Épernay

FRANCE CHAMPAGNE MARNE Dom Perignon statue, ÉpernayLying on the Marne riverbanks, Épernay (pop 24,200) touts itself to be the capital du Champagne. The town rivals its obviously bigger neighbor in the champagne making industry by being home to some of the best ‘bubbly-making’ companies like Moët et Chandon, Mercier and Pol Roger. Hence the town can be used as a good base to explore the Route Touristique du Champagne. Épernay produces so much champagne that millions of bottles lay locked in underground cellars and tunnels, which collectively span across 322km! These underground caves are carved out of the chalk rock, on which the town itself stands.

Layout
The main commercial districts are at Place Hughes-Plomb and Place des Arcades. Épernay’s best residential stretches are located along Avenue de Champagne and rue Mercier.  You can arrive via train [Place Mendée France] or drive down to the south side of Place de le République, where most of the visitor carparks are located. 

Sights
There is not much in Épernay in terms of architectural sights, due to the town’s tumultuous past. Épernay was once part of Reims, until it was handed to the Counts of Champagne in the 10th century. Following this, the town was constantly besieged by wars and battles, which destroyed most of its ancient buildings. Today, only a few Victorian and Neoclassical structures remain.

However, the town makes up for this with its numerous Champagne houses. The most popular activity in Épernay is to go champagne tasting. Many bubbly-lovers look forward to hopping from cellar to cellar, tasting their fine concoctions and Épernay never disappoints them; thanks to her reputable champagne houses. Fermenting the harvested grapes twice produces Champagne - the second fermentation process is when rock sugar and yeast are added. Single vintage champagnes are required to sit for about one and a half years, while those made from multiple harvest need to sit for about three years. The carbonic gas that is produced during this fermentation process, is responsible for the feverish effervescence of the drink upon its opening. Champagne was initially dubbed to be the “Devil’s Wine” as the accidental bursting of one bottle caused a string of bottles to pop as well, making the Champagne cellars a hazardous place to work in. However, advanced technology has made these cellars safe enough for visits today.

Almost every Champagne house in Épernay is open to visitors. Most of these maisons are located along Avenue de Champagne and they recommend advance booking for guided tours. Moët & Chandon [20 Av de Champagne +33 326512020 www.moet.com/ ad/ch €15-28/Free] is known to have one of the best tours in town that comprises of detailed production tours and preferred champagne tasting. They offer these tours in many languages- even in Mandarin.  

De Castellane [68 Av de Champagne, +33 326522481 www.castellane.com/ ad/ch €7-18/Free] is another reputable maison that is known to have a regal air. Located in a 66m high tower, De Castellane houses 9km of cellars and a museum that details the elaborate champagne-making process. Mercier [68-70 Av de Champagne, +33 326512222 www.champagnemercier.com/ ad/ch €10-18/Free] is probably the most promoted Champagne brand in town. Known for its flashy ads and publicity stunts since the 19th century, Mercier offers visitors a guided tour that features a film screening, 18km long underground cellars and a laser-guided tour. You can bring your kids along for these tours, but they are not allowed to taste the champagne due to the legal drinking age limit.  

 


 

 

 

 


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ÉPERNEY1. Hôtel de Ville, Tourist Office & Avenue de Champagne 2. Train station  3. Place Hughes-Plomb  4. Place des Arcades  5. rue Mercier  6. Place de le République