Épernay is the true ‘wine capital’ of Champagne. Strategically placed in a basin of prime vineyards between the top of the Côte des Blancs and the central part of the Marne Valley, Épernay's ‘raison d'etre’ is making champagne.
Approximately 90% of this town's working population have wine-related jobs, mainly in one of the main 37 Champagne houses. A major attraction of the city are the grand houses on the town's Avenue de Champagne which can be easily visited on foot.
Épernay is located 150km northeast of Paris - just under two hours by car using the A4 motorway. There is a TGV train service running 8 times per day from Paris to Reims in just 45-50min - with connecting trains to Épernay.
The closest international airport is Charles de Gaulle in Paris and there is a direct TGV rail link from the airport and Gare de l'Est to Reims-Ardennes station (which is located on the Épernay side of the city), taking 45-50 minutes.
Venturing out of the town, some of the finest vineyards can be visited within half an hour by car. The historic town of Aÿ, the cradle of Pinot Noir is just across the Marne; its steep south-facing slopes produce the base for the most sumptuous Champagne cuvees. Westwards along the Marne as far as Dormans lie prime sites for the Pinot Meunier grape, a key ingredient of such classics as Pol Roger Champagne.
Just south of Épernay, the 20km long elliptical-shaped hillside known as the Côte de Blancs, is home to superbly crystalline, mineral-charged Chardonnay. The subsoil over the whole region is basically chalk which drains well, though retaining enough water for the vines to survive during a drought. There is also a thin layer of topsoil which can consist of a mix of sand, marl, loam, clay, lignite and of course chalk.
Champagne is the most northerly AC wine region in France and the climate is greatly influenced by the Atlantic, which has a cooling effect in the summer and makes the seasons very variable. Frost is a serious problem in spring and autumn, and the growing season is dependent on the unpredictability of the weather. The 3 key areas are Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs.