Basnayaka discovers that sampling the liquid gold is only
the start of the adventure!
a champagne cork.
Troyes is the core of the Aube region, the gateway to the
Cóte des Bar Champagne route and the rest of the region.
The city is also famous for its half timbered houses and stained
glass window churches from the 16th century. Meander through
the quaint cobbled streets to soak up the history and you
will notice shop signs such as a cat wearing glasses. This
shows that the street is Cat Alley and the shop is an optician!
You could then stop off at one of the many local bars for
the renowned cider of Troyes (cidre du pays d’Othe)
and cheese (Chaource).
fromagerie de Chaource, private champagne houses,
half-timbered houses, extreme sports and great food
are just some of the many qualities on offer at
Aube en Champagne. I was excited to sample and explore
the making one of the worlds’ most prestigious
drinks, and eager to try some great regional food.
I was particularly intrigued to try the Rosé
des Riceys; especially as only true connoisseurs
are aware of its existence and very few have tasted
at the medieval city of Troyes after a relaxing
and quick journey on the French TGV, I discover
that the city is aptly shaped as
You cannot visit Troyes without stopping by the Chaource
cheese factory. The cheese is made from full fat
cow’s milk and its lineage dates back to the
Chaource is firm creamy and slightly salty. For a
small city, Troyes has its fair share of high end
restaurants.Le Valentino is one of these.
manages to combine traditional features with modern elegance.
Though an intimate restaurant you still feel as if you are
in a private area. The presentation of the food was immaculate
and beautiful. The staff are very attentive.
During my stay in Troyes I stayed at the Hôtel
Clarion Collection Saint Jean. It is a centrally located
25 room hotel. The staff are friendly and happy to help.
They provide free weekday newspapers and wireless internet
access. The décor seemed to be in keeping with the
medieval city as the style was very dated.
Troyes has a rich textiles history and this is still evident
in the number of factories they have. The good news is that
they have a large selection of branded discount outlets.
There really is something for everyone.
The Champagne Route
From Troyes the drive towards the champagne route takes
about an hour. The champagne route is pleasant drive and
you are accompanied by fields of bright yellow rapeseed,
vineyards and hill after hill after hill. The villages you
come upon are quaint and picturesque.
Les Riceys is an absolute must on the Champagne route. Les
Riceys boasts to having three Appelation d’Origine
Contrôlée (AOC): the Rosé des Riceys,
Champagne and Côteaux Champenios. The production of
Rosé des Riceyss is the most controlled in France,
so much so that it is not even produced every year. This
is because they only use the ripest grapes grown on the
steepest and sunniest hillsides. The grapes are aged in
Oak casks for a year which contributes to the delicate bouquet
of wild flowers, violets and hazelnuts. The rosé
champagne uses a single grape variety (pinot nóir),
whereas other champagnes tend to use a blend (Pinot Nóir,
Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay). The Riceys region is made
up of family run vineyards, and what is unique about this
area is that they can only use the grapes from their appellation.
What is good to note is that the recession hasn’t
affected the producers in the Riceys region. The Riceys
region’s clientele are predominantly small purchasers.
The Grandes Marques brands such as Moët et Chandon
and Pommery only produce 15 percent of the total Champagne
but hold 70% of global exportation. In fact it seems it
is the age old worry of whether this year’s harvest
is going to be a good one still remains.
One of the Riceys champagne houses I visited was Champagne
Guy de Forez. A very informative tour in English was given
by Elisabeth (who had a fantastic Irish accent and used
Irish colloquialisms). Also, a couple of their bottles have
been entered into Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2010. www.champagneguydeforez.com
Photo Credit: Atelier_TrinitÃ©_Photo_Didier_Guy_CDT_Aube
Drappier Champagne House dates back to the 12th
century where the impressive vaulted cellars were
built by the Cistercian monks of Clairvaux. They produce
champagne on a grand scale, producing 12 varieties
and having an output of over a million bottles a year.
Drappier also boasts the title of being the only champagne
house to make the largest bottle of champagne; the
Melchizedec which holds 30 litres of champagne.
family are truly passionate about champagne and though they
are a large champagne house and they still manage to maintain
a close knit family atmosphere exuding warmth and humour.
When walking through the doors of the Drappier house you
are always welcomed as friend and whenever possible the
7th & 8th generation of the house will stop for a quick
hello and chat.
Extensive tours and tastings are given in English. www.champagne-drappier.com
Photo credit: Atelier_TrinitÃ©_Photo_Didier_Guy_CDT_Aube
you have experienced the grandeur of the Drappier
House it is good comparison to visit a smaller vineyard
such Ricardot, where the owner is passionate about
the harvests and is still a true farmer at heart.
Driving up to the vineyard you are welcomed into a
half- timbered house by the owners which is modern
and stylish inside. Having just come in from the rain
the open log fire was very inviting.
Its lovely to experience a smaller
family run vineyard like Ricardot where the latest generation
of the family is so passionate about grapes. Monsieur Ricardot
explained that he did not want to expand as he wanted to
stay as near to the earth as possible. As much as possible
pesticides and chemicals are not used. You cannot call the
champagne organic as chemicals are needed as and when, but
it is always kept to a minimum. As well as providing tours
of the production plant and vineyards, Ricardot also provide
picnic lunches in the vineyard in order for visitors to
appreciate the beautiful panoramic views of the countryside.
It is advisable to book your visit to a champagne
house in advance. Tours range from free to priced depending
on the experience.
de Foolz - Bourguignons
you drive into Le Domain de Foolz you are welcomed
by a small group of animals to your right and 10 beautifully
situated chalets alongside the La Seine to your left;
its an area where which feels peaceful. Even though
quite a few of the chalets were booked it felt like
you were the only one there enjoying the La Seine
rushing past in the early evening.
are furnished to a rustic high spec. I thought it funny
that the toiletries were all vegetarian based, this keeps
with the environmentally friendly surroundings but when
anything French comes to mind, vegetarian does not! There
is also an indoor swimming pool and sauna.
Le Marius is in the centre of the Les Riceys village and
comprises of four buildings dating back to the 16th &
17th century, which is connected by a staircase and is considered
a local work of art. There are eleven bedrooms and three
suites. Each room is spacious and traditional showing off
timbered ceilings, exposed stonework and decorative a fireplace.
The bathroom is also spacious, clean and hold all amenities
expected. Above all the service was impeccable. The staff
are extremely friendly and attentive.
The breakfast room on the first floor is stylish in simple
neutral colours and serves the standard continental breakfast.
If you are after a cooked breakfast, eggs are available
from 830am. Having my breakfast in the bright simple room
and watching the villagers starting their day was a lovely
start to my morning
Again the service in the Le Marius restaurant was faultless. English
menus and explanations of regional dishes were offered.
A champagne produced by the owners of the hotel is also
available and a nice touch. Having finished the delicious
meal we were offered a digestif. Not wanting to stay in
the restaurant we were able to have drinks in the ground
floor salon where the staff kindly tended bar until we were
ready to go to bed.
Things to do in Aube
Quad biking/Off Road Driving
The quadbiking unequivocally matched the best champagne
experience. I have been quadbiking a couple of times before
and was expecting the usual guided tour around a smallish
area or a circuit. My expectations were truly surpassed.
The tour is tailored according to your skill and our guide
judged ours well. On our two and a half journey our speed
gradually increased further and further, and we travelled
through villages, vineyards and stunning forests. The panoramic
views of the La Cote des Bars Vineyard are beautiful.
Champagne Festival - 24-25 July 2010
Every year villages in the region take it in turn to host
the Champagne Route Festival. For an extremely reasonable
8 Euros you purchase a champagne flute which comes with
a 20 page brochure providing information on the featured
champagne houses, and most importantly vouchers to fill
your flute with a free glass of champagne at each house.
As well as around 30 cellars opening their doors to the
public, street entertainment, exhibitions and gourmet dinner
can be experienced as well. Every year the festival is extremely
popular and accommodation in the surrounding villages have
been known to be fully booked up to 9 months in advance.
Thoughts to finding accommodation once there is advised
Abbey is a Cisterian abbey founded at the beginning
of the 12 century. It has gone through many change
over the centuries. Clairvaux Abbey started out as
a monastic abbey where monk lived in silence to one
then of ostentation and finally it transformed into
a working prison, which was functioning until the
early 1970’'s. Today there is actually a working
prison adjacent to the abbey holding up to
150 prisoners. Walking through the old abbey conjours up scenes from an old movies and you can imagine a guard watching from the high watch tower as prisoners
the exercise yard.
Des Renoir (All about the Renoirs)
Due to open September 2010
Renoir’s wife was from Essoyes who went to Paris to
work as a seamstress. She met Renoir, became Renoir’s
model and then his wife. He lived there for a short while
and had a studio there. He fell in love with the area and
many of his paintings are of the local girls and use the
surrounding scenery. It now belongs to his great-granddaughter
Sophie who used it as a holiday home. The village of Essoyes
is getting ready to transform and show how the village played
a part in Renoir’s life and painting. There will be
exhibitions and personal effects on show. www.renoir-aube-champagne.com
Champagne Jargon – need to know facts
• Made from three types of grapes;
Pinot Noir – a black grape which has an aroma of red
fruit, strength and body
Pinot Meunier – a black grape which makes for “well
Chardonnay – a white grape which gives finesse and
favours lengthy storage because of it aroma and freshness
• Brut is the amount of sugar which goes into a Champagne
• Cuvee – the blend of grapes
• Appellation – The protected title under which
wine can be sold and tells you where the grapes are from.
Driving from Paris – 1 hr
Driving from Reims via A26 motorway – 1 hour
From London via Paris
Eurostar & TGV (french high speed train) - 4 hours