The beauty of visiting Champagne is that it’s literally two steps from Paris. You can take the 40-minute TGV train from Paris Est or like I did the 1 hour 15 minute regional train (since I have a Eurail pass it means I don’t have to pay for a reservation on the regional trains unlike the TGV’s). I prefer train travel as that way no one has to worry about driving at all.
The thing with Champagne, especially if you’re visiting later in the year like myself (mid-November) is that the best thing is to be organized. It pays to contact the houses ahead of time to secure a reservation for a tour and/or tasting.
I came across the house of Achille Princier by luck and I am thanking my lucky stars that I did. They are about a 10-minute walk from the station in Epernay, just up the road from Moët & Chandon. Actually the funny thing is that when they were digging their tunnels they just about dug into the Champagne house of Moët!
Pascale was our lovely host when we reached the house at 9:30am. She firstly explained the tasting options -tour and 1 tasting is 6€/pers and 8€50 with 2 tasting’s. Since this was a holiday I thought why not, let’s go for two. Pascale then went on to explain the tour; it begins with an 11-minute video on the Champagne of region. Once you have finished watching you are then allowed to explore the cellars on your own “self-guided” tour. Pascale explained to us the history of the caves and what to look out for so that we wouldn’t miss anything.
There is definitely something romantic about descending into an underground cave full of Champagne. Of course I was lost in all the romanticism of it while my boyfriend was far more enjoying the history of the place. The AP caves date back to the 17th century and it was these caves that were used as a hospital during WW1. Then in WW11 these caves sheltered German soldiers, you can still see dates, names, swastika and even a portrait of Hitler himself carved into the chalk. I have never been a fan of these ‘self-guided’ tours but I have to admit I really enjoyed it at AP – it gave you time to really take in the surroundings without a ton of tourists chattering away. Also Pascale was on hand after we emerged to answer any questions we may have had.
The tasting is held in the shop area (nice and warm compared to the cellars!) where Pascale explained to us a bit more about AP. The owner – Gilles Mansard – has 24ha of grapes in Champagne however he only uses 5ha of those for his Champagne, selling the rest of the grapes off. Therefore AP produces a mere 15,000 bottles per year, which is a small number in the Champagne realm. The house is family owned and takes pride in making excellently made cuvées at great prices.
Here is what I thought:
1. Grand Tradition (1/3 of each Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier & Pinot Noir).
Fresh bakery notes on the nose followed by a surprisingly refreshing citrus palate with notes of freshly cut pineapple. Fantastic bubble stream.
14,00€ per bottle
2. Brut Rosé
Sherbet strawberries on the nose with tart cranberry and raspberry on the palate.
17,00€ per bottle
3. Cuvée Grand Art (50% of both Chardonnay & Pinot Noir)
Very bready on the nose followed by a lovely biscotti and citrus palate. Great oomph but incredibly refreshing. You can definitely tell it’s the big sister to their Grande Tradition.
19,00€ per bottle
The tour, the Champagnes and the people at AP are truly wonderful and I would highly suggest to skip on the overpriced Moët tasting and instead head up the road to this little gem.
For more details on tours and the house itself, please click here.