For every major Champagne House in the region, there are many smaller producers, eking their living out of their own vineyards, and competing with the global brands. There are many Champagne houses in Epernay, and we had a fantastic time at the Moët and Chandon Champagne House, sampling their bubbles and touring the amazing caves. It was, however, the experiences we had with people like Denis Frezier that will stick with us forever. They are one of the best small champagne houses in Epernay, in my opinion, for a variety of reasons.
Our visit back to Epernay brought back memories of our stay here three and a half years ago. A time, when we visited here with my brother and sister-in-law. We were both in motorhomes and we had a hankering for the French Champagne region.
Our love for Denis Frezier started back in 2012
It was March back then, so a completely different season to what it is now. It was freezing. The harvest of August/September (the previous year) was long gone, and the vineyards were now bare. Pruned back in preparation for the new years growth.
As we had allocated plenty of time to visit Epernay the next day, we headed for the hills in search of some smaller Champagne Houses.
Climbing the small roads that wound their way through the hills, we were afforded a tremendous view of the surrounding countryside and the vineyards. Again, at this time of year, it’s not as pretty, but you can visualise the grape vines, clinging to the wire overhead. Someday, we shall return here, so that we may see these hills in all their glory.
Taking over the village of Monthelon
Not a person stirred? Not a car drove by. It was just the brisk breeze blowing through the narrow streets and through our bones. We were in Monthelon, and having parked up the motorhome, we thought we would walk to a few places for some wine tasting. But no-one was open. Did anyone actually live here? Work here? Where were they all?
Have you ever had an entire village to yourself?
As we approached the smaller Champagne Houses, we kept poking our faces into their driveways and shopfronts, but this day was looking more and more like we would have to head back into Epernay if we wanted to taste some of the local’s finest.
But, whilst the absence of people (and Champagne) was unusual, the ability to quite literally walk all over this village was too good to pass up.
Stunning little gardens like this pop up everywhere too.
When there’s no-one around, it’s easy to fool around and have a bit of fun.
One of the best small champagne houses in Epernay
Sometimes, in this fiercely competitive world we live in, we can be drawn towards a product or a service, by pure coincidence. As we were just about to finish our circumnavigation of Monthelon, I poked my face into one last Champagne House, hoping that we mind find someone there. Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong….the bells were going ballistic. I jumped back in fright, not really comprehending what was happening. Of course, it’s a door bell of sorts and by placing my head over the property line, I had triggered it.
In a rush, a woman came to the door and started yelling (excitedly) at us in French. We figured she was welcoming us so in we went. After all, one does work up quite a thirst walking all over a village.
Soon, we were downstairs, in another cave-like environment, and communicating in a very haphazard way with our host, Mrs Frezier. What an absolute delight to be able to sit around a wine barrel, taking in the smells of the champagne and the grapes, whilst trying to decide what we would like to taste.
You see, it is when you get the time, in a small group, to chat directly to the owners, where the real learnings take place. Whilst only a very small producer (15-25,000 bottles per annum), they have quite an assortment. For those(like me) who have a dry palette, the Bruts, extra Bruts and Brut Blanc de Blancs are my favourite. For my sister-in-law, a much sweeter version of me, there’s the Brut Rose and the Demi-Sec. Quite honestly, there’s something for everyone.
We take our time, talking to Mrs Frezier and working our way through the bottles of bubbles. She was very pleased when her efforts paid off, with both of us buying half a dozen bottles upon our departure.
Fast forward to the second visit
Upon returning to Epernay, we couldn’t wait to get up the hill to visit Monthelon once more, and to stock up on our favourite regional Champagne. Nothing much had changed in this sleepy village, but at least this time, there was some sign of life.
It is however greener, with the vines all still firmly attached to each other and showing no signs of having been pruned. The scenery as we climbed the hill was glorious.
We weren’t able to reunite with Mrs Frezier. With her children now taking a more active role in the business, we got to spend some time with her son Sebastian’s girlfriend. Of course last time, we had such good fun there, tasting all the Champagnes that we forgot which ones we actually bought. Back then, Mrs Frezier just wrote everything down on paper, so our details weren’t in their new computer system. So, we just had to taste our way around the bottles once more. Not a bad problem to have!
Not too much has changed down here either. Even the wine barrel where we do the tastings is still in the same place. It’s still definitely one of the best small champagne houses to visit in the area.
Because of the amazing English spoken by our host, we were able to learn much more this time about the origins of this Champagne House. The original owner was Mr Frezier’s Father, who had a successful vineyard prior to the War but then was sent away to fight. His son (Mr Frezier) later took control and rebuilt the business into what it is today. They do not export, as they are way too small for that, which is such a shame as I think I would be their number one buyer!
Instead, we bought another half a dozen bottles of their Blanc de Blancs, which I have now decided is my favourite. Oh, we shall have such a wonderful time drinking these of an afternoon as we move into our final week of our six week journey in the motorhome.
As always, nothing suffers because we are travelling in this way. Motorhomes were made for pulling up in beautiful locations so that we can drink beautiful French Champagne.
We did decide to have a bit more fun however, and recreate some of the scenes we were all part of on the last trip. You’ll notice some similarities here, although there are less of us this time, and we’re a little older :)
Staying at France Passion
Yay! Being back out in the French countryside means that we have a plethora of options for staying in some amazing locations.
As the weather has turned a little ordinary, we make the decision to drive out of the Epernay region and towards Paris, our next destination. An hour or so of driving takes us through some more beautiful little villages, along the Route de Champagne.
Now I’ve eaten a serious amount of French baguettes in my time. We even make them at home. But, hands down, the winner of the best baguette we have ever eaten in all of France, goes to Sandrine and David LeBrun from the Boulangerie at Montmort-Lucy. If it wasn’t so out of the way, this is THE place I would be heading back to over and over again. Their patisserie items aren’t bad either :)
Because we were heading for a France Passion site tonight (and they don’t have services), we pulled up at a brand new Aire de Service in Vertus. For all my complaining about Aires in France that don’t work, or won’t accept my credit card, or we can’t find tokens, this one ticked every box.
A brand new, hard surface to park up on, and a machine that takes credit cards directly, without fuss. Something that seems to be so hard for some towns to get right, is made perfectly simple by the town of Vertus.
So simple in fact that I had time to pose for a photo in the middle of the road, and enjoy a glass of bubbles. (I wasn’t driving)
We arrived at our France Passion location for the night and found it was only us. It was now definitely time to wind down and have a nice cold glass of the Denis Frezier Champagne, from our favourite local Champagne region producer. Here’s to the little guys!
France Passion review
Rue du Plessis 12
51130 Villeneuve Renneville Chevigny
N 48.91282, E 4.05532
N 48°54’46”, E 4°03’19”
- Contrary to what I said earlier (and contrary to what is usual France Passion facilities), this place offered electricity, wifi and water, for a small charge. I have to say that I think this is the way of France Passion, and the network will become broader as a result. I don’t think any motorhome traveller will mind paying a few euros for services, like they would if they were at an Aire de Service.
- Free to stay overnight if you are not using any services.
- Dogs allowed.
- Extremely quiet, off a small road so no traffic noise.
- Hard stand for motorhomes.
- Grassed areas for putting out table and chairs.
- Maximum stay 48 hours.
- Good external lighting.
- Champagne is able to be bought on site.