Seeing the best of Champagne by train is a fun and easy journey. Reims, the capital of Champagne the region, is just 45 minutes by train from Paris. Epernay, known as the capital of Champagne the drink, takes around an hour and a quarter. The two great Champagne towns are linked by rail and it takes around half an hour to get from one to the other. Not only that, en route are several other famous and fabulous Champagne producing towns, all connected by rail. If you want to taste before you buy, taking the train is a great way to visit, stay safe and on the right side of the law.
Ligne des Bulles, the Bubbles Line
The TER (regional train) line between Epernay and Reims is called by some locals: Ligne des Bulles, the Line of the Bubbles. It makes stops at several villages in the woodlands and vineyards of the area, a great way to get to see some of the small Champagne towns and meet producers at their vineyards. Here are three of the best:
This charming village, one of the oldest in the area; here history and tradition are closely entwined. At the town hall pick up a copy of a walking guide of the town and vineyards. Don’t miss the 12th century church with its carved choir stall illustrating the stages of wine production. There are about 60 Champagne producers in the town and several offer cellar tours and tastings. Stop off for a special lunch at the splendid Chateau de Rilly, full on glamour amongst the vineyards.
The town’s motto is “the city that sparkles” and it’s a lively sort of place. It’s said that King Henri IV of France loved the wines from here and owned his own wine press in Ay. Apparently, it was kept in the half-timbered house behind St Brice’s Church. Ay was already well-known in the Gallo Roman period for the wines produced here. Around 40 producers are based in Ay indcluding Bolinger, and several offer cellar tours and tastings. Pop to the town hall to pick up a leaflet about the town (in English). There are several restaurants, mainly bistro style one of the most popular being the Rotisserie Henri IV named in honour of the town’s most famous fan.
Just 7km from Epernay is sleepy and tranquil. There’s a 13th-16th century church and several Champagne houses to visit. From here it’s about a 20-minute walk to the tiny village of Mutigny from where you will get a wonderful view of the Montagne of Reims.
Not on the Champagne line but a short cycle ride from Epernay where you can hire bikes at the tourist office. It’s the birthplace of champagne and well worth the detour!
Book a Champagne experience – tastings, workshops, sabrage, vineyard visits and more with www.champagne-booking.com