24 hours in Epernay, featuring Champagne House Leclerc Briant

What to do, where to eat and where to stay. 24 hours in Epernay…

This sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier in the Champagne region of France has captivated people’s imaginations for years. One nicknamed “The Crazy Quarter” Epernay is home to many of the Champagne Houses and VIND is here to give you some ideas what to do in this magical place!

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The Le Ballon d’Epernay above Moët & Chandon

To Do

Start off your 24 hours in Epernay with a wander down the cobbled ‘Avenue de Champagne’ – a DisneyLand for Adults. Big names such as Champagne Moët et Chandon, Pol Roger and Perrier-Jouet adorn the street with their impressive Champagne Houses, beautifully kept buildings and impressive gates. Many welcome you in to see the cellars, or to have a drink in their courtyards or simply marvel at the beauty.

As well as the various tasting houses you can take Le Ballon d’Epernay which floats high above Épernay. Attached to a cable but soaring to 150m into the sky you get excellent views of the town and its surrounding vineyards. You can even take a glass of Champagne with you to enjoy the views.

To break the day up, I recommend pottering up to Hautvilliers (by car or bike), which is a Premier Cru village a couple of miles north of Epernay and also the home of the famous monk, Dom Perignon, whose work in wine-making helped to develop champagne as we know it! Hautvilliers sits above Epernay and looks down over the commune and surrounding vineyards. Grab a bite to eat in the main square at Café d’Hautvillers whilst listening to some live music. There are a few shops which are easy places to idle away time and there is the Abbey of Saint-Pierre, where Dom Perignon is buried.

Fun Fact: The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was in 1921 and was only released for sale in 1936. The brand was subsequently given by Champagne Mercier to Moët in 1927 for a wedding between the two families!

The Cellar at Leclerc Briant

Tours

For a tour I fully recommend Leclerc Briant. Their beautiful hotel le 25bis by Leclerc Briant is a boutique house and courtyard in the heart of the avenue. Their main wine-making house is a ten minute walk through town and their tour gives you the full experience of a fully functioning Champagne House! After a few hours you will fully understand how Champagne is made, unlike many Houses which just show you their cellars. This unique house let’s you into all aspects of the process. Leclerc Briant is smaller in comparison to some of the big names (they produce 160k-180k bottles per year) and they have proudly been bio dynamic for many years. Experimentation and striving to improve is core to their success; this can be experienced in their fermentation vessels. To keep the bio-dynamic process going after the grapes are picked they are experimenting with fermenting the wine in a variety of natural vessels. Terracotta for earth, wooden barrels for trees and a gold plated (one of its kind) vessel for light. They also have a clear glass vessel which is perfectly proportioned and supposed to mimic a droplet of water and a new 100% Titanium vessel. They try and keep the whole process, even storage, very pure with an emphasis on working with natural elements.

As Leclerc Briant are organic no spray can be used on the vines, instead natural plants such Chamomile are used (apparently Chamomile is good for the vine’s stress!) Some people are very skeptical about Bio-dynamic practices but one thing is for certain, and is that Bio-dynamic wineries certainly care for their grapes. Another ‘natural’ experiment here is the Leclerc Briant Abyss, a wine which is stored at 60m underwater. The pressure and temperature are supposed to be ideal conditions in which to store wine.

Start your walk down the Avenue de Champagne at Michel Gonet

Accommodation

Le 25bis by Leclerc Briant is boutique and elegant, every aspect from the decor to the breakfast is exquisite. Each of the suites are unique and warmly decorated down to the smallest detail.

This building was an 18th Century Wine Merchants house, and is on prime position on L’Avenue de Champagne. It has been lovingly and tastefully restored to reflect the image and style of La Maison Leclerc Briant. Even if you cannot book a room for your 24 hours in Epernay then at least pop into their courtyard to taste, buy and enjoy their Champagnes.

For an authentic French experience on the ‘Avenue’ is Michel Gonet’s Champagne House. Started by Michel Gonet (his 3 children now run the business) the house has a traditional, family feel about it. 

Michel Gonet has a cobbled courtyard and is the perfect front garden to any boutique hotel. Chloé (friends of one of the 3 children) will delightfully explain the background of the estate and the Grand Cru Champagnes, as you settle in.

This old residential house, decorated in a traditional decor has a casual elegance to it. A typical French full spread for breakfast, which included ‘Le Moelleux Champenois’. Indulgence knows no end in Champagne!

‘Le Moelleux Champenois’ which translates to ‘the sweet champagne’ is a local delicacy. This naughty soft, pink little cake contains flour, butter, sugar, champagne marc and is coated with pink biscuit.

Restaurants

La Grillade Gourmande – a small and well regarded french restaurant – expect white table clothes, a wine list bigger than the bible and exquisite food.

Les Sacrés Bistro – a more casual place for steak frites, fish or a burger – friendly service and a good place to relax with a beer after a long day of Champagne!

La Cave de Champagne – French Cuisine with atmosphere on the ‘Avenue de Champagne’.

Le Symbiose – creative and modern cuisine. Seasonal dishes made with fresh products according to the seasons with a selection of wines from smaller producers.

Why not go to Sancerre? Read our guide to 2 days in Sancerre.