Fact: A bottle of Champagne pops open every 2 seconds somewhere around the world. If you’re like me, that fact conjures up a bevy of celebration images; people clinking glasses at weddings, Bat Mitzvahs, graduations, anniversaries, cheering career promotions, expanding families or new adventures. But the reality is that in France, Champagne isn’t merely reserved for momentous occasions nor is it only suitable pre and post-mealtime. This is something I came to fully understand on my recent trip to the Champagne-Ardenne region (now known as the Grand Est region, which also includes Alsace and Lorraine) where I was on assignment for Atout France last month. In fact, awareness around champagne (it pairs well with food! It’s complex!) and its aging process is still rather weak. I had a lot of ground to cover in four days but I do believe I came away with a new appreciation for Champagne the drink, and Champagne the historical and cultural destination, thanks to pairings, tastings and tours, both through the vines and through cities like Reims, Epernay, and Troyes.