If you thought Champagne only comes from Champagne – think again. There are Champagne vineyards in Picardy!
It might surprise you to learn that the vineyards of Château-Thierry in the Aisne department of Picardy, Hauts-de-France account for a whopping 10% of AOC Champagne production…
Wines and Champagne of Picardy
The Aisne department is between Paris and Reims. Most people associate the area with cider, it’s on the doorstep of Normandy. Or perhaps beer as it borders Pas de Calais and the Nord departments. The Aisne department is not known for its wine production. In fact most people are completely unaware that the area has a rich history of wine making going back centuries.
There are around 40 villages in the south of the region which are part of the world famous Champagne growing area. The vineyards of Chateau Thierry in the Marne Valley have been included in the Champagne production zone since 1936. Just 45 minutes from Champagne capital Reims, historically they were part of Champagne until the French Revolution. And if you’re a fan of fizz, it’s a short detour to the vineyards from the nearby major attractions such as departmental capital Laon perched on a hill with a Gothic Cathedral or Compiègne.
Laon, once the capital of France
Laon was for a time, the capital of France before King Hugues Capet chose Paris in 987 AD. Its narrow cobbled alleyways house an incredible 84 listed monuments. 100 metres up, in an area that’s notoriously flat, you can see why it was coveted by the great and the good (as well as the not so good). Fortified by the Romans, the capital of the Carolingian Kings, it fell under English rule in the 100 Years War, was laid siege to and conquered several times.
Nowadays it’s a beautiful old city. Adjoining the 12th century cathedral is a 13th-century cloister. The nearby Episcopal Palace (partly 13th century) now houses law courts and has a 12th-century chapel. On the cathedral’s other side lies a 13th-century abbey with a large underground Gothic hall, now a hospital. The Museum of Laon has a collection of Roman and medieval jewellery. The streets are pretty and there are loads of charming cafés and restaurants.
Champagne tasting and touring in Picardy
Take a tour in English at the house of Champagne Pannier where the 2km cellars in the quarry in which the Champagne is matured, date back to the 12th century, and of course a tasting is included. You’ll discover an elegant range, with a style affirmed by the dominant presence of black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, accompanied by a large proportion of Chardonnay.
In nearby Barzy-sur-Marne, Champagne Leveque Dehan produce Champagne on slopes that have been cultivated since the 13th century. They also offer tours and tastings in English.
Champagne Alain Mercier et Fils produce 6 main Champagnes and offer a great tasting tour. Beware, the fizz is hard to resist here!
At Champagne Fallet-Dart the long line of family winegrowers have been cultivating grapes since 1610. They have 45 acres of vines and produce authentic and distinguished champagnes that have won several awards.
Find out more about the Champagne route in Picardy: www.lesportesdelachampagne.com
Claim my free road trip book to discover the best of the Hauts de France region from beautiful beaches to historic cities, medieval villages and glorious castles: www.french-weekendbreaks.co.uk
Places to visit nearby
Chateau de Chantilly – historic and exquisite as well as the home of Chantilly cream!
Gerberoy – officially one of the prettiest villages in France
The Art and Gardens Festival of Amiens held annually from June to October on the astonishing ancient waterways of Amiens