Tours of the Reims champagne houses and caves generally need to be prebooked but in summer it may be worth showing up on the off chance. Those in the southern part of town near the Abbaye St-Remi tend to have the most impressive cellars – some have been carved in cathedral-esque formations from the Gallo–Roman quarries used to build the city, long before champagne was invented.
This is not a comprehensive list of all the maisons in the city, but includes the most visitor-friendly. Note that the cellars can be cold, so it’s worth taking another layer of clothing. All tours are available in English and last about an hour, unless otherwise stated; typical prices range at around €10–20.
Lanson 66 rue de Courlancy (03 26 78 50 50). Worth the trip across the river because the in-depth tours take you into the factory, and demonstrate the mechanized process of champagne-making. Most days you’ll see the machines degorging the bottles, as well as labelling and filling them in preparation for the second fermentation. Closed Aug.
G.H.Martel & Co 17 rue des Créneaux, near the Basilique St-Remi (03 26 82 70 67). This a good-value tour with a dégustation of three champagnes as well as a film show and guided visit taking in the old equipment.
Mumm 34 rue du Champ-de-Mars (03 26 49 59 70). Known for its red-slashed Cordon Rouge label, Mumm’s un-French-sounding name is the legacy of its founders, German winemakers from the Rhine Valley who established the business in 1827. The guided tour includes a short film, and ends with a glass of either Cordon Rouge, the sweeter Cordon Vert, or the Extra Dry.
Pommery 5 place du Général-Gouraud (03 26 61 62 55). The creator of the cute one-eighth size “Pop” bottles has excavated Roman quarries for its cellars – it claims to have been the first maison to do so. Take a train for part of the tour.
Ruinart 4 rue des Crayères (03 26 77 51 51). The fanciest of the champagne producers, housed in a swanky mansion was founded in 1729. The 45-minute tour is followed by a tasting of two prestige cuvées.
Taittinger 9 place St-Niçaise (03 26 85 45 35). Starts with a film show before a guided stroll through the ancient cellars, some of which have doodles and carvings added by more recent workers; there are also statues of St Vincent and St Jean, patron saints respectively of vignerons and cellar hands.
Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin 1 place des Droits-de-l’Homme (03 26 89 53 90). In 1805 the widowed Mme Clicquot not only took over her husband’s business – veuve means “widow” in French – but also later bequeathed it to her business manager rather than to her children. The maison is one of the least pompous, and its caves some of the most spectacular, sited in ancient Gallo-Roman quarries.
Top Image: Champagne in Reims © Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock