World’s Best Trip: Champagne, France
Published: July 2011
By Anna Watson, Peter Liem
How to take a World’s Best trip to Champagne, France.
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.
World’s Best Scorecard
Les Crayères Reims 88.73
C.Comme 8 Rue Gambetta; 33-3/26-32-09-55; c-comme.fr; drinks for two $19.
Great Value Hôtel Jean Moët 7 Rue Jean Moët, Épernay; 33-3/26-32-19-22; hoteljeanmoet.com; doubles from $215.
Les Crayères and Le Parc 64 Blvd. Henry Vasnier, Reims; 33-3/26-24-90-00; lescrayeres.com; doubles from $550; dinner for two $286.
Perchingbar Arboxygène Park; 33-6/07-67-94-42; perchingbar.eu; drinks for two $40.
Ruinart 4 Rue des Crayères, Reims; 33-3/26-77-51-51; ruinart.com.
Vranken Pommery 5 Place du Général Gouraud, Reims; 33-3/26-61-62-63; pommery.com.