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Sep 2, 2013 12:29 PM

Champagne dégustation/visite, Reims/Epernay

My husband and I are going to be outside Reims (Sept-Saulx) for about 5 days at the end of this month. Searches on this board turn up older threads suggesting that taking a formal tour of at least one of the really big houses is worth it, and seeming to give Pommery the nod for that. Since in addition to visiting Reims and Epernay themselves, we'll be driving around enjoying the area, we were wondering if anyone had recommendations of two or three smaller houses that wouldn't require reservations. (We wouldn't be trying to cram them all in in one day.)

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  1. All the houses will require reservations, especially the smaller houses. Winemakers are farmers, after all, and they are working their farms. The harvest will either be in full swing, or in at least some phase, and without a reservation there will be no one with any time to show you around or taste with you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChefJune

      Goodness, thanks for this! The listings from, e.g., the Epernay tourist office show many places that don't mention reservations as being required, and in other wine-growing regions I've long been accustomed to dropping in for a tasting with no problem at all. It's very helpful to know that won't fly in this case.

      Still interested in recommendations of favorites, if anyone has them.

    2. I just thought to be helpful to future searchers, I would post our experience: we actually did find many small houses in the area open for visits and tastings without reservations. (The harvest was just beginning in some areas and a week away in others.) We ended up booking the Mumm tour in Epernay, which was a bit commercial but worth it, especially for the vintage tasting for which we opted at the end. We also enjoyed tasting a flight of champagnes at C Comme in Epernay and learning about the differences in taste depending on proportions of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir -- I'd recommend this experience for anyone who is not thoroughly conversant with different styles of champagne.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fesenjan

        Agree it's perfectly easy to visit smaller places without reservations, but they generally have a cellar door. Those that don't have a retail operation would be reservation only, as you say the tourist office is a good starting point.

      2. Moet in Epernay requires reservations but is a good tour. And while driving around, make sure to see the totally charming village of Hauteville. We didn't visit any vineyard there, but it was a treasure of a town. And they have a tiny tourist office there which had a nice art exhibit at the time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ScottnZelda

          No it doesn't. You can turn-up and join the next tour if there is space, they go frequently. Obviously better to book a time so you don't have to wait but it isn't essential.

        2. Here are some excellent addresses. As we always buy champagne I can't tell you for sure if there is a tasting fee at Vilmart or Alfred Gratien. There is at Mailly unless you buy champagne. At Launois you have to pay for the tour and the tasting is included. These are not listed in any order of preference. They are ALL worth a visit.

          Champagne Vilmart & Cie
          BP4 5 rue de Gravières
          51500 Rilly la Montagne
          03 26 03 40 01

          Open M-F 9h-12h, 14-17h30

          Great prices for rich, high-quality champagne, “The poor man’s Krug”.

          Champagne Mailly Grand Cru
          28 rue de la Liberation
          51500 Mailly

          Open M-F 8h30-12h, 14h-18h
          Sat. 9h-12h
          May through 15 December 9h-17h,
          Sundays and holiday, 11h-17h

          Excellent cooperative, friendly people. Gorgeous champagne.

          Alfred Gratien
          30, rue Maurice Cerveaux
          B.P. 3
          51201 Epernay
          03 26 54 38 20

          You have to make an appointment but it is well worth it! Low key. They let the champagne speak for itself. (Not sure if English is spoken though).

          Launois Père & Fils
          2, Avenue Eugène Guillaume - B.P. 7
          51190 Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
          03 26 57 50 15

          Must book ahead. An excellent tour though it’s a 2-hour commitment. Everything you wanted to know about champagne and more as you visit the extensive museum and cellars, followed by a wonderful champagne-tasting.
          Tasting included in the tour fee.