By Maxime Berthelot
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In medieval times, the county of Champagne, of which the city of Provincesextended to the borders of the ecclesiastical lordship of Reims. Today, the city which hosted the coronation of 33 kings of France, still shines on the east of Seine-et-Marne.
Like Provins, the capital of Champagne relies on its rich historical past to attract tourists, but above all it enjoys the attraction of its sparkling champagne, grown, produced and bottled on a dozen vineyards that extend from the Aisne canal to the Aube, via… Seine-et-Marne!
Pressoria, sensory museum of champagne
The department has in fact 91 ha of vines, spread over the communes of Saacy-sur-Marne, City and Nanteuil-sur-Marne. Located in the Marne valley and holders of the champagne appellation since 1921, they are the only towns in Ile-de-France to produce the most famous of sparkling wines.
Further south, near Provincesthe municipality of Villenauxe-la-Grande (Aube) is also surrounded by the slopes of a champagne vineyard, that of the Côte de Sézanne.
This story, that of the vine, the soils, and the Champagne know-how, is told to you at Pressoria museumto Ay-Champagne (Marne), at the foot of historic hills listed as UNESCO heritage. In the center of a former pressing center of the Pommery Housethe establishment offers visitors an immersive sensory tour through the history of wine and champagne, geology, climate, wine making, its various trades, and the secrets of effervescence.
You will smell the perfume of the vines, the aroma of the different grape varieties, you will play at differentiating between friends and enemies of the vine, you will touch the chalky soil of Champagne and listen to the vineyards live through the seasons. The whole thing concludes with a tasting of two champagnes.
Pressoria, 11, boulevard Pierre-Cheval in Aÿ-Champagne. Self-guided or guided tour, Monday to Sunday (closed Thursday), from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adult prices: €16, children €8.50 maximum. Information: 03 26 77 98 77.
Pop the champagne in Épernay
Once this knowledge has been acquired, direction Epernay (Marne). On the edge of the RD 3 – called “avenue de Champagne”, you can’t make it up! – stands the castle of the countess Lafond, grandmother of the baron Patrick de Ladoucette. The estate, the largest in the sector, offers visits combined with three commented tastings of three cuvées Champagne Countess Lafond. With an additional experience: learning to saber champagne!
The taste adventure begins in the castle park, where the first cellar is located. You will slash the first bottle there – do not tremble, you have to go free! – before tasting the Premier Cru. Then, direction the castle for the second sabering, on the steps of the building, just that! You will then be served your second tasting, which you will enjoy as you visit the salons of the château.
Then place at the highlight of the show. Direction the cellar of the estate, a magnificent room where the last tasting will be waiting for you: a grand cru. Taste surprise guaranteed!
Domaine Comtesse Lafond, 79, avenue de Champagne in Épernay. Every day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. From €60 per person. Information: 03 26 32 26 40.
The cathedral and the palace of Tau
Back in Reims, you can’t miss it. Its two towers stand 82 m high, and it is within it that 33 kings of France have been crowned. Built during the XIIIand century, Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims is the religious building with the most statues in the world: 2,303!
Largely destroyed during the Second World War, this masterpiece of Gothic art has been rebuilt. You will be amazed by its rose window and its stained glass windows, in particular those of the artist Marc Chagall, which are more contemporary. Be careful, however, if you want to access the towers of the monument. If they will offer you an indescribable view of Reims and its region, they are only open to visitors on weekends.
To reserve your places for the ascent, you will have to go to Tau Palace, located next door. The latter owes its name to its T-shaped plan (“ tau ” in Greek). It traditionally hosted banquets and festivities following the coronation of kings. Today, it retraces the particular history that links Reims to royalty.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Reims. Open: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Free entry. Paying tower visit. Palais du Tau, 9:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. (closed on Mondays). Prices: €8. Free for under 18s. Place du Cardinal-Luçon in Reims. Information: 03 26 47 81 79.
The apron for tasting
Leaving the cathedral, you may want to stroll downtown. Place Drouet-d’Erlon, on either side of the Subé fountain, several bars and restaurants will be available to you on two entirely pedestrian thoroughfares.
Among them, the Rémoise brewery Apron worth the detour. Its terrace and cozy room will offer you the great classics, burgers with unusual names and house specialties such as Champagne cheese nominettes and Reims rose desserts. The ideal way to conclude this stay in style !
Le Apron, 30, place Drouet-d’Erlon in Reims. Open daily from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Information: 03 53 13 16 89.
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