SINCE making its sparkling debut in the 18th century, champagne has become one of the most desirable wines in the world.
Our love and thirst for this effervescent wine has crowned Great Britain the biggest consumer outside France, and a visit to the coronation city of Reims and the Champagne vineyards makes for a little bit of heaven in a tulip-shaped glass.
The Champagne route will take you 150 kilometres east of Paris to the four main growing regions: Montagne de Reims, Vallee de la Marne, Cote des Blancs and Cote des Bar. Only three grape varieties are allowed to be grown, and they produce the classic champagne blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier (both black grapes) and chardonnay (a white grape).
Each grower has their own house style, and tucked away in the northernmost vineyards of Montagne de Reims, the Grand Cru village of Verzenay is home to the aptly named La Maison des Vignes (house of vines).
This chic, country-style B&B is a throwback to gracious living, with many of the original mid-19th century features carefully preserved.
Owner Emmanuel Pithois has five hectares of vines and produces four different champagnes, blended with pinot noir and chardonnay, and his special tasting dinners in the cellars are legendary.
Out of the 293 houses that produce champagne, only a few are open to the public, including the family-owned Taittinger in Reims (a 20-minute drive from Verzenay).
The stunning Visitors’ Centre, with architecture inspired by the Art Deco era of the Twenties and Thirties, offers a ‘classic’ or ‘customised’ tasting tour. Take the 118 steps down to the cavernous limestone cellars where a statue of Saint-Jean-Baptiste watches over the ageing bottles of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (one of the finest Blanc de Blancs made from chardonnay grapes).
Tours of the Taittinger cellars (inc a tasting) cost 14 Euros (£12) per person. Visit www.taittinger.com
For further information on wine programmes, visit www.tourisme-en-champagne.com
Rooms at La Maison des Vignes, Verzenay start from 110 Euros (£94) for two people including breakfast.