If you are planning to spend a couple of days in Paris and want to do a day trip to a nearby city, we know exactly where you should go; The Moët & Chandon’s/Dom Pérignon’s legendary champagne cellar in Champagne. This renowned champagne house offers guided tours, where insights in champagne production is combined with a history lesson of the high-class champagne brand. Spoiler alert: The best comes last. Because when the guided tour is coming to an end, a magnificent champagne tasting awaits!
A champagne house visit is the perfect activity for bubble lovers who are curious to find out more about the most talked about champagne brands in the world. It is also suitable for tourists wanting to escape the city pulse in Paris and do something out of the ordinary. We are Nodes chose to visit the cellars of Moët & Chandon’s and Dom Pérignon, which is the largest one within the Champagne region, but there are plenty of other champagne houses alongside Avenue de Champagne in Épernay to choose from. Follow us on the “Grand Vintage” visit:
Getting to Épernay, “The capital of Champagne”
Getting to Champagne-Ardenne from Paris was a lot easier (and quicker!) than we first thought. In fact, it was only a 45 min direct train route from the Gare De L’est station – and by the time we had finished our morning coffees from Paul’s (as always, we went for the “Café Americano” with milk) we were already there.
At the station, we were picked up by our local friends who drove us to Épernay, also known as “The capital of Champagne”, where most champagne houses are located. It was a pleasant 20 minute drive through an idyllic scenery.
Our friends welcomed us with a traditional French ápero, which consisted of champagne (what else?), followed by a delicious lunch. By the end of our meal, we were more than ready for our guided tour. Off we go!
A short drive later we arrived at our destination. It was not entirely unexpected that the Moët & Chandon’s champagne house was as grand as its champagne. As soon as we stepped through the black gates, our eyes were drawn to the statue of Dom Pérignon, the monk who had a very significant role in the Champagne manufacture history. We were more than excited to begin the tour and find out more.
Our guide welcomed us to the Champagne house and began the tour with showing us an introduction video. Next, she told us more about the history of the well-known Möet family and the property we were in.
Fun trivia: Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte was a frequent guest of the estate in Épernay? According to the legend, he invented the tradition of sabering bottles of Moët to celebrate victory.
After the history lesson on the Moët and Chandon founders, we were invited to an extensive tour in the 28 km (!) long cellars where our guide combined champagne guidelines (such as how to store champagne – always horizontal, never in the fridge!) and facts about the production chain. She also had to handle a never-ending Q&A from curious champagne lovers.
Many wine enthusiasts are probably familiar with the vintage champagne brand Dom Pérignon – but Dom Piérre Pérignon, as his full name was, was a lot more than just a name behind a label.
He was a monk who worked as a cellarer during forty seven years in the abbey of Hautvillers, during the same time that Ludvig XIV ruled Versailles. In order to pay for the maintenance of the monastery, Dom Pérignon was told by his abbot to make wine. Unfortunately, the monastery was located in the northern provence where the climate wasn’t in favor for winemaking. Not only did the grapevines tend to freeze in the winter, but the yeasts activity increased during the winter and started to fermenting again during springtime – which created a double fermentation – which in turn created carbondioxid bubbles.
During this time, bubbles in wine was considered a defect and the double fermentation made bottles explode under pressure. Dom Pérignon desperately tried to minimize the unwanted bubbles by mixing green and red grapes from different vineyards (he was the first person to mix different varieties before they were pressed) and got famous for his great blending skills. When Louis XIV tasted the wine he loved it, and from that moment on, the monastery didn’t have to worry about financial issues anymore. The wine was actually named Champagne – after Dom Pérignon’s home province.
And what has this to do with Moët & Chandon you might wonder? Well, as we were told at the guided tour Dom Pérignon is a vintage champagne brand produced by Moët & Chandon. A vintage champagne means that it is only made in the best years, and all grapes used to make the wine are harvested in the same year (unlike most champagne). Moët’s first first vintage champagne was released in the year of 1842 and their best-selling brand Brut Imperial was introduced in the 1860s. In fact, in a special room in the Moët caves (not open for public though), all the “vintage years” are projected on a wall. The most recent vintage year was 2006, which was the year of the champagne we drank at our tasting.
Fun fact: Did you know that Champagne is not made for storing and doesn’t age well? An unopened bottle of champagne should be consumed within a year. A vintage champagne lasts longer, around 4 years.
The guided tour takes approximately one hour and is, as mentioned, topped off with a champagne tasting. We drank one glass of the classic Grand Vintage and one glass of Grand Vintage Rosé.
After the tasting, we were invited to the Moët shop where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs, everything from Champagne to bags, trays and notebooks.
We chose the “Grand Vintage Tour” which costs 35€/person and was more than worth the price. It included a 1 hour guided tour in the caves, 1 glass of Grand Vintage champagne and 1 glass of Grand Vintage Rosé. The prices differ between 22-35€/person depending on which tour you choose.
Address: Champagne Moët & Chandon, 20 avenue de Champagne, 51200 Epernay
How to get there: By train: One hour and twenty minutes from Paris Gare de l’Est train station to Epernay. Moët & Chandon is located 5 minutes by foot from the station.
Price: Between 22-35€/person.
Have you visited the Möet & Chandon Champagne cellar? What did you think about the tour? We’d love to hear your thoughts (and questions!)