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Get to know Champagne and its EV infrastructure
The first thing you need to know about Champagne is that this region in the northeast of France might be a bit bigger than you might think, but it’s absolutely perfect to explore on a road trip with an (electric) car or campervan. The city of Reims is generally regarded as Champagne’s capital. Many big champagne houses have cellars there and it’s a good option as a base to explore the area. The city also has multiple convenient fast (rapid) DC chargers to charge up your EV, including Ionity and some cheap stations at Lidl.
For the charging cards and apps we recommend for France, please see: Our EV charging experience in France and Spain.
To only visit Reims would be a shame though, since you’d miss out on the rolling hills covered in vines that are so eponymous with Champagne. About a half hour drive south of Reims lies the forest-covered Montagne de Reims. This large hill is Champagne central, as the slopes are covered in vineyards. The pinor noir grapes do very well on the limestone soil and this is where the fullest-bodied champagnes are made. There are several picturesque villages dotted among the fields and forests and you’ll find many big champagne houses and cellars here, as well as several slower AC chargers to charge your EV.
South of the Montagne de Reims lies the large town of Épernay, which is another Champagne hotspot and home to the Avenue de Champagne with its famous champagne houses. Épernay is another great place to base yourself, as it’s part of the Vallée de la Marne, whose fertile fields stretch further west. This is the pinot meunier region, which is often blended with other grapes. To the south and east lie more champagne fields, like in the Côte des Blancs area, where you’ll find champagne made with just chardonnay. It’s again easy to find AC chargers here to fill up your EV’s battery and the quality of roads is great in the whole area.
How to visit Champagne cellars on an EV road trip
During the week, smaller and bigger champagne growers open their doors to travellers interested in a tour of the vineyards, the cellars and of course: tastings. Although some still welcome walk-ins, most vineyards operate by appointment and you can easily book a visit via the website champagne-booking.com, which makes it super easy to find both tours at big houses and small, family-run vineyards. Tours don’t have to be expensive at all, as you can find tastings starting at just €15, and these usually include multiple glasses of champagne. Do make sure to book in advance to secure a visit, especially in the high season.
Some of the bigger houses that offer great cellar tours are Ruinart, Taittinger and Moët & Chandon. But be sure to also visit smaller producers such as De Sousa, Larmandier-Bernier, Godmé Sabine and Michel Fagot, as here you’ll be able to see the entire champagne-making process from start to finish, wheres the bigger houses often only offer a tour of the cellars with a tasting. These cellar tours can be spectacular, too, though: for example, Mercier offers an underground train ride through their 18km (11mi) of cellars!
This kind of goes without saying, but if you’re going to do tastings and no-one is willing to the designated driver, never drink and drive. France has seriously strict driving laws and the drink-driving limit is very low. So don’t be tempted to try a glass or two (even if you’re spitting the champagne out at tastings) and get behind the wheel again. Instead, be responsible, go for the full experience and simply stay the night!
Stays with EV charging
The Champagne region offers many fantastic accommodations with a slow AC charger to be able to charge your EV overnight. For stays without breaking the bank, have a look at Airbnb and use the handy ‘EV charger’ filter. Starting at just €50 per night, you could stay at a lovely village home near the Montagne de Reims, a 2-bedroom apartment close to Épernay, or a beautiful room in a B&B in Reims. All stays with EV chargers!
The same goes for booking.com — search for Champagne and use the ‘electric vehicle charging station’ filter (under the ‘facilities’ tab) to find hotels that offer EV charging. There are some great deals on offer here as well. For instance, you can stay at the comfortable Ibis Budget hotel in Parc Des Expositions, Reims, starting at just €65 and there are electric chargers on site.
From experience, we do recommend calling ahead to a stay and asking what kind of charging facilities they offer, because sometimes a charging station ends up being just a normal wall outlet. And if there is an AC charging wall-box, it’s also good to ask whether a charging card or app is needed to activate the charger (in most cases, it is). We’ve found the Chargemap card and app to be unmissable in France. If you order the charging card well before your trip, charging in Champagne will be a breeze.
Park-ups for (electric) campervans
We were blown away by the amazing free parkups we found when we visited Champagne in our electric campervan. Like in the rest of France, there are several free ‘aire camping car’ parking lots where you’ll find a tap for water, trash cans and a place to empty your grey and black water tanks. Some even offer electricity! Like the free aire we stayed at in the charming village of Mutigny in the Montagne de Reims region, overlooking rolling hills covered in vineyards. And it was just a 5-minute drive from a 22kW AC charger, too, so very convenient!
If you want to stay the night at a Champagne house with your campervan to be able to do a tasting, there are several options as well. If you’re booking a cellar tour and there’s ample parking at the vineyard you want to visit, you can be a bit cheeky and call ahead to ask if it’s possible to park on the grounds for the night.
But it’s even easier to seek out one of the many smaller Champagne houses that offer dedicated RV parking, often for free in exchange for buying a few bottles. You can find these in the France Passion guide, which you do need to order well in advance, but in our opinion is totally worth if if you’re planning a longer road trip through France. Alternatively, many of these parkups are also listed on our favourite app Park4Night, just look for the little ‘farm’ icon on the map.
One example is the small, family-owned Leclere-Massard. We paid just €5 to park for the night next to the house and €15 for a bottle of incredibly tasty champagne. Such great value for money! Note that to be able to park at any of these places, you do need to have a self-contained campervan. Meaning you have your own toilet and a way to collect your waste water (like a grey water tank).
3 green travel tips for Champagne
1. Travel in the shoulder seasons to beat the summer and early autumn crowds. October and November are still busy but great months for a visit, because the harvest is over but there are some grapes left on the vines and the leafs are a beautiful gold and red. April and May are also much quieter than summer and early autumn and a great time for a visit, as the new grapes are starting to grow and the vineyards turn lush and green.
2. Visit smaller, family-run champagne houses outside of the popular areas like Reims and Épernay, where most tourism is concentrated. The website champagne-booking.com makes it easy to find them! And if you’re driving around in a self-contained campervan, you can also find fantastic, small-scale places via a France Passion membership or the Park4Night app.
3. Visit an organic vineyard. Many bigger champagne house are finally starting to embrace sustainable growing practices but pioneering winegrowers like André & Jacques Beaufort, Vincent Bliard and Yves Ruffin have been practicing organic viticulture for years. To learn more about organic wine growing in Champagne, the website of the Association des Champagnes Biologiques is a good starting point.
How to get to Champagne
If you’re driving to Champagne in your own EV, you’ll find that the charging infrastructure in the north of France is rapidly improving. With a bit of planning and the help of a Chargemap RFID card and app, there’s really no reason at all for range anxiety. We’ve driven through the north of France following different routes from the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg four times now and have found it relatively easy to find fast (rapid) chargers each time, especially along the toll roads. If you go in the off-season, there’s also little chance of having to stand in line to be able to charge.
Renting an EV to visit Champagne
If you don’t own an EV, you can rent one in Paris, which is easily accessible by train from most big European cities. The looks may be a bit old-school, but there’s no better website for finding the best train journeys in Europe than seat61.com.
Car rental company Sixt offers many EVs for rent in Paris, such as the new Fiat500e (which we love the look of!), the VW ID4 and the Tesla Model Y. For current pricing, check the website, but note that renting an EV doesn’t have to be super expensive. When we searched for options for Spring 2023, renting a Fiat500e starts at just €65 per day. Charging won’t cost you much either, because from Paris, it’s just a 1.5 hour drive to Reims.
If you’d like to rent an electric campervan, this is a great option, too! Rental company Goboony offers over a dozen options with a pickup in the Netherlands and rental company Quirky Campers offers several options with a pickup in the UK. These rentals are a bit more expensive, starting from about €110 per day, but remember that you’ll be able to save loads on accommodation costs.
So there you have it! Our EV travel guide to Champagne. We hope you found it useful. We’re planning to return to Champagne for what will be our third visit in the coming year, so if we have any new tips to share, we’ll be sure to update this guide.