The ‘Côte des Bar’ Champagne route

Article from 03-07-2006

Coming from the south, you’ll approach Champagne from the Aube region, the Côte des Bar. These vineyards south of the town of Troyes form a peak, with Bar-sur-Aube at the top and a line along Bar-sur-Seine and les Riceys at the bottom. The soil is the same as the rest of Champagne. However, the climate is closer to Burgundy. Main grape variety: Pinot Noir (85% of plantings). Production: 60 million bottles of champagne.

North of the motorway: the Bar-sur-Aube area; to the south: the Bar-sur-Seine area. Let’s start there.

Leaving the motorway (exit 23), let’s head for Essoyes on the banks of the Ource, where Renoir had a holiday home and where he’s buried. The ‘Maison de la vigne’ tells us which cellars will welcome us with open arms (preferably ring first) and about ‘Champagne Ambassadors’, certain hotel-restaurants well known for their wine list. While we’re here, a quick spin around the Eco-museum telling us about work in the vineyard, making champagne and the 1911 uprising.

Let’s now head for les Riceys. 870 hectares: Les Riceys is the largest village wine area in the whole of Champagne. It’s also the only one to have three AOCs: Champagne, Coteaux-champenois and Rosé des Riceys.

Ah ha, les Riceys rosé. So rare: Louis XIV’s favorite wine produced by strict rules, in its engraved bottle like a Châteauneuf-du-pape. A village commune Appellation, a dozen producers, no more than 80,000 bottles in the best years (and not every year) yet a wine for keeping, which is rare for a rosé. Even if the cellars are more in Riceys-Haut, the village of Ricey-Bas is very pretty too.

Heading on up towards Bar-sur-Seine passing through Celles-sur-Ource, where you’ll find the biggest proportion of ‘récoltants-manipulants’ (growers/winemakers) in the whole of Champagne. In fact, the opposite of the Marne region, there are very few ‘négociants’ (who buy grapes and make their own brands) in the Aube region so the champagnes are more ‘individual’.

You can head for Château de Bligny, one of two châteaux in AOC Champagne, with its park and collection of 1000 champagne flutes - or Urville, home of Champagne Drappier, Général De Gaulle’s favorite tipple.
Colombey-les-deux-Eglises is only 25 km away; on the way you can stop at Champagne’s Cristalleries Royales.
You’ll find several reasons for a spot of meditation at Clairvaux abbey. The least of which isn’t that the first vine stocks were planted here (from Hungary), which would later give birth to Champagne.

On the way back to Paris, of course you have to stop off in Troyes, whose town centre looks like a champagne cork.
Dinner at Crieurs de Vin; andouillette AAAAA (Association of friends and fans of authentic Andouillette, a kind of sausage). To go with the meal, we’ll choose our bottle from the cellar (5 €uros corkage charge).


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