Help me fill the gaps in champagne

We have two nights planned in champagne as a side trip from Paris in October. We arrive via TGV around 1:00 on a Thursday. I am hoping for some suggestions to fill in the gaps between the things we have already planned.

Arrive at Champagne-Ardenne at 1:00, pick up car
Make one stop on our way to Epernay. Right now I am planning to contact Ployez-Jacquemart. Does anybody know how long to plan for a tasting?

We are staying the night in Epernay, near the city center. My questions:

  1. any current bistro level dinner recommendations? This will be the end of a long travel day, so looking to avoid anything beyond 3 courses.
  2. how open is the city in the afternoon/evening and how late? Because of the long day, we would like to be able to just wander and stop in when something catches our eye without feeling obligated by a reservation we made in advance. Will we find enough options just meandering?

Morning tour at ruinart
Grab a light picnic lunch and find a park. Find a bistro if weather does not permit.
Make one stop on our way to Royal Champagne Hotel near Hautvillers
Dinner at Le Royal


  1. recommendation for where to find a good picnic lunch? Bread/cheese/meat/etc to go
  2. where should we stop between Reims and Hautvillers? I am more interested in a smaller producer and low key visit than a second grand tour for the day.

Back to Paris

Thank you in advance for the input. Other threads have been very helpful (including Frank Murray’s wonderful thread).

My wife has been to France dozens of times and her favorite meal of all time was a lunch we had in Epernay at La Grillade Gourmande ( but they are open for dinner too. Not knowing exactly the definition of bistro, I’d say this is more like a three course type of place. Wood fired grill that was great to be around on a cold day. Everything we had was excellent, so check it out and if it looks like the kind of thing you’re hoping for, then I highly recommend it. We were only there for lunch so I don’t know what the town is like in the evenings.

Almost all the way to Hautvillers is Champagne Devavry in Champillon. We had a guide taking us around that knew them very well but it was a low key visit of a small producer (though they used to be the official podium champagne of F1). Cute dog laying around the press, the owner herself was walking around checking on things, and for my money very lovely champagne for the price. They’ve got several styles/bottlings, and I preferred the vintage/millesime stuff best. We eventually ordered a case and we are safeguarding the last few bottles mostly because of the memory but also truly like it. Not sure if that suits your needs or not but at least an option for you to consider.

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La Grillade Gourmande is excellent, but you need a reservation and one made well in advance. The restaurant is almost always fully booked, so if your expectation is to simply walk in, you’re likely to be disappointed.

Answers to these questions:

  1. Epernay is tiny. If you’re near the city center, you can basically walk everywhere without much trouble, assuming you’re not grossly overweight. There honestly aren’t that many restaurants to choose from. We had our 6 month old (at the time) along with us and really enjoyed Brasserie De La Banque. We ate there our first night in town and were also very tired from our travels. Good service, good wine list, good food. We also liked Au Petit Fourneau, which is DEFINITELY a Bistro, i.e. small. Not many tables and not many menu choices. But the food is real and home cooked. The wine selection is small, but I remember we had a delicious Loire Cab Franc for about 10 EUR.
  2. In addition to being tiny, Epernay is SLEEPY. You won’t need reservations at most places, but there also aren’t going to be tons of places open late. Definitely check out 520 Champagne Shop if you’re interested in finding some wines (including non-Champagne!) that you can’t find in the US. Note: Visit a Mailboxes, Etc. before your return to have your wines shipped to your house. Much easier than trying to pack it all in your suitcases and I think they’ll help you with VAT refund. There are lots of little shops along Rue St. Thibault, but most will be closed at night. That’s where you’ll find the Monop’ for basic groceries, etc. Also lots of good patisseries, cheese shops, etc.
  1. Rue St. Thibault is your best bet if you’re buying in Epernay before you head across the Montagne. If not, you can find a million places in Reims to buy a picnic lunch.
  2. Between Hautvillers and Reims is basically no-mans-land. That’s the road across the top of Mt. Reims and there aren’t many producers up there. You could do Rilly-la-Montagne, where there are a number of great producers, including Vilmart. Other options include staying in Reims for a stroll through the Cathedral Notre Dame or a visit the “Special Club” boutique Tresors de Champagne (they can also ship wine back for you and handle your VAT refund) and to Les Caves du Forum wine shop.

Have fun!

We were able to walk in for lunch without a reservation when we visited in March of '19, pre-COVID. That said, we thought the food was fine, but nothing spectacular. The service was great and the wine list was good, but overall we just didn’t find the food compelling. This wasn’t unique to La Grillade Gourmande - it basically applied to all the places we ate in Champagne. Anyway, maybe we just got unlucky, but I would simply say people should maybe have lower expectations of the food in Epernay/Reims than they do in, say Beaune or Paris or whatever.

This looked perfect until I saw the notice quoted below o their website. The French version refers to the year end holidays so it appears they have been closed for some time.

" To all my dear private customers, I have to temporarily close the Champagne Devavry house for a few months.
We will no longer receive you in Champillon during this period. My children will contact you as soon as they start marketing again. Thank you for your loyalty, we wish you a happy holiday season. "

Troy: thank you for the specific recommendations and links. We were debating on bringing wine luggage so it’s good to know there are some local shipping options.

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in Epernay, eat at Sacre Bistro. If nothing else off the menu is calling your name, get the burger — it’s excellent. The wine list is excellent. I can’t remember how booked-up they get, so try the walk-in approach at your own peril.

We were just there 6/10/23 thru 6/12/23. Fun
place however I disagree with walking everywhere. you can put many miles on just checking out the different grower shops. That said we ended up at Hotel Avize in Avize and that was unbelievable. They serve a prefixed menu on the patio that is spectacular and the staff are happy and very accommodating.
Selosse is one of the most sought-after champagnes worldwide. what we learned in this area is it is only available there and at a restaurant in Meursault, as of those dates. Reservations are required and it is booked pretty far out.
This was the highlight of our champagne trip.
Burgundy was wonderful especially Beaune and Alain Hess was our favorite shop

Following up on my own thread after receiving a private message asking for some information. We enjoyed our quick visit to Champagne, although had some hits and misses. I think this area, even more than most wine regions, caters to different tastes by providing different experiences. Everybody we met working at hotels, restaurants, and wineries were unfailingly helpful, informed, and willing to talk about wine. The other travelers were a mixed bag. We met several lovely people in group tours and also met some of the most pretentious, brand obsessed people I have ever run across. I think the region is accustomed to that, and creates experiences that cater to both. Workers are also aware that their clientele may lean that direction and are on guard at first.

We spent one afternoon and an overnight in Epernay. We spent the following morning and lunch in Reims, the afternoon in Hautvillers, and the evening at Royal Champagne Hotel.

Epernay was underwhelming. I expected a quieter town to enjoy walking around. It had more car traffic than I expected, is quite spread out for the size, and I have a hard time describing the vibe. It is neither old and quaint nor gentrified and renewed. I have described it to friends as a town that has done just well enough to never need to be revitalized. The end result is a lot of shops and restaurants that seem to be 20-30 years old and showing their age. I would recommend filling your time here with scheduled visits instead of meandering. That said, we had several good experiences:

  1. Le 25bis hotel by Clerc Bryant. The rooms are stunning and the location is hard to beat if you are spending time on the ave. De Champagne. Breakfast was quite good and served early enough for us to be in Reims by 10. I would recommend it with zero hesitation.
  2. The patio/garden at Perrier Jouet. This was our first stop. We did not have reservations and it did not seem like they were expected. We were able to enjoy a sunny afternoon on the patio. There was not a small pour/tasting offering but the by the glass menu included Belle Epoque.
  3. Dinner at L’Oben. My wife found this somewhere and the pictures of the food drew us in. The food was terrific. The scallops in a mushroom sauce/foam and the veal were terrific. The atmosphere left a lot to be desired. All the furnishings and fixtures are worn. They were not playing music, so it was both quiet and loud (I.e. we could distinctly hear the conversation from every table). I am split on recommending this, but if you are food focused, I would consider it.
  4. Clerc Bryant tour. Informed guide, nice production facility, and some interesting implementations of biodynamic principles. To be clear, I am wilding skeptical of biodynamic production beyond farming principles, but I still found it interesting. Maybe the aging underwater, aging in glass, aging in gold, and other woo-woo ideas will revolutionize champagne. If they do, I can say I saw it in person!

Reims was a more consistent, and better experience. We had a short time and I would recommend every one of our stops. For any visit this year, be warned that many areas are under construction in anticipation of Olympic crowds or will already be inundated with the crowd.

  1. We did the early tasting (10am) at Ruinart. The crayeres tour is incredible, the tasting is generous, and the ground/history are interesting. Starting early was great because we were able to find parking, despite construction.
  2. From there we walked the town for a while, including a visit to teh cathedral. I don’t fawn over churches, but this one is very nice AND has no lines. Seriously, imagine just walking in to Notre Dame by yourself and spending whatever time you want. The town is a more pleasant walk than Epernay. There was a real lack of good coffee.
  3. Lunch at L’epicerie At Bon Manger should be on ever berserkers bucket list. Rustic French food (canned meats, fish, cheese, salad), made with care. The BTG options are basically ‘BdB, BdN, Rose’ and they won’t tell you what they poured until after you have had it. It sounds gimmicky, but they have fun with it. The owners spent a lot of time chatting with us, helping us make some bottle selections to take home, and even went so far as to call a friend in Paris to try and make a dinner reservation for us. They are passionate and I would go back just to talk with them, even if I couldn’t eat. You do need reservations. We saw several people turned away, despite empty tables.

From there, we drove to Hautvillers. This is the picturesque town you want to walk around, although I will leave it to others to chime in on the best champagne options. We enjoyed Marion-Bosser enough to bring a few bottles home. Champagne Fedyk is worth a stop for the patio view, although we did not care for the wine. We did see several tour busses parking and letting off 30-40 people as we left. I imagine this would make for a crowded stop if you happen to pick the same producer.

Finally, we stayed at Royal Champagne Hotel. This is easily the most I have ever spent on a hotel room. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and I think we got what we expected for the price. The views are stunning. We spent all of our time until dinner sitting on our balcony enjoying a bottle. Had it been cold, overcast, or raining it would have been an absolute waste. We gambled and won. As an FYI, the website menu and room service menu were a small subset of what was available so I am very glad I walked down to the bar to look for myself. We ate at Le Royal, the Michelin star option. It was as expected. We walked out happy we had eaten there, failed to take notes on what we had, and now, 8 months later, I can’t remember a single dish. I don’t mean that as a knock on them, but it was just…very typical French fine dining. On departure, we chuckled as they had to move two Ferraris and a Bentley to get our rental Citroen for us. They were also very confused when we carried our own bags (a travel backpack per person, no luggage) from our room. This is how the other 0.01% live.

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We stayed in Reims for several day last fall, and I’ll add a few thoughts as well:

  • If you stay in Reims, stay downtown. We stayed out by the Champagne-Ardennes TGV station, and transportation was a challenge.
  • If you want to do the Ruinart tour, sign up early. We tried about a month before we went and it was already booked up. We ended up going to Lanson instead. I thought that it was an excellent tour, though it requires quite a bit of walking. They take you through the entire process, from vineyard to bottle.
  • Notre Dame in Reims is probably the most historically significant cathedral in France. 31 kings were crowned here starting around 800AD. The stained glass is mostly new, as the cathedral was badly damaged in both World Wars, but includes a section by Marc Chagall and several sections done by German artists, as the church is a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation.
  • In the summer, there a number of music and light shows shown on the front of the cathedral. If you’re in town, go!

Thanks for the update on Royal Champagne. The last time we were in town it remained under construction but we had stayed several times before the renovations and I’ve always enjoyed our stays. The views are stunning and we always walk through vineyards early in the morning.