The Champagne Wine Route criss-crosses the vineyards from the Seine-et-Marne to the Aube and takes us to meet the sculptors of bubbles. Let's travel together through the Champagne region, which gives sparkling wine its letters of nobility, namely the modesty of the craftsmen and the gentle way of life of the region. Notice to champagne lovers!
An exceptional vineyard and a tourist route
Spread over five departments - Marne, Seine-et-Marne, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Aube - the Champagne vineyards cover 32,000 hectares of AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). The Champagne tourist route covers about 600 kilometres through several circuits that criss-cross the vineyards, saluting the heritage of each region along the way. The first vines were planted on these lands in Gallo-Roman times and until the 17th century. They produced a very pleasant grey wine that was only kept in the bottle, hence the natural production of sparkling wine. One man decided to develop this fermentation effect into a winemaking technique, a Benedictine monk from the Abbey of Hautvillers, now known worldwide as Dom Pérignon! He established the main principles of champagne, starting with its grape varieties. Only three vines are used to make champagne: pinot noir, pinot meunier (two red grapes) and chardonnay (white grape). All combinations are possible within this trio, which gives an unsuspected panel of champagnes
Reims and its Mountain
Reims is worth a stopover of a day or two to enjoy its Unesco listed heritage and stroll through its Art Deco skirts embroidered after the rubble of the First World War. The impressive Notre-Dame de Reims and its immense blue stained glass windows, notably signed by Chagall, are also worth a visit
You will find the great champagne houses concentrated in the Champ-de-Mars district. Under your feet, there are more than 120 kilometers of galleries that house hundreds of millions of bottles of illustrious houses such as Mumm, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin ... The specificity of the place lies in its pits dug in the past by the Romans to extract the stone. Reaching up to 38 metres in height, its natural cellars are a good introduction to understanding champagne wines. Then, we set sail towards Gueux for a journey through charming Champagne villages such as Sacy, Rilly-la-Montagne and Chigny-les-Roses marked by the memory of Madame Pommery and her rose garden... By small roads, between plains and vineyards, we continue to Bouzy, famous for its red wine which thanks the pinot noir for its amazing tannins. The greatest houses also work on its land: Bollinger, Duval-Leroy, Moët & Chandon, Mumm, Pol Roger, Taittinger and Herbert Beaufort. We then stop in Verzenay to visit the Vine Museum. Passing Louvois, we head for Avenay-Val-d'Or, Mareuil-sur-Ay and finally the noble village of Ay, whose champagne has been appreciated for centuries by the great and the good
Épernay and the Marne Valley
Since its foundation in the 5th century, the town of Épernay has known some sad episodes. It has kept only a few vestiges: the Saint-Martin gate, the façade of Louise de Savoie's house and some very beautiful 19th century town houses. The most famous heritage of Épernay remains the majestic Avenue de Champagne, the district of the Grandes Maisons du Champagne. Classified in 1994 among the 100 remarkable sites of the taste in France, this avenue is lined with many buildings of the XIXth century with their Renaissance frontage. Under the paved ground lie millions of bottles of champagne stored along 100 kilometres of underground galleries..
Leaving Épernay on the RN51 in the direction of Reims, one religiously enters the kingdom of the Pinot Meunier grape which gives champagne its fruity aromas. A few kilometres and you reach Hautvillers, a sacred land if ever there was one, since it was here that Dom Pérignon renovated the techniques for making the famous beverage. You then pass through a string of Champagne villages such as Cumières and Mutigny, the latter offering a 2.2 kilometre trail to discover the working methods of the Champagne winegrowers. Next come Venteuil and Châtillon-sur-Marne, dominated by the impressive statue of Eudes de Lagery. A little further on, on the banks of the Marne, Dormans preserves the memorial of the Battles of the Marne. Finally, we will stop at Œuilly, a village from another century.
Côte des Blancs and Sézannais
From Épernay, we take the direction of Pierry and Cuis. You will then arrive just opposite the Côte des Blancs, the region of champagnes made only from the Chardonnay grape. It is possible to find blanc de blancs from other regions but it is here that they are traditionally made since we are on land that is 95% chardonnay. We appreciate the white of white for its fresh and delicate taste perfumed by notes of citrus fruits and white flowers. We will pass successively by villages classified "Premier and Grand Cru": Cramant, Avize and Oger, adorable villages with flowers, refreshed by many wash houses and fountains. Going down further south, we reach Vertus, which closes the route des blancs de blanc, at the foot of the Sézanne hillsides. After Bergères-les-Vertus, you reach the charming village of Sézanne. The market hall dating from the Middle Ages, the Gothic church of Saint-Denis, the praetorium, the mill, the wash house: each monument tells a chapter of history. A stop in the forest of Barbonne-Fayel, a little shopping in the ceramic and earthenware workshops in Villenauxe-la-Grande... and you can already think of the Côte des Bar.
Troyes and the Côte des Bar
Troyes had its moment of glory in the 12th century thanks to its fairs which attracted all the merchants of the West. The flourishing seat of the Counts of Champagne has preserved many vestiges, such as the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral and the Saint-Jean quarter
About ten kilometres away, the Côte des Bar begins, which benefits from the same soil as Champagne, but a much milder climate. The vineyards of the Côte des Bar extend from the Barsecan country to the Baralbin country (Bar-sur-Aube) and are classified as AOC Champagne. We start with Les Riceys, which holds three AOCs: champagne, coteaux champenois and the famous rosé des Riceys. Then you have to go back to Bar-sur-Seine and Celles-sur-Ource, where you will find the highest proportion of harvesters and handlers in the whole Champagne region. On the road, you will come across some intriguing stone huts, the cadoles: the lodges of the Champagne vineyards which were used as shelters by the winegrowers. To visit in the vicinity: the castle of Bligny, a castle AOC which houses an eco-museum and vats vinified in cellars dug by the Marquis of Dampierre. Lovers of Drappier champagne will melt when they see the sign "Urville", home of General De Gaulle's favourite champagne, who lived not far away, in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. Bayel, "the city of crystal", is on the way. In reverence to this magnificent journey, we end at the Abbey of Clairvaux where the first vines of the most famous wine in the world were planted..
When is it served? Champagne can be enjoyed all year round, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day! The best time to enjoy it is during the harvest, between the end of August and October
How to get there. By car or by train. From Paris-Gare de l'Est, you can reach Épernay (1h10) and Troyes (1h20) by TER. For Reims, by taking the TGV, the journey takes only 45 minutes!
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