The place:

A real curiosity, this -the drive to the house takes you past a 35m-tall statue of Pope Urban II, whose armpit makes a novel, entertaining lookout point for youngsters. The colourful estate, with its map of the region made entirely of plants, sets the fun tone for the cellar tour. Here you’ll learn about methods used in the pressing and fermenting rooms. The Charliers are among the only families who still ferment their wines inside foudres – oak barrels big enough to hold the equivalent of 500 cases-worth. Children love climbing into the furnished showpiece foudre, and there’s a display of M Charlier’s old agricultural tools.

The tasting:

Grown-ups get to sample two of Charlier’s six champagnes and a Ratafia (£9), made from fresh grape juice and eau-de-vie. Infused by the oaky barrels, bottles such as the Carte Noire (£12) have a fruity edge with a woody finish. The plum-pink Rose Prestige Brut (£12) is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes, which have body aplenty for meat dishes.

The lowdown:

Champagne Charlier & Fils lies 20km west of Epernay on the N3, D1 and D23 (4 Rue des Pervenches, 51700 Montigny-sous-Chatillon; 00 33 326 583518, Free visits and tastings by reservation only (closed September harvest). Sleep in the 17th-century Chateau des Etoges with its moat, gastronomic restaurant and play area (00 33 326 593008, www.chateau-etoges. com). Doubles start at £126, room only.