UPDATE: 1 July 2020
Due to ongoing limitations of people who are allowed to visit the Champagne cellars
at the same time, this trip will be moved to 24 October. If you were on the list
for this date, your reservation will be automatically moved and receive an email.
Who doesn’t love Champagne? Any occasion instantly becomes a party whenever a nice bottle of bubbly is opened. The entire world simply adores this exclusive wine. And if you like it too, but have no idea how Champagne is made and would like to visit the famous cellars and taste various bubblies, then this day is definitely something you don’t want to miss! Expat Club has traveled to the Champagne region in Northern France over 15 times already since 2014. Today we visit the lovely house of De Castellane in the morning. And in the afternoon you have the opportunity to visit various smaller houses in the #1 Champagne village of Hautvillers. Later in the afternoon, we’ll spend time in the capital Reims with its impressive Basilique and its stunning Cathedral where the French Kings used to be crowned, and where you can see a unique stained glass window pane by Marc Chagall. Bring back (many) Champagne bottles at reduced prices from the original houses! This is a great trip for newcomers, always happy faces!
If you want to bring your child(ren) up until 18 years, please first add the regular adult tickets to the cart and then go to the cart page. On the cart page there is a child ticket available for €75, which already includes lunch and the guided tour (no Champagne tasting included).
Trip in pictures
Our first stop is Épernay, the epi-centre of the Champagne industry in the middle of the Marne valley. Some of the most famous brands can be found in this little town, most of them along the prestigious Avenue de Champagne: Moët & Chandon, Esterlin and Perrier-Jouët. | by Michal Osmenda (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
As a group we visit the traditional house of De Castellane, which certainly is housed in one of the most impressive buildings. This is a lovely traditional house, with big old cellars, an in-house production facility and even an actual museum. | by Sands (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Learn more about how Champagne where it is actually made. The moment you step into De Castellane's house, you can smell the wine. We will enjoy a guided tour here, learn all about the production process, and of course taste a flute of delicious Brut champagne. If you would like additional glasses of different Champagnes, that is also possible.
After the De Castellane tour we drive towards “le berceau du Champagne”, or the “cradle of the Champagne.” The small village of Hautvillers is only a few kilometers away, but here we will find ourselves quickly in the middle of the hilly vineyards. It is known for the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon, who is said to have invented the sparkling Champagne. He is buried in the village church, which we will also visit. This statue stands in front of the Moët & Chandon house in Épernay. | by Victor Grigas (own work) Wikimedia Commons
After Épernay we drive towards "le berceau du Champagne", or the "cradle of the Champagne." The small village of Hautvillers is only a few kilometers away, but here we will find ourselves in the middle of the hilly vineyards. It is known for the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon, who is said to have invented the sparkling Champagne. He is buried in the village church.
In Hautvillers, Thierry Landragin will welcome us in his Restaurant de l'Abbaye for lunch. This is not yet included in the trip fee, but you can add it during the reservation process. You can choose between Sauté de poulet en crème de ratafia OR Poisson du jour + bread + one glass of wine/beer/soft +water + Café Gourmand (delicious small deserts!). Please select your choice during the checkout process.
After our lunch we will be making a guided tour through Hautvillers. You will be impressed with this beautiful scenic village that is surrounded by vineyards and is home to several Champagne houses. In Hautvillers you can also buy good affordable bottles of Champagne in several smaller houses. You can visit these on your own or in smaller groups. One shop has a wide selection of top-class champagnes, some of which very exclusive (and un-affordable) but definitely worth checking out.
The Abbey in the village of Hautvillers is the resting place of the Monk Dom Perignon. | October Ends (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Once in Reims, the administrative capital of the region, we are first driving by some of the famous houses here, such as Veuve-Clicquot, Pommery, Mumm and the oldest and most prestigious house Ruinart.
The Basilique of Saint-Remi is probably one of the most special building you will ever see. So many of our previous Champagne trip participants left this building with a big wow.
You can see the many centuries of history inside the basilique.
The Cathedral of Reims is one of the greatest architectural masterpieces. It was the place where the French kings were crowned, and where you can see the magnificent stained glass window by Marc Chagall.
The front entrances of the Cathedral are covered with numerous statues.
The Cathedral is known for its high buttresses that reach high up.
The stained windows inside are spectacular. We'll keep the Marc Chagall ones as a surprise.
The city hall is one of the cities most beautiful buildings.
As with all Expat Club trips, our program has been carefully designed. We normally don’t deviate from our schedule, but all times below are still tentative and may change if required by circumstances, such as traffic conditions. In the rare case we have to adapt our program, rest assured that your host, the driver and welcoming Champagne house and restaurant, will do their best to give you the optimal experience.
07h00 – Departure
11h15 – Visit to De Castellane Champagne
12h45 – Departure to Hautvillers
13h00 – Lunch at Restaurant de l’Abbeye
14h00 – Guided tour Hautvillers (included)
15h00 – Free time, visit to Champagne houses
16h30 – Departure to Reims
17h00 – Guided bus tour along Champagne houses
17h15 – Visit to Basilique Saint-Remi
17h45 – Visit to Cathedral de Reims
18h00 – Free time in Reims
20h15 – Departure to Brussels
23h30 – Estimated arrival
The Viscount Florens de Castellane, heir of one of the oldest families in France, established his Champagne house in Epernay. Visionary and resolute to promote his brand to the eyes of the world, he chose as his logo the red “Saint-Andrews” cross as a tribute to the standard of the oldest regiment in the Champagne region. Boni de Castellane, cousin of the Visount, is in charge of the distribution in Paris and rapidly makes it the champagne of choice for the Parisian “Smart-Set” during the Belle-Epoque period. In theaters, upper restaurants, de Castellane is poured in the most trendy places…
In 1902, the House de Castellane asked the famous Italian painter Leonetto Cappiello to design its first “advertising poster”. Since then de Castellane has developed a real patronage of poster art with an incredible collection of paintings and posters. Directed by Fernand Mérand, the “Union Champenoise” acquired de Castellane and integrate it in its imposing buildings located on the famous “Avenue de Champagne”. The brand de Castellane is preserved.
Thanks to its prestige and great notoriety, the “Union Champenoise” company is finally renamed to “Champagne de Castellane“. Alexandre Mérand, son of Fernand, who owned his champagne house, bought de Castellane in 1927. Not only focused on the French market but also the world, he started to export de Castellane all around: London, Brussels, Berlin, Stockholm, New-York, Alexandria, Sydney… de Castellane was now in the biggest cities in the world.
The early death of Alexandre Mérand obliged his family to take-over the company, under the direction of his daugther Claude Mérand, married to Bernard de Nonancourt, owner and Director of Champagne Laurent-Perrier. De Castellane entered the Laurent-Perrier group and is still owned and managed by the Nonancourt’s family. (source: De Castellane website)
The village of Hautvillers can be regarded as the “cradle of the Champagne” with its many Champagne houses and its famous former resident Dom Perignon, the “inventor” of the Champagne wine. We spend several hours here. First we have a very nice lunch in the village’s best restaurant. We’ve been coming there for years for a lovely meal and some time discuss our experience in Épernay.
After lunch you will have the possibility of joining a 1-hour guided tour through the village. A local expert guide will tell us much more about the cultivation of the grapes used for Champagne and how the wine is made. S/he will also take us to the famous Abbey of St Peter where Dom Perignon is buried and tell us more about the history of the village and the vineyards of many famous Champagne houses, such as Taittinger, Moët et Chandon and many others.
The City of Reims is the administrate capital of the Champagne-Ardennes Arrodissement. At the same time it is a cultural hotspots, a historic place and another centre for the Champagne industry.
After arriving in the city we will first make a short bus tour along some of the other famous Champagne houses, such as Veuve Clicquot, Pommery and Ruinart. Our first stop is at the St Remy Basilica, which has been standing here for almost 1000 years. Every time we go there our participants come back totally amazed with what you see inside. We keep that a little secret for you until we are there…
Our next stop is the large Cathedral, which has been used for the coronation of many French kings. In the back you can see the stunning stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. After this visit you have some free time to see the rest of the city or to have dinner in a local restaurant. We depart again at 20h15.
We will be travelling with a comfortable 4* luxury coach from Lauwers Reizen. The seats are configured in Princess Class, which means you will have extra leg space and can recline your seat. This way you can get some extra rest. All seats have footrests as well. There is a (small) toilet on-board and a DVD system with three flat screens. The bus picks up at Place Schuman, Louise and Midi Station, and drop-off is at the same spots and Merode and Montgomery.