Generally I avoid champagne. It is without doubt impossible to find out what is in the bottle. German Sekt is not better. But that is a different story.
Basically 3 grape varieties are used for champagne. Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
The mix of the grapes defines the character of each champagne. In general labels say little about the contents of a bottle. Making a choice is difficult. And after all there is a lot of choice in Champagne. In any price range.
Nevertheless, we found ourselves in Reims for buying champagne. Reims is in the middle of the Champagne region, in northeastern France.
Reims is the city where champagne flows and matures. Here you can find the big champagne houses like Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Taittinger or Celliers Ruinart.
In addition, smaller wineries and lots of wine shops. The wine shops often call themselves “Cave”by the way. That means cellar.
A millésime champagne is to blame for the trip. For a milésime it’s mandatory to indicate the vintage. If price and content are right, then I buy a millésime blindly. Especially when the majority is Chardonnay.
In an Intermarché supermarket, I found a beautiful bottle for 25 Euro: Charles de Cazanove, Stradivarius, Millésimé 2007, brut. In a word it sparkles and for this purpose is a POP. What’s more to like?
Parking in Reims
Reims has a parking guidance system. An hour of parking in the city center costs 2,00€/ hour. It is cheaper on the P + R on the outskirts of town. You can find more information about parking in Reims here.
We chose CPA car park at the cathedral due to time constraints. From there you can walk to sights, the pedestrian area and wine shops. CPA Champagne Parc Auto Cathédrale, 25 rue des Capucins, 51100 Reims, France
Now let’s find out in detail if it’s worth buying Champagne in Reims.
Stop 1: Champagne house Charles de Cazanove
Adress: 8 place de la République, 51100 Reims, France.
Daily opening hours from 10.00 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 19.00.
There is parking place in the courtyard. You can only reach it via the Place de la République. Wild traffic management over 3 lanes. Take the very right lane, otherwise you won’t get into the courtyard. If you miss it, you make an extra trip over the train station and around the park. You cannot turn around.
Charles de Cazanove offers cellar tours in French and English. There is a Champagne samples included in the price. You can taste bubbles however without a tour. A glass then costs € 5.00.
In addition to its own sparkling wines, Charles de Cazanove offers champagne from the following winemakers:
- Champagne G.H. Martel
- Champagne Paul Louis Martin
- Champagne Chateau de Bligny
- Champagne Charles Orban
- Champagne Mansard
Each house is presented separately, with a price list. Charles de Cazanove does not just bottle under hiss own name. Vieulle France, as a separate brand, belongs to the house.
Charles de Cazanove, Stradivarius, Millésimé 2007, brut was no longer available. The Stradivarius series focuses presently on the sales of the current 2009 vintage. I had the suspicion that former vintages are sold for a good price in supermarkets. I have the confirmation now.
We chose the following champagne:
- Charles de Cazanove, Stradivarius, Millésimé 2009, brut. POP. Costs 60€
- Charles de Cazanove, Stradivarius, rosé, brut. FLOP. You can’t drink it. Far too young and aggressive for my taste. Cost 5 € for a glass. Otherwise € 35 per bottle
- Champagne Vieille France, Limited Edition, Vintage, 2006. Blind purchase, not tasted yet. Price € 40 per bottle.
STOP 2: Marketplace Boulingrin
As a matter of fact we stood before locked doors. Boulingrin is closed in the wintertime.
STOP 3: Trésors de Champagne : la Boutique (Special Club Shop)
Adress: 2 Rue Olivier Métra, 51100 Reims, France.
Trésors de Champagne is an organization that brought together 28 champagne winemakers (as of January 15, 2020). They must fulfill certain criteria to become a member. Special vintages are offered in so-called “special club” bottles. The club is like the VDP in Germany. The Trésors de Champagne run a boutique in Reims that of course only offers champagne produced by its members. You can taste some champagnes. The selection changes weekly.
Trust is good. Control is better
A good idea on paper. However practically it didn’t work for me. The testing bottles were not according to my taste. The staff was happy to help, but I think it’s questionable to recommend bottles that are well beyond their prime. Unfortunately, I only found out at home when I opened the bottles.
In this situation I was too careless and didn’t follow my own rules for buying champagne. I contacted the boutique and the champagne house with the intention to find out what went wrong. Surprisingly no one was aware of a problem. I got hymns of praise for the champagne. They told me what criteria had to be fulfilled to make a special club. And as a matter of fact champagne can’t be bad quality. Between the lines they made it clear without doubt that I had no idea about champagne and I was wrong. No shit Sherlock. I know what Special Club means. What is wrong to listen to customers. French and their endless arrogance.
120 €, 2 champagne houses and 3 bottles of flat champagne with notes of vinegar. Stupid me can’t understand that’s perfectly acceptable because it is Champagne.
All things considered the boutique is not a good place for buying champagne in Reims. It’s keeping up appearances, in my opinion. Just buy what you can taste.
At this time we bought, but did not taste:
- Charlier & Fils, Special Club, brut, 2005, no disgorgement date, 41,00€, FLOP
- Pertois-Moriset, à la Mensil sur Oger, Blanc de Blanc, Millésime 2008, Grand Cru, brut, disgorgement date July 2014, 37,00€, FLOP
STOP 4: La Cave Colbert
Adress: 18 Rue Colbert, 51100 Reims, France.
La Cave Colbert has a large selection of the big champagne brands, vintner’s champagne, wine and spirits. They sell fancy marketing champagne too. You can buy champagne that is aged at the bottom of the sea. If you like the big brands, it’s obviously the the right place. It is too snobby for my taste.
STOP 5: Cathedral Notre-Dame
Did you know that the cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims is bigger than Notre-Dame de Paris? It is one of the most important Gothic churches in France. The facade is covered with 2303 figures carved in stone. Each of them tells a story. You can spend there a lot of time with looking.
STOP 6: Place Royal
Place Royale is a large, open square with a monument in the middle. It is the statue of Louis XV, disguised as a Roman emperor. Take a tour around the square to see the architecture before you continue shopping.
STOP 7: Le Vintage
Adress: 3 Cours Anatole France, 51100 Reims, France.
Small crammed boutique behind the cathedral. It has brand and vintner’s champagne, wine and spirits. I didn’t find what I was looking for. The shops I visited are mostly stocked in the same way.
STOP 8: Palace du Tau
The Archbishop’s Palace is next to the cathedral. It is named after its T-shape (“tau” in Greek). It housed the French kings at their coronation celebrations.
STOP 9: Cave des Sacres
Adresse: 5 Place Card Luçon, 51100 Reims, France.
There are several wine shops in front of the cathedral in Reims. Cave des Sacres is one of them. It’s the shop with the green color. Inside it looks like someone is moving. All over the place wine boxes are scattered. You meet old acquaintances. Surprisingly you find all big brands … again. The winemaker champagne is not tickling my fancy. All in all they suffer the same problem. No tasting and no valuable information on the label. However it is a good place to see magnum or Jéroboam bottles. That’s it.
Is it worth it to go to Reims for buying champagne? NO.
All things considered it was nice to spend a few hours in Reims. Overall the vintner’s champagne did not convince me. Excemption was Charles de Cazanove. As i have said I will keep an eye on him. Reims’ wine shops are nice to browse, but not suitable for just buying champagne. It will be too expensive. You need to know what you like. If you appreciate the big brand champagne, then you will find it.
I would have liked to visit a large champagne cellar. Not because of the champagne, but for the cellar experience. Unfortunately I didn’t have time for it.
The most important rule I learned is: Don’t buy anything without TASTING.
You will regret it later. I’m in a really good mood right now because half of my purchases are not enjoyable.