne houses along the way. 33-6/38-83-52-57; tours from $200 per person.
Champagne, France: World’s Best Scorecard
Les Crayères Reims 88.73