We recently visited the region of Champagne in France for one of the best travel weekends we have ever done. But 60 minutes of our trip when we visited a family-owned and run Champagne house called Champagne Lahaye Berthelot are the most memorable. On a weekend where we were sampling up to 20 different Champagnes in a day, it is by far the best Champagne-related experience any of us can imagine. We hope that by the end of this post, we can inspire you to travel to the region to experience some top-quality product made by independent, hard-working producers while thoroughly enjoying yourself.
Champagne is our favourite drink as a couple and the best analogy we can give you on why we visited the Champagne region can be gleaned from the definition.
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand, among other things, secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation, specific vineyard practices, sourcing of grapes exclusively from specific parcels in the Champagne appellation and specific pressing regimes unique to the region.
We knew we had to visit the place Champagne is made in. It is pretty similar to visiting Scotland for the “Scotch” (or just whisky as the locals call it) which Dalek has written plenty on this blog about.
We were based in the lovely village of Epernay and started our journey by visiting the Tourism centre in Epernay. As luck would have it, they were handing out tickets for free tastings by producers whose names we had never heard of. A couple of girls then gave us glasses of delicious tasting champagne (the rosé was especially delightful) and told us about the family run business her parents Lionel & Valerie run. She also told us that her father would show us a special de-sedimentation ceremony if we visited their HQ at 4 PM the next day so we took a card and made a note.
The producer & the location
Name: Champagne Lahaye Berthelot (Facebook)
Location: Their 25,000 bottle a year business is literally run from their garage. It’s a 15 minute drive from Epernay.
Getting there: Take a TER / TGV train from Paris to Epernay / Reims, rent a car and drive there.
All of the family spoke pretty decent English while we can’t speak any French past Bonjour & Merci. Inspite of that, Lionel welcomed us with open arms and we both fired up Google Translate for the tricky words. He then showed us the fermentation pods, the cellar in the garage, the art of hand-turning Champagne bottles and the sediments that form in each bottle while aging. He patiently explained each step of the process and the passion he has for the craft was visible.
He then proceeded to very skillfully show us how to remove the sediments by hand (which was awesome) and how his bottling machine puts the labels on the finished product. Mind you, all of this was inside his garage, the definition of a small-business.
He then sat down with us to do a tasting. Yoda’s parents don’t even drink took a few sips of some exceptional product. And the best part is that all 3 of us (we were joined by Dalek’s good friend Hans Gruber, he’s German obv) had 3 different favourites. So we bought 3 bottles to be polished off the same night, the Rosé, the Blanc de Blanc and the Prestige (yes Champagne has many types and categories, a separate post).
We learnt so much about the end-to-end process of making champagne, shared so many laughs and a conversation (thanks to Google Translate) and were not charged a cent for the tasting. We wish we could import the product to the UK / Germany but certain import restrictions mean we can’t yet enjoy our new found favourite champagne in the comfort of our home.
Here’s the best part, the 3 bottles of Champagne costed less than 50 EUR total!!!
Breakdown: 14.3 (Blanc de blanc)+14.6 (Rose)+21 (Prestige)
They regularly do tastings in the Epernay Tourism centre so do give them a shot. Or contact them on Facebook to relive the same experience we did (and then tell us how you found it). Or find your own local favourite and let us know.
Do you have any special experiences in the Champagne region? We’d love to hear about it and it will feed into our future trip’s planning (we will have to visit again).
P.S. This is not a sponsored post, these are our genuine thoughts and experiences.
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