A trip to the Champagne region north-east of Paris in France, wouldn’t be complete without a visit to some of its famously spectacular Champagne Maison. From world-renowned big brands to smaller independents, Champagne houses have been in existence for almost 300 years.
Not all Champagne houses are open to the public – you won’t be able to take a tour of the prestigious Louis Roederer, Laurent-Perrier or Pol Roger for example. Luckily, there are plenty of others who welcome visitors. So if you’re visiting the area, taking a cellar tour and trying some local wine is a must for all Champagne enthusiasts.
What is a Champagne Maison or House?
Champagne houses were first established in the early 1700s, as the popularity of the delicious effervescent wine grew. A Champagne house, buys grapes, makes and markets the sparkling wine, which can only be classed as Champagne if it hails from the Champagne region in France and is produced to strict specifications. You’ll find Champagne houses throughout the area, most famously in Reims, Epernay and around Mareuil-sur-Ay.
How many Champagne houses are there?
The Champagne region is made up of 32,000 hectares of vineyards that are home to more than 2,000 Champagne houses. From some of the oldest houses like Louis Roederer and Charles Heidsieck to more modern ones, including Leclerc Briant, you’ll find many big brands and independent, artisan winemakers in the Champagne region.
What is the oldest Champagne house?
In the early 18th century, as Champagne became the drink of choice among the French royalty and aristocracy, the need for Champagne producers skyrocketed. Ruinart was the first Champagne house to open its cellar doors in 1729, followed by Taittinger in 1734, Moet in 1743 and Lanson in 1760.
Best Champagne houses to visit
1. Champagne Ruinart – Reims
As one of the oldest and most famous Champagne houses in Reims, Ruinart is definitely worth a visit. Founded in 1729 by Nicholas Ruinart, it was one of the first houses to seize the business opportunity of producing Champagne. Nicholas was so successful that King Louis XVIII granted the Ruinart family a coat of arms, still pictured on the label today.
Its spectacular cathedral-like crayères (chalk cellars) are some of the deepest in the region.Ruinart’s wines characteristically feature a high proportion of Chardonnay and popular Champagnes including:
- The award-winning Ruinart Rosé Champagne with bright red fruits like ripe cherry, strawberry and raspberry.
- Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne: This sparkling wine, suitable for vegans, is full of fruit characters like lemon, grapefruit and pineapple and pairs well with seafood.
Address: 4 Rue de Crayères, 51100 Reims
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday. By appointment only.
Visit price: €70 per person
2. Champagne Taittinger – Reims
Founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux, the world-renowned Taittinger Champagne house is named after Pierre Taittinger, who bought the vineyard in 1932. The Reims Champagne house remains in the family and is currently overseen by Pierre’s great-grandchildren Clovis and Vitalie.
Take in the impressive 4km of UNESCO-listed crayères that once belonged to the abbey of St. Nicaise. Taittinger is one of the most admired brands, and popular wines include:
- The award-winning Brut Reserve Champagne with hints of green fruit.
- Taittinger’s multi-award-winning raspberry, cherry and blackcurrant Brut Prestige Rosé Champagne.
Address: 9 Place Saint-Nicaise, 51100 Reims
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday. By appointment only.
Visit price: from €27 per person
3. Champagne Lanson – Reims
Maison Lanson is one of the oldest Champagne houses in Reims, founded in 1760 by magistrate Francois Delamotte. His son, Nicolas-Louis Delamotte, a knight of the Order of Malta, added the signature Maltese cross as the house’s emblem in 1798. Following Nicolas-Louis’ death in 1837, a close friend of the Delamottes’ Jean-Baptiste Lanson, took over the house and rebranded it to take his now famous name.
Lanson has been the sparkling wine of choice at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament for the last quarter century, and some of its most well-known wines are:
- Lanson’s award-winning Extra Age Blanc de Blanc is a blend of three quality vintages with notes of pear and peach.
Address: 66 rue de Courlancy in Reims 51100
Opening times: Monday to Saturday. By appointment only.
Visit price: from €26 to €70 per person depending on the tour.
4. Champagne Veuve Clicquot – Reims
The famous “yellow label” Champagne house, Veuve Clicquot, was founded in 1772 by wine merchant Phillipe Clicquot. In 1810, on the death of Phillipe’s son, his daughter-in-law, Nicole-Barbe, took over the house and is credited for the commercial success of the business.
Madame Clicquot is famed for creating the recipe for rosé Champagne still used by modern houses today. One of its most special displays is a 170-year-old perfectly preserved bottle found in 2010 on a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea.
Popular Veuve Clicquot wines include:
- The classic Yellow Label Brut with the signature flavour and notes of white fruits, vanilla and brioche.
- Following the original Madame Clicquot blend, the Rosé Champagne features notes of strawberry, blackberry and almond.
Address: 1, Place des droits de l’Homme, 51100 Reims
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday. Booking required.
Visit price: €30 to €55 per person depending on the tour.
5. Champagne Pommery – Reims
The Art Nouveau, UNESCO-listed cellars of the Pommery Champagne house are definitely worth a visit. In 1858, Alexander Pommery and his wife Narcisse Greno started their wool trading business. Following Alexander’s death in 1860, Madame Pommery switched to Champagne production and is credited with creating the first dry Brut-style Champagne.
Pommery’s popular Champagnes include:
- Award-winning Pommery Brut Apanage with flavours of berries and hints of citrus.
- Cuvee Louise 2002 Vintage: This special vintage has luxurious tones of grapefruit, red apple and brioche.
Address: 5 Place General Gouraud, 51100 Reims
Opening times: Daily 09.30 – 18.00
Visit price: starts from €24 per person
6. Champagne Moet and Chandon – Epernay
Founded in 1743 by wine merchant Claud Moet, Moet and Chandon is the number 1 Champagne producer in the world. In 1833, the son-in-law of Jean-Remy Moet, Pierre-Gabriel Chandon, joined the business, and the famous Moet and Chandon brand was created.
The Epernay Champagne house boasts the largest underground network of cellars at 28 km long. Since 1962, it has belonged to the prestigious French luxury group Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH). Popular Moet and Chandon wines include:
- The Brut Imperial Champagne is a perfectly balanced award-winning wine.
- The house’s Grand Vintage Rosé 2013 offers notes of strawberry, grapefruit and rhubarb.
Address: 20 avenue de Champagne, 51200 Epernay
Opening times: Daily 09.30 – 17.30. Booking recommended.
Visit price: from €26 to €50pp, depending on the tour.
7. Champagne Leclerc Briant – Épernay
In 1955, the house moved to the current premises it still occupies today in Épernay. Today the entire vineyard is certified as organic and biodynamic. Leclerc Briant are renown winemaking pioneers, having been one of the first producers to stop using chemical fertilisers and to experiment with biodynamic vine cultivation back in the 1970s, and being one of the first houses to introduce single vineyards champagnes in the early 1990s. Today, their commitment to biodynamics has been taken a step further by Hervé Jestin, whose bioenergetic winemaking approach is truly unique. Utilising such techniques as underwater champagne storage and gold-lined barrels, Leclerc Briant produce wines with a high level of positive energy.
Lecler Braint’s style is unique but create wines of the utmost quality
- Leclerc Briant Brut Reserve NV, non-vintage yet it is all from a single year currently 2018 and 5% of the grape juice was fermented in oak barrel.
- Leclerc Briant Abyss Brut Zero spends just over 12 months 60 meters under the sea before being retrieved
Address: 67 Chemin de la Chaude Ruelle, 51200 Epernay
Visit price: from €75 per person
8. Champagne Billecart Salmon – Mareuil-sur-Ay
The Billecart Salmon house has remained in the family since its foundation in 1818, when vineyard owner Elizabeth Salmon married wine merchant Nicolas Francois Billecart. On-site you’ll not only find stunning wine cellars, but you’ll also be able to sneak a peak at the beautifully elegant walled garden with lime trees and brightly coloured flower beds.
Some of Billecart Salmon’s best-selling Champagnes are:
- It’s classic Rose Champagne with notes of red berries and citrus fruit that pairs well with venison and seafood.
- The Brut Nature Champagne perfectly blends fruity and biscuity flavours.
Address: 40, rue Carnot, 51160 Mareuil-Sur-Ay
Opening times: Monday to Friday. By request only.
Visit price: €30 to €50 per person depending on the tour.
9. Champagne Bollinger – Aÿ
The House owns an impressive 178 hectares of vineyards, of which 85% are Grand Cru and Premier Cru vines. Their land is spread over seven main vineyards: Aÿ, Avenay, Louvois, Tauxières and Verzenay planted with Pinot Noir; Cuis with Chardonnay; and Champvoisy with Meunier.
The Bollinger style is inimitable and recognised as such by great connoisseurs, some of their best sellers are:
- Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut NV which is the purest expression of the Bollinger style.
- La Grande Annee, the embodiment of preserved savoir-faire
Address: 20 Boulevard Maréchal de Lattre, 51160 Aÿ, France
Visit only on appointment
10. Champagne Philipponnat – Mareuil-sur-Aÿ
The jewel in the Champagne Philipponnat crown is a tiny 5.5-hectare single walled vineyard called Clos des Goisses. Acquired in 1935, Pierre Philipponnat was quick to realise the potential of this unique plot and immediately started producing a single vineyard blend. A visit to the atmospheric cellars should be combined with a stroll to the scenic Clos Des Goisses vineyard by the Marne canal
The house’s habit of partial fermentation in oak and partial mololactic fermentation makes their champagnes complex and long lived, here are a few;
- Philipponnat Royale Reserve Brut NV
- Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, Clos des Goisses is truly iconic steep-sloping, south-facing vineyard with an inclination of 35-45 degrees that can only be fully appreciated by visiting.
Address: 13 Rue du Pont, 51160 Mareuil-sur-Ay
Visit only on appointment
11. Champagne Drappier – Urville, Côte des Bar
Drappier Family goes back to the 12th century when Saint Bernard had an annex to Clairvaux Abbey built in Urville. Once occupied by Cistercian monks from Clairvaux Abbey, the seat of the House includes some magnificent 12th-century vaulted cellars. In 1803 one of the ancestors of the House, François moved to Urville and begin working a vineyard which today extends over 55 hectares, plus a dozen contractual arrangements with other growers in the Côte des Bar, the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs. In 1988 deep cellars dug out of the Reims limestone in the reign of Napoleon III become part of the family ownership to house the prestigious cuvées. This is the most southerly part of champagne, nearer to Chablis in Burgundy than the main part of Champagne.
Drappier are fiercely opposed to excessive use of sulphur and they use some of the lowest doses in Champagne.
Some of Drappier’s best-selling Champagnes are:
Address: Champagne DRAPPIER
Rue des Vignes
10200 URVILLE – FRANCE
Visit price: from €20 per person