The 2011 “Balade en Champagne ??? Tour : Our cup runneth o’er…

vendredi 10 juin 2011
par  Barry
popularité : 3%

The least that can be said is that we were pretty bubbly !

Fifteen people signed up for this tour of Champagne during the Easter Bank holiday. Most of them came from the UK, because many remember the “Raid Champagne ??? tours organised by the Riders’ Association of Triumph many years ago.

Thanks to the efficient intervention of our friends from the “Soupape Barsequanaise ???, we spent four fantastic days in their stronghold of Bar-sur-Seine. We were aided by absolutely splendid weather, since the Champagne region had the good fortune to be one of the only parts of France to be bathed in glorious sunshine and summery temperatures.

People who think that north of the Loire corners are rarer than sunny days are quite mistaken, and the route that our friends at the Moto Club had concocted was brimming with countless roads that wound through the vineyards and the hillsides. This is a really superb region. From villages to castles, we spent four days discovering historic places and a part of our country’s gourmet heritage.

We have become very knowledgeable about the creation of this magical wine and, although we have not developed irreproachable palates after various tasting sessions, we are nonetheless able to appreciate the flavours of this wine that is a true symbol of celebrations around the world.

We toured the Aube region, a true land of the “wine of kings ???, around the “Côtes des Bars ??? area, going from winery to winery in the picturesque villages, sampling the ancestral know-how of the master winegrowers. We were therefore able to combine the beauty of the route with the discovery of the fascinating work of enthusiastic producers who, in their vaulted wine cellars, have mastered this subtle nectar that has given these places their sparkling magic. We were able to discover the work of these artists, who expertly nuance and dose the ingredients that make the creation of champagne in the respect of the regulations of the appellation an art form by means of the harvesting, the vinification, the blending and the pressing – all words that meant little to us before the tour.

We were fortunate enough to have Olivier, Martial and Bernard, true master craftsmen who are able to detect the myriad flavours, aromas and nuances of this precious liquid, share their knowledge with us… we are in their debt.

I won’t mention the route ; I’ll just include a small map that will enable you to follow it, but you should be aware that during this tour, the amount of kilometres wasn’t as important as their quality, and on that score we were spoiled rotten.

I’ll avoid speaking about the guided tours of wineries that were always completed by a tasting session, so as not to draw the anger of the “do-gooder ??? brigade, but it should be stressed that we only broke the speed limit once in four days and that, when we rode through villages equipped with “informative ??? speed traps, the smiley face on the screens always wore a benevolent grin. We really weren’t there to dice with each other but to make the most of our time in the region ! Carpe diem, in vino veritas or even nunc est bibendum… we even learned a bit of Latin on the way !

As well as cultural and gourmet visits, we learned about the region’s history, with very interesting explanations of the area’s aristocratic past during a visit of Bligny Castle and its park, a trip into the world of the Impressionists whilst visiting Essoyes, a lovely little town built astride the River Ource, the “river with a silver reflection ??? according to its greatest admirer, the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, botanical discoveries in the charming rose garden of the Montaudon wine-press, and a look at our more recent history with a visit of the monument to Charles de Gaulle at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. There really was something in it for everyone.

We spent four truly delightful days during which we tested over and over again the goodness of a generous Mother Nature as we travelled through the rolling landscape. It was an unforgettable experience. The tour was so enjoyable that we have decided to repeat the adventure in 2013, with even more things to discover but with just as much bubbly thrown in : make your booking now !

Champagne !

We would like to extend our thanks to Champagne JEAN SANDRIN, in Celles-sur-Ource, who endorsed our tour, offering each participant a marvellous memento, and whose produce won unanimous praise from all concerned ; it just goes to show that they go it right, despite the fact that the palates were most discerning ! http://www.capsuleaube.fr/article/champagne-jean-sandrin-13.html son e-mail : sandrin.jean chez wanadoo.fr
Mention us when you contact them

As far as things Champagne-esque go, we are also most grateful to Champagnes Jean François Drouilly, in Noé-les-Mallets whose owner, a long-time motorcyclist, gave us a very warm welcome and also ensured that we rode off with a lovely memento. His is a worthwhile address, and in his range, I personally recommend the Prestige cuvee !
His email address : champagnedrouillypierre.etfils chez orange.fr . Also mention that you are calling on the recommendation of MEB !

Our thanks also go to the Power Bike dealership in Troyes, for kindly providing us with a brand-new Triumph Tiger 800 with which we led the tour ; this was a good excuse to carry out an exhaustive road test of the machine, which will complement the road test of the 800 XC version that we recently published. http://www.powerbike10.com

We cannot forget to than our host at the Domaine de Foolz, in Bourgignon, for the exceptional quality of their welcome, their services and for the preferential rates that they most kindly offered us. http://www.domainedefoolz.com

And last but not least, we extend our thanks to the “La Soupape Barsequanaise ??? Motorcycling Club, without whom this tour would not have been possible, and who provided us with a “ready-to-ride ??? route that must have taken a quite considerable amount of time to organise. http://soupapebarsequanaise.free.fr/portail/index.php

But also…

We would of course like to thank the other wineries that we were able to visit – and whose produce we tested… with moderation !
These people made us aware of the fact that champagne is not only the fruit of the sunlight, of a terroir and of man’s know-how, but that it is also the result of a lot of hard work, of a dash of originality and above all of love for this king amongst wines.
Here are some addresses.

Les Champagnes Jacques Chaput, in Arrentières, Morize, in Riceys and Chassenay d’Arce, in Ville-sur-Arce.

The tour’s little “something extra ???

This short glossary of champagne is obliged reading for people who don’t want to taste champagne blindly ; our thanks to the CDT of the Aube region for having provided it for us.
http://www.aube-champagne.com/fr/default.asp

AOC Champagne

The “Champagne ??? Appellation of Controlled Origin is located in the départements of the Aisne, the Marne, the Seine-et-Marne, the Aube and the Haute-Marne.

Aromas

The aromas of champagne are split into five families : floral, fruity, vegetal, nutty, and gourmet.

Assemblage

The art of harmoniously blending wines from various crus, grape varieties, and years.

Cork

In order to ensure an airtight fit, this is made out of cork, compressed during the bottling process and held in place by a wire cage called the “muselet ???.

Bottle

The champagne bottle, usually containing 75 centilitres, is designed to resist the high pressure created during the second fermentation.

Bottle (types of)

The quart (20cl), the half-bottle (37.5cl), the bottle (75cl), the Magnum (150cl), the Jeroboam (4l), the “Mathusalem ??? (Methuselah) (8l), the “Salmanazar ??? (12l), the “Balthazar ??? (16l), the “Primat ??? (Primate) (36l) and the “Melchizedec ??? (Melchizedek) (40 l).

Brut

At the end of the vinification process, champagnes receive a dash of sugar. Brut champagnes have the smallest dosages of sugar.

Bubbles

The bubbles contain the wine’s gas content and rise to the surface to form a slight head. A bottle of champagne usually contains some 50 million bubbles.

Grape varieties

The three varieties permitted by the Champagne AOC are the Pinot Noir, the Chardonnay and the Pinot Meunier.

Chardonnay

This is a very fine variety, with floral, and occasionally mineral, notes.

Conservation

Champagne should be kept away from light in a cool location, or in a place that does not experience substantial temperature variations. Humidity should be of the order of 70%.

Cup

The champagne cup originated during the Belle Époque. Nowadays, it has been superseded by the tulip-shaped glass, which enables the bubbles to move about, allowing the aromas to beak out.

“Coupette ???

"S’en faire une petite", (having a quick one) is a typical Champenoise expression !

Coteaux

The name given to the hillsides typical of champagne vineyards, they maximise the amount of sun received by the vines and enable excess water to drain away.

Dégorgement

This operation is done after the remuage, and consists in expelling the lees, that mainly consist of dead yeast, and that are the result of the second fermentation.

Demi-sec

At the end of the vinification process, champagnes receive a dash of sugar. The “demi-sec ??? ones have a greater dose than Bruts.

Dosage

Done after the dégorgement, this operation consists in giving the champagne a slight dose of syrup called “liqueur d’expédition ???.

Winemaker

A master of the art of Champagne.

Effervescence

The natural formation of gas bubbles that form columns of bubbles and finally a slight head at the surface of the glass.

Label

This is the bottle’s “identity card ???. It indicates the Champagne Appellation, the brand or the name of the winemaker, the dosage and the specificities of the assemblage.

Maturation

The development of the wine’s gustative qualities, linked to its aging.

Vintage

The assemblage of wines of a same year, carried out in the Champagne region if the typical nature of the harvest deserves to be magnified.

Muselet

The wire cage that encases the cork on a champagne bottle.

Origins

Already in existence during the Antiquity, Champagne wines became famous as early as the fifth century thanks to the coronation of Clovis in Reims. At the end of the 17th century, Champagnes became sparkling and gained a great popularity.

Pinot Meunier

A supple and fruity grape variety, that gives the wine its rounded notes.

Pinot Noir

A grape variety with aromas of red fruit, that gives the wine a full and powerful body.

Plénitude

The highly developed degree of maturation that gives Champagne wines their complex aromas.

Pressing

The Champenois pressing is very progressive, so as to extract only the juices that have the most discreet and subtle aromas.

Prise de mousse

The second fermentation during which the wine develops its sparkling nature.

Cooling

The ideal temperature for serving champagne is 8º C for young wines and 10º C for more evolved wines.

Remuage

This process enables the displacement of the lees created by the second fermentation towards the neck of the bottles so as to make it easier to expel them. It can be done manually (on a special rack) or mechanically on a special machine.

Rosés

Rose-tinted champagnes obtained by means of assemblage (blending) or maceration.

Soil structure

The Champenois soil structure, mainly limestone, gives the vines a constant natural irrigation.

Pruning

A manual operation that is done yearly and that consists in shortening the branches of the vines so as to balance out their vegetative activity and improve the quality of the grapes.

Taille

This term also refers to the 500 litres of must that are obtained after the extraction of the cuvee during the pressing of the pomace.

Terroir

This term refers to the geophysical and climatic characteristics, as well as the traditions that come together in a winemaking region and give the wines their specificity.

Harvest

Grapes are always harvested manually in the Champagne region, so that they arrive whole at the winepress. The harvest usually takes place during the second fortnight of September, but in recent years the climatic conditions have meant that it takes place earlier and earlier in the season (this year, it will no doubt take place during the second fortnight of August).

Ageing

This is the period of time that the wine spends in cellars to develop its gustative qualities ; the minimum period is of 15 months, and at least three years for millésimé champagnes, and much longer for special cuvees.

Vin de garde

Champagne does not need to be stocked once it has been disgorged and definitively corked. The ageing of Champagne wines takes place in cellars on the winemaker’s premises. A Champagne wine kept at home will maintain its properties for three years at most.

Vin de réserve

Non-sparkling wines from previous years kept in vats or casks so as to be assembled to create non-millésimé cuvees. Recognisable marks of a winery, they give the cuvee its style.

And above all, remember this :

“Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health. Drink with moderation.