WHAT TO VISIT IN EPERNAY ?
Epernay, Champagne capital © Reims tourist office
Epernay is a city in the Champagne region in France, located at 25 kilometers from Reims, on the south edge of Reims Natural Regional Park, in the heart of the Champagne vineyard. This city nicknamed the «Capital of Champagne » gathers in its prestigious « Avenue de Champagne » the most famous Champagne Houses in the world such as Moët & Chandon, Mercier …
Whether during summer (July, August), autumn (harvest period in September and October) or during winter (December, January), Epernay is the ideal place to go on a Champagne tour to visit Champagne cellars, taste Champagne and try food and Champagne pairing. You will find there all types of wineries : famous Champagne Houses, cooperative wineries, or smaller Champagne producers.
If you’re wondering what to do in Epernay, here is a selection of places, vineyards and Champagne Houses to visit in Epernay and its surroundings.
THE AVENUE DE CHAMPAGNE
This majestic avenue can be considered as the epicenter of the Champagne vineyard. 1 kilometer long, it has a total of 100 kilometers of cellars, housing millions of bottles! It is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious avenues in the world. This is where you will find the most famous Champagne Houses. They are located above a chalk cliff with long galleries at a constant temperature of 9-12°C, ideal to store bottles.
This precious thoroughfare has also an important historical past. The first Champagne House was created there in 1729 by Nicolas Ruinard, followed by Moët & Chandon in 1743. Since the 19th century, it has become an important economic center. Bordered with many 19th century renaissance and classical buildings, it is also a pleasant place to walk. Nowadays, this avenue attracts tourist from all over the world, who come to visit the famous Champagne Houses.
CHAMPAGNE HOUSES AND CELLARS
There is obviously one main reason to go to Epernay : to discover champagne producers. The Champagne capital has various assets to satisfy you: old cellars, large Champagne Houses known worldwide, cooperatives, and also smaller wineries. We’ve selected for you big Champagne Houses and cellars that worth the visit in Epernay and its surroundings. You will know everything on the Champagne production !
Champagne Houses close to Epernay
You can start your Champagne discovery by the magnificent De Castellane House, which distinguished above all by its architecture. Its tower and iconic belfry were built in 1900 and have preserved their original architecture. After climbing over 300 stairs, you will have a breathtaking view from its 66 meters high, on Epernay and on the Marne Valley vineyard.
It also houses a museum of ancient Champagne crafts dedicated to the evolution of Champagne making methods. Reconstructed scenes illustrate the different stages of production through cooperage, work of the vine, grape harvest, pressing… In addition, you will visit the Labels Room, which gathers over 5000 historical models representing the long history of this house.
The visit of the House includes a guided tour of its 10 kilometers long underground cellars, a free access to the tower and to the museum and a Champagne tasting at the winery.
De Castellane Champagne House, Epernay
Moët & Chandon Champagne house is the most famous and best-selling brand of champagne in the world. You can visit there the longest cellars of Epernay. The tour was redesigned in 2015 to give you an even more immersive experience. You can choose between several tasting formulas depending on the champagne you want to taste.
Moët & Chandon Champagne House, Epernay
Mercier Champagne house is the second largest Champagne producer after Moët & Chandon and welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year. They are both part of LVMH group, the world leader in the luxury goods industry. The house was created by Eugène Mercier in 1858. It had a huge success during the universal exhibition in 1889. For the occasion, a giant Champagne barrel, the famous « Foudre Mercier » of a 215,000 bottles capacity was set up in a cart drawn by 24 oxen and 18 horses to Paris. The giant barrel is nowadays settled in the reception area.
An atypical audioguided tour is offered in all languages. It begins with a short introductory film presenting the evolution of the house from its creation to the present day. You continue on a spectacular descent in a panoramic lift. Then you will visit a part of the 18 kilometers of cellars in a small automatic train. These galleries carved in chalk are decorated by sculptures made by Navlet, the sculptor who also made the giant Champagne barrel.
You will end your visit with a Champagne tasting.
Cellars of Mercier Champagne House, Epernay
If lunch time is approaching, go to Venoge’s house, which is one of the oldest Champagne houses. This house doesn’t offer any cellar visit, but it is a wonderful restauration and tasting place in the heart of the Avenue de Champagne. On the menu, they offer different Champagnes pairings, such as a plate of cheese or sashimi with a glass of Champagne. It is an ideal place to enjoy an original and local lunch break. You can sit inside or on the terrace if the weather allows it.
De Venoge Champagne House, Epernay
Another champagne house located on the Avenue de Champagne, the Maison Boizel that perpetuates its know-how since 1834. Discover the magnificent century-old cellars dug in the middle of the 19th century, which offer a unique character to the champagne. Many options for tours and tastings are available, at different price ranges, for all budgets.
Champagne Boizel, Epernay
Still in the center of Epernay, we recommend the Champagne house Alfred Gratien, a family-owned winery for four generations. Regularly awarded in specialized guides (Bettane and Desseauve, La Revue du Vin de France …) this house remains faithful to the philosophy of the founder. The owners continue their rigorous selection of grapes from the best Crus, vinify in small oak barrels and voluntarily limit the volumes to 300,000 bottles per year to respect the terroir. Several options of visits and tastings are offered, some of which pairing with cheese, foie gras or marinated salmon…
Champagne Alfred Gratien, Epernay
The Nicolas Feuillatte wine center, located in Chouilly, a 10 minutes’ drive from Epernay, is one of Champagne’s must-sees. Indeed, it is one of the largest wine cooperatives in France, working with more than 5000 winegrowers’ partners. Despite its young history (created in 1976), Nicolas Feuillate is one of the first champagne brands sold in France.
The site has been entirely refurbished in 2017. The visit and the tasting area have been renovated to give the visitor a unique and qualitative experience. During the guided tour, you can access to all the facilities of the production site in operation, a rare opportunity in such a large industrial structure. The tour allows you to see each stage of the development of the Champagne: vat room, riddling, disgorging, dressing… In addition, explanatory panels are set up to make the visit even more informative. You will see and understand the whole industrial process and be surprised by the extremely large volume of production.
Nicolas Feuillatte wine center, Chouilly
Also at 10 minutes by car from Epernay, discover the 2nd largest wine cellar of Champagne, located at the foot of the hillsides of the Aÿ vineyards, registered on the UNESCO world heritage. Several sightseeing options combining culture, art and history await you. Champagne cellars, mechanical and manual removers located 35 meters underground, visit of the vines classified 100% Grand Cru sharing…. Discover champagne in another way.
View on the Aÿ vineyard, Cité du Champagne Collet, Aÿ
At 20 minutes from Epernay, a family-owned winery for 5 generations awaits you in the heart of the Côte des Blancs. We strongly recommend this visit as they produce Champagnes with an excellent value for money. The owners will be delighted to welcome you for a true discovery of the history, the life of the vineyard and all the specificities of the Côte des Blancs. You will know everything about the creation of Champagne, its conservation, its agreements …
Champagne JL Vergnon, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Finally, if you are looking for a small producer, go to Domaine Guy Charbaut. This charming family owned winery is located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, a small wine village located at 15 minutes by car from Epernay.
It is a small typical winery of the region, which has very beautiful old cellars, with a huge rotunda that used to allow the horses that carried the bottles to turn around. You will enjoy a wide range of champagnes at a good value for money, among which Premiers Crus.
WALK IN THE CITY CENTER
Apart from the large Champagne Houses, Epernay has an interesting city center with shops, historical and cultural buildings.
Located at the bottom of the Avenue de Champagne, the city hall is an old private mansion owned by Mr. Aban-Moët and built in 1858. It is a classic building surrounded by a beautiful English-style park. It has kept its original charm. Inside, you can see luxurious lounges, the most notable of which are the Wedding Room and the Council Room.
City-hall © photo-panoramique.eu
On the square Pierre Mendès, the magnificent Italian-style theatre is dedicated to Gabrielle Dorziat, actress of theatre and cinema born in Epernay in 1880. In a Louis XV style, it was inaugurated in 1902. It stands out by its machinery remained intact since its origin. Inside, it is characterized by a pretty domed ceiling, and somptuous decorations made by great artists such as the sculptor Joseph Ascoli of Sparnac, author of the work “The Champagne Vine Inspiring Theatrical Art” carved on the upper pediment of the facade.
Gabrielle Dorziat Theatre © photo-panoramique.eu
The Notre-Dame church is also located on the square Pierre Mendès. This church dating from the end of the 12th century has a Latin cross shape. It was restored several times, which explains its architectural heterogeneity, integrating both Romanesque and Gothic elements. It has a tower of 80 meters high and a 15th century bell tower. Inside, you can admire beautiful stained glass windows of the Renaissance tracing the life of the Virgin Mary. It also contains paintings, sculptures and a beautiful organ. A space of Sacred Art presents precious liturgical vestments, statues, and a fine 15th century tombstone.
Notre-Dame Church, Epernay © patrimoine-histoire.fr
Finally, the Portal Saint-Martin is placed near Hugues-Plomb square. It is one of the oldest monuments of Epernay, built in 1540. This graceful Renaissance style portal dates from the time of Francis Ist (16th century). It is decorated with garlands of stones with all kinds of animals, including salamanders, a characteristic detail of the time.
Portal Saint-Martin © mapio.net
Habits de Lumière Festival
For 19 years, the festival “Les habits de Lumière” is a celebration of the Champagne region art of living. This free event takes place each year at the beginning of December and gathers nearly 50,000 spectators. Several activities are offered: musical entertainment, champagne bars, projections of sound and light on the city hall facade, fireworks, and even a parade of vintage cars along the Avenue de Champagne. To know about this festival and to know the program of the 20th edition which will take place on December 13th, 14th and 15th 2019, click here.
Light Clothes Event © itervitis.fr
We wish you a pleasant discovery of Epernay and its Champagne houses!