You say Champagne. We say Champleasure.
You don’t have to be a wine snob to honeymoon in France’s storied Champagne region. You just have to love popping corks, clinking glasses, manicured gardens, attentive staff and all the romance that’s fizzing in the air.
“Champagne is amazing for serious wine drinkers and collectors but also great for people who want a more casual day trip,” Cedric Nicaise, the long-time wine director of Eleven Madison Park and owner of the West Village eatery the Noortwyck, told The Post. “You could have lunch in Reims, visit the cathedral, visit a Champagne producer and be back in Paris for dinner.”
But just to guarantee your honeymoon won’t go flat, here’s an insider’s guide to the hottest hotels, top dining destinations, must-see historic Champagne houses and the best bottles of bubbly to bring home by the case load.
Those in the know start their journey into the hidden heart of Champagne by descending below the old city streets of Reims. There, miles and miles of interconnected chalk caverns (known locally as crayères) are bubbling over with aging Champagne. These ancient quarries are UNESCO World Heritage sites and a can’t miss destination for visitors to the region.
Ruinart, the oldest established Champagne house, offers visits to their cellars. Two-hour tours (roughly $75) explore the extensive tunnels under Maison Ruinart and conclude with a tasting.
If you’d prefer to spend less of your honeymoon underground, take the shorter one-hour cellar visit at Veuve Clicquot (about $32) before a picnic in the nearby Clicquot vineyards at the Manoir de Verzy (circa $75).
A Brut-iful day
Most producer visits occur in the morning, and lunch is a large affair. Ariel Arce — doyenne of the downtown New York Champagne scene and owner of NYC’s Air’s Champagne Parlor — says that L’Épicerie Au Bon Manger is the superlative spot.
“It’s where everyone who knows what’s up goes for lunch,” she said, to drink alternative Champagnes and eat duck confit, charcuterie, and cheeses.
She also recommends Sacré Bistro in Épernay, which Arce explains has become “the spot for the young generation of winemakers and locals alike.”
All bottled up
Afternoons become quiet in Champagne, as the day-trippers head back to Paris. It’s the perfect time to hit shops like Le Pressoir and Les Caves du Forum for harder-to-find grower Champagnes, made by farmer/producers. These grower wines often offer a more specific look at the terroir of Champagne than the blended wines from the big houses.
“One of the beautiful things about grower Champagne is it’s a celebration of grape expressions and growing conditions, rather than focusing on producing a similar product year to year,” said Brendan Casey, owner of Parlour Wine and Spirits in NYC and Seattle.
For a souvenir, he recommends keeping an eye out for Laherte Frères’ Ultradition, which is “perfect for dipping a toe into grower Champagne.” Ulysse-Collin’s Les Maillons is another to hunt down as it’s “the only producer making exclusively single-vineyard bottlings in the area.” Finally, keep an eye out for Roger Coulon’s Heri-Hodie which is “a blend of current vintage and reserve wine from the ’90s that’s deeply nutty, complex and old-world expressive.”
Put a cork in it
Visitors staying into the night can expect plenty of sex appeal. Northeastern France loves to show off with bright stars and rolling hills of vines. So be sure to book a balcony at one of the area’s best hotels.
Those aforementioned grower Champagne lovers clamor to stay at Les Avisés (starting at roughly $278 per night). The boutique 10-room hotel and restaurant run by Corinne and Anselme Selosse. is likely the only place you’ll find the highly allocated and coveted wines of Jacques Selosse.
For foodies, there’s the 33-room L’Assiette Champenoise ($285 per night), featuring a three-Michelin starred restaurant of the same name.
But those looking to be truly pampered look no further than the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa (starting at $620 a night). The 47-room hotel features two pools, nine spa treatment rooms and a “Champagne Please” button to conjure yet another effervescing bottle to your room.
Once you pop, the fun don’t stop.