France: Champagne

Around Reims

The city of Reims and the Montagne de Reims
By Tom Stevenson and Michael Edwards

This Guide was last updated on 25 June 2010
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Main towns and villages

Reims

It was at Reims where, with very few exceptions, the kings of France were crowned, and it was to Reims that Joan of Arc dragged a reluctant Charles VII to face his destiny in the grand cathedral. The classic Notre-Dame cathedral dominates this important city, which is steeped in history. It is certainly a good base for a day or two of visits to some of the most important Champagne Houses (the crayères should not be missed), and there is a good choice of restaurants. See also ‘Other Interesting Attractions’.

Nogent l’Abesse

With 170 hectares, Nogent l’Abesse is, viticulturally, the largest of three villages forming the Monts de Berru, an unusual outcrop of primarily Chardonnay vines growing east of the city and north (yes, north) of the Montagne de Reims. With Cernay-les-Reims and Berru itself, the vineyards in this district total 350 hectares, 317 of which are Chardonnay. Pol Roger has vineyards here.

Verzenay

Verzenay is the largest and best grand cru on the northern slopes of the Montagne de Reims. Visit the famous Moulin de Verzenay, which was built in 1820 and used to belong to Heidsieck & Co Monopole, but was retained by G.H. Mumm when Heidsieck was sold to Vranken. From this prominent position many heads of state have viewed enemy lines throughout history. Strategically, the Marne is the last line of defence before the Seine, and once the Seine is crossed, Paris lies open to the invader. Every army since Attila the Hun has done battle here, and it is plain to see why when standing in front of the Moulin de Verzenay. The Montagne de Reims is Pinot Noir country par excellence in Champagne. No one thinks of Chardonnay this far north, and many wonder how any grape variety can survive here, but look even further north and you will see the Chardonnay covered hillsides of the Monts de Berru.

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