Cellars in Epernay © Giulio Nepi
Epernay, along with Reims, is one of the great centres of champagne production; dug into the chalk beneath the town are more than 200 miles (322km) of cellars and tunnels containing champagne from the surrounding area, including such great brands as Moët et Chandon, Pol Roger, Mercier, and de Castellane. Sadly, as Epernay did not fare well in several wars over the centuries, few old buildings remain in the town despite its rich history. In the central and oldest quarter of the town, the streets are narrow and irregular and one can feel the age of the place, but apart from one church which retains some features from the 16th century the buildings are modern. Generally the surrounding suburbs are modern and spacious but the many opulent villas belonging to rich wine merchants lend an air of sophistication to the town. However, the main reason people flock to Epernay is to visit the great champagne houses and the lack of ancient architecture doesn't deter many. Both Moët et Chandon - the world's largest producer of bubbly - and Mercier give guided tours of their cellars, in English, throughout the day. They are situated near each other on Avenue de Champagne. Castellane also has daily tours from March to December.