Bullet.1927
List Words : Hazel Plush | 28 March

6 unusual ways to experience France's Champagne region

Fancy something a little more adventurous than your average vineyard tour? These ideas will take you from treehouse bars to vintage boats – with a glass of bubbly in hand at all times

Champagne tasting in a treehouse

A Champagne bar in a treehouse? Oh my, Perchingbar – we're very pleased to meet you. Perched among the treetops of the Arboxygene adventure park in Verzy, this timber tasting pod is rustic but ravishing: think leather swing seats, a wrap-around balcony, and ice buckets that hang from the rafters.

Perchingbar (Photo: Perchingbar/C Manquillet Coll)
Perchingbar (Photo: Perchingbar/C Manquillet Coll)

You'll be in great company up here, with the likes of Bollinger, Pehu-Simonet, Louis de Sacy and co. It's glitzy, cosy, and very intimate – perfect for parties. And happily, there's not a rickety ladder in sight: it's all sturdy walkways, so you can teeter home after an evening of tastings.

Quad-driving in the countryside

With its undulating vineyards, crumbling farmhouses and silvery sliver of river, the Marne Valley is all of your French countryside clichés rolled into one. It's just as lovely as you'd imagine – especially when you've a glass of local tipple in hand. If you can abstain for a morning, sign up for a quad buggy driving trip, which will take you into the heart of the valley.

Landscape of Champagne, France (Shutterstock)
Landscape of Champagne, France (Shutterstock)

You'll stick to off-road tracks from Festigny, bumping through vineyards as you follow the river. Historic sites, rickety bridges and tiny villages await – and if you don't feel like driving, you can kick back and let your guide take the wheel instead.

Sail while you sip

As well as its glassy Marne River, the Champagne region boasts a scattering of picturesque lakes – some natural, some man-made, but all of them thoroughly lovely. On a warm summer's day you'll find us on a yacht cruise with Vinotilus, a swish new venture that combines two of life's great pleasures: bubbly and sailing.

River Marne (Shutterstock)
River Marne (Shutterstock)

You'll skip across the waters of a local lake, with the wind in your hair and a wine in your hand. Champagne tasting sessions are available, or you can simply pick your favourite tipple and venture out for the day.

Try a 'vineyard crawl'

Every July, the vineyards around the villages of Bar-sur-Aube and Colombey-les-deux-eglises open up their doors to the public, for wine tastings galore. The Champagne Festival is a treat for wine novices and experts alike – and a great way to sample myriad tipples, with plenty of fun events on the side.

Vineyard wine tasting in Champagne (Dreamstime)
Vineyard wine tasting in Champagne (Dreamstime)

Armed with a bubbly flute, glass holder and guide book (€20), you'll swig your way around this beautiful region – meeting vintners, learning about the different grapes, eating locally-sourced dishes and getting slowly sozzled with your fellow travellers.

Explore in an electric Jeep

Champagne producer James Fliniaux wanted to develop a way to transport visitors into the heart of his winery, without impacting the environment. He came up with the idea of electric Jeep tours – with audio guides in four languages, plus plenty of anecdotes from James himself.

Champagne region (Shutterstock)
Champagne region (Shutterstock)

It's a jolly afternoon out, bumbling around the Unesco-listed vineyards of Aÿ learning about the land, grape varieties and Champagne heritage. Better yet, James will take the wheel so you're free to partake in a glass or two.

Sail in a vintage vessel

The sleek Maakruiser boat was first built in Holland in 1927 – a daring new design for the time. Built for both comfort and speed, it's a kind of vintage James Bond vessel: all leather seats, brass-rimmed portholes and varnished wooden décor. There is, quite simply, no finer way to explore the River Marne than the beautifully-restored Bullet.1927 Maakruiser – especially when there's a glass of Champers in your mitt.

Bullet.1927
Bullet.1927

You'll depart from Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, in the capable hands of an English-speaking pilot. You can stop off at vineyards or simply cruise your way down the river with your very own locally-sourced mini bar and a picnic hamper.


Main image: Bullet.1927