By Annick Dournes


“Echappées Champenoises”, meaning Breaks in Champagne, is a new magazine whose first issue has just been launched in Paris this week. Written both in French and English, it will be available in trendy French hotels for free, so don’t miss to ask for it next time you go to France. It will be a great source of information to help you organize a wine trip to Champagne, a region where oenotourism is in full renewal. Page after page you will discover that there is much more to do in Champagne than the usual wineries visits and wine tasting.

Did you know that Auguste Renoir, the famous impressionist painter, came every summer for 30 years to Champagne to paint its beautiful landscapes. His wife was born in Essoyes where they bought a house and Renoir had a studio built at the back of the garden where he made several of his most remarkable masterpieces, inspired by this beautiful area. Since June 3rd this house is open to the public, allowing us to get a glimpse into the private life of this great artist. But of course Champagne is part of the event. A Champagne contest has rewarded ten exceptional Champagne, each one of them being paired with one of Renoir’s painting.

Emmanuel Chopin is no ordinary winemaker. Wine growers from father to son for several generations, Emmanuel has to be creative to attract tourists to his winery in Monthelon. He organises day-trip to his estate where you will discover the day-to-day life in a Champagne winery, enjoy a “Champagne lunch” and even adopt 3 to 12 vine plants, watch them grow, mature and be turned into wine on your dedicated internet page and finally get one bottle of Champagne for each adopted plant. More at:

The Der-Chantecoq Lake was created during the 60’s as a flood-containment structure in order to prevent Paris flooding. It soon became a major resting site for the cranes on their migratory route and a wonderful watching site for all bird lovers. This lake is located in the middle of the Champagne producing region and offers unusual ways to enjoy wine tasting. Sebastien Higonet takes tourists onboard catamarans to sail on the lake and enjoy several stops at wineries for joyful tasting. For a half-day, a one or two days tours you will not only learn a lot about Champagne making but also discover the local wild life and landscapes.

Even if the enclosed Champagne vineyards are less known label of origin than the Burgundy’s ones, or rather due to this confidentiality, they are a true jewel in the world of sparkling wines, well known by connoisseurs. Enclosed vineyards are small plot of land entirely surrounded by walls, producing only one grape variety. Of course the Champagne made on these “clos” must be made exclusively from its own grapes. There are 31 “clos” in Champagne, for only 35 hectares (86 acres) and 0,1% of all Champagne vineyards! They are part of larger vineyards and the quintessence of the winemakers’ work. This year we will discover the very first vintage of “Clos Lanson” that is part of the famous Lanson Champagne Estate. This “clos” is like a walled garden in the middle of Reims with an exceptional view over the close by cathedral. This 2006 vintage is at last drinkable but only 8,000 numbered bottles will be available.

These are a few examples among many other trip ideas available in this first issue of “Echappées Champenoises”. In this magazine/guide you will find articles, events, dates and destination for the next 12 months that will help you organise your next trip to Champagne. No doubt that many of us will carefully keep it.

Text and Photos ©Annick Dournes