By Lauren Jade Hill
Considered the unofficial capital of France’s Champagne region, the historic city of Reims is celebrated for its abundance of Champagne houses and verdant vineyards, as well as its rich heritage. Cathedrale Notre-Dame, which lies at the heart of the city, exhibits the city’s history though its intricate exterior of carved figures, and collection of stained glass windows that each have a story to tell; look out for the vivid blue stained glass by iconic modernist artist Marc Chagall.
Mile upon mile of chalk caves create an underground network beneath the city, providing the optimum temperature for Champagne production. As a result, many prominent Champagne houses are based in and around Reims, from Veuve Clicquot and Laurent Perrier to Taittinger, but the region is also home to a number of family-run Champagne houses where the wine-making tradition has been passed down the generations. We take a look at some of the stand-out boutique Champagne Houses that can easily be visited while staying in the city.
This elegant family-owned Champagne House sits at the heart of the small village of Mareil-sur-Ay within an immaculate French-style walled garden, which was designed in 1926 by Charles Roland-Billecart with boxwood embroidery, lawns and flowerbeds. The house then exhibits even more of the family’s heritage, dating back to 1818 when the champagne business began. While the family’s heritage has been preserved, the wine-making process has been modernized to combine 200 years of experience with the latest vinification methods. Tours are on appointment.
Louis de Sacy
Within the scenic Montagne de Reims region, the family of the Champagne Louis de Sacy estate have now grown grapes for 13 generations, having owned the vineyards here since 1633. The family then went on to produce champagne in 1962, and this was the beginning of their champagne label, Louis de Sacy. With the family’s grape-growing tradition, it’s the surrounding nature and terroir that the champagne house show exceptional passion for. Tours of the small champagne house are available on appointment.
Tucked within Ludes in Montagne de Reims National Park, the Canard-Duchêne Champagne House has a scenic spot on a hillside amid the region’s vineyards. As a family-run winery, the house has a history dating back to 1868 when the founders Victor Canard and Léonie Duchêne adopted the coat of arms depicting a crowned two-headed eagle, which now appears on every label. Guided cellar tours are led around the estate, taking in the 19th-century hand-carved cellars, vineyards, and the estate’s park, before stopping by the Canard-Duchêne boutique where each Champagne is available to buy. Cellar tours with tastings need to be booked ahead of time.
The Belle Epoque estate of Champagne Gardet dates back to 1895 when this family began producing champagne in the small village of Chigny-les-Roses, within the Montagne de Reims landscape. While retaining the family’s champagne-making tradition and distinct style, the house utilizes techniques of the modern day. And it’s this balance between tradition and modernity that the family base the distinct Gardet champagne style around. Cellar tours with tasting of the house’s Cuvées are led throughout each day Monday to Friday, and on Saturdays by appointment.