The Abbey of Dom Perignon
If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of Épernay, let alone the small village of Hautvillers. But surely you know Champagne, even if you’ve never actually tasted the bubbly gold. Yes, Reims may be the heart of Champgane, but Épernay is the soul. This town of just over 23,000 inhabitants is the home to the glamorous Moët & Chandon, among other producers. And while Épernay is the main attraction, the surrounding hillsides offer uncompromising picturesque row after row of bright green vineyards. Like the Champagne it produces, these hills are also home to a lore befitting the regality of the bubbles they produce. One such place sits atop the Cote de Hautvillers, the restored Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Hautvillers. It was in this Benedictine Abbey that a monk by the name of Dom Perignon is said to have invented Champagne in 1670. Yes, Dom Perignon was a real person of the mid-17th century, a pious monk who is credited with stumbling upon the two-step fermentation method for making sparkling wine while being the cellar master here at Hautvillers. Today, the brand Dom Perignon is owned by Moët & Chandon, who purchased the fabled and once ruined Abbaye de Hautvillers in 2009 and painstakingly restored it over the next three years as a monument to their adopted origin story. The Abbey itself dates to the 7th Century, but the church by which the heroic Dom is buried was built in 1698. The church itself is simple, but the history and folklore that surrounds it is a must-see for any Champagne-lover.
Where to Watch
With the creation of the European Union, the Tour crossing a border isn’t what it once was. Still, anytime there’s an international boundary crossed, it’s an exciting thing to witness. I even wrote about it during my first Tour de France.
What better place to experience Champagne than the birthplace of the method itself. Check out the Abbey where Dom Perignon himself founded he bubbly and then hit the town, where there are a number of wineries to sample.
Overlooking Épernay, this small hill provides amazing panoramas of the city and surrounding hillsides as well as the last chance to see a late push to win the stage or a breakaway trying to hold on to the lead.