Dom Perignon, Bollinger and Louis Roederer are but a few champagne brands clients may have heard of and possibly enjoyed on special occasions. However, the region where the fizz is produced remains an enigma to many Brits.
Situated less than 100 miles east of Paris, Champagne is famed for its Gothic cathedrals, sparkling white wines and picturesque landscapes. Its vineyards, spread across 320 villages and five departments – Marne, Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne – offer ample opportunities for tasting sessions.
To strengthen Champagne’s reputation for wine tourism and bolster the UK market, which currently represents a third of all foreign visitors (more than 200,000 arrived in 2018), the Regional Tourism Agency of Grand-Est has partnered with growers’ association Comite Champagne to create brand “La Champagne, refined art de vivre”.
“We want to develop our own identity and find our place on the map as a boutique destination,” said Vincent Perrin, director general at Comite Champagne, when I met him recently.
More than 90 partners have united under the new banner, including champagne houses, growers, hotels, cultural sites and local tour operators, to offer enhanced experiences to visitors.
The activities, which can be found online at visitlachampagne.travel, comprise gastronomy, heritage and oenology. Destination highlights include hotel Auberge de Nicey’s rural cycling experience, where guests will explore nearby vineyards by bicycle, and picnicking among the vines of the Champagne de Barfontarc vineyard.
“The website is a place for clients and travel agents to visit to increase their knowledge of the destination, discover what’s on offer and then craft an itinerary,” explained Perrin.
Champagne offers a mixture of affordable and high-end luxury properties. From the five-star, 50-room Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa to the more modest Hotel ibis Styles Chalons en Champagne Centre, there are plenty of options for clients on any budget.
So why not suggest clients pop off to the region to enrich their knowledge and palates with Champagne’s sparkling tourism offering?
Getting there: Eurostar from London to Paris Gare du Nord, then a short walk to Gare de L’Est for the train to Reims Centre in Champagne. Travel time is close to 3.5 hours.
Best time to visit: April to July for warm weather and September and October for harvest.
Climate: Mild year-round with average temperatures reaching 18°C in summer and 2°C in winter.