Overview:

Champagne is located right at the northernmost point of the wine growing world and has been contending with low temperatures, high rainfalls, regular spring frosts and the occasional invading army since the middle-ages, yet it still produces the best and most sought after wines in the world.

The cool climate and chalk subsoil gives the grapes a high level of acidity while the fact that the region is only 100 miles east of Paris has historically helped the growers by providing an enthusiastic market relatively close by.

The two main commercial towns in the area are Reims and Épernay and both are popular destinations for those looking to spend a few days sampling the bubbly stuff. Most of the Champagne producers, called maisons, are located between these two towns.

There are regular guided tours in English throughout the year, run by the different maisons, and all include a respectably long tasting session, or degustation, afterwards. You can arrange one of these by contacting the local tourist offices.

Away from the maisons life in rural Champagne is not an easy one, this is an agricultural heartland that has suffered from depopulation in recent years and this is visible in many of the small villages along the way. Reims, the regions capital city, boasts one of the country’s oldest Gothic cathedrals and was the place where the coronation of France’s kings took place until it was usurped by Versailles. Éperney on the other hand is a better destination for champagne tours, with more to offer the tourists than its twin.