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Only an hour from Paris, Champagne has lip-smacking wine trails that weave through picturesque countryside and villages, and best of all, dozens of tipples to sample.

From the palatial home of Moët & Chandon to friendly family outfits operating out of little more than a shed, the region that gave its name to the bubbly wine is a fantastic part of France to explore.

1.Tour the famous wine producers of Champagne

Most of the famous producers (such as Moët & Chandon, Mumm and Veuve Cliquot) offer English-language tours, which are a delicious way to learn about the famous drink and glug a bit of their product afterwards.

While some tours need to be booked in advance, for most you just turn up and start sipping. These underground cellars are a constant chilly 10-12˚C (make sure you take a jumper) and can stretch for kilometre after kilometre and hold literally millions of bottles of bubbly.

2. Explore the region’s other vineyards

The Champagne region has four well-marked trails that weave their way through mile after mile of vineyards, rolling countryside and charming villages that all look so authentically French you’ll think they’re straight off a film set.

Driving along the route is a great way to get a feel for the region. There are dozens of champagne houses along the way – visitors are welcome to drop in for a free tasting.

3. Discover Reims, France

The regional capital, Reims, is a great base for exploring the area and an interesting city in its own right.

The Notre-Dame de Reims – the cathedral where kings of France were once crowned – is impressive, and there are many historical monuments, castles, palaces and, of course, some fine champagne houses (try Taittinger and Pommery).

Also worth a look is the Museum of the Surrender (Salle de Reddition), the site where the Germans surrendered to end World War II.

4. Take photos at Musée de la Vigne

Is it fluctuating temperatures, the unique subsoil or divine providence that makes Champagne’s ‘terroir’ (the geographical conditions) so special? To find out, visit the Musée de la Vigne, housed in a lighthouse, which was built as a promotional gimmick in 1909. The gardens offer great panoramic views over the surrounding vineyards.

5. Visit Hautvillers to learn about Dom Pérignon

Perched atop vine-covered slopes, Hautvillers is a pretty village known as the birthplace of Champagne for its connection with Dom Pérignon, the 17th century monk whose discoveries shaped the methods of production still used today.

Words: Daniel Landon

What you need to know about Champagne

When to go: Any time is good, but spring and autumn are best.

Getting there: From Paris, take a train (45 minutes) or drive (one hour) to Reims.

Visas: South Africans need a Schengen visa.

Currency: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.15 EUR.

Language: French.

Getting around: A tour or hire car is the best bet. See tntmagazine.com/toursearch. Get 5 per cent off car rental at easycar.com/tntmagazine

Accommodation: There are few hostels. Your best bet is B&Bs, rooms start at about €60. For more information see gites-de-france.com

See: champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk


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