Best Villages in Umbria
There are many ways you can describe the region of Umbria : beautiful, historic, lush, verdant, mysterious. The list goes on.Read more
When you think of luxury, decadence and sophistication, your mind will wander to the Champagne wine region. A land of ancient vineyards, innovative winemaking practices, and a culture utterly devoted to sparkling wine, Champagne is one of our favourite places in France. With a long history that stretches back to before even Charlemagne, the vineyards here have managed to capture the attention of Europe’s most powerful figures for over a thousand years. Read on to discover what makes the Champagne vineyards so special.
Located just northeast of Paris, the Champagne region’s proximity to the capital has been one of its greatest boons. With such a short journey to travel, many a noble and aristocratic Parisian in history has made Champagne their premier wine supplier. This keen interest has fuelled generations of winemaking innovation, with many practices and wine qualities unique to the region.
Another unique aspect of the region, and the reason for its fantastic sparkling wine, is the large chalk vein that runs through Champagne. The soil beneath the vines creates a high-acidity grape, rich in juice and perfect for the secondary fermentation process that creates the bubbles. It was in the town of Aÿ where the centre of Champagne production has historically been. This was thanks in part to Pope Urban III, a Champagne native, who declared Aÿ the centre of the universe when it came to all things wine. For the next thousand years, the statement remained true, with the towns of Aÿ, Hautvillers, Epernay, and Reims boasting some of the best sparkling wines in the world.
A centuries-old rivalry with Burgundy resulted in Champagne specialising in sparkling whites, an almost opposite wine to Burgundy reds. The rivalry fuelled even more innovation in both wine regions. With the arrival of the great Champagne Houses in the 17th and 18th centuries, Champagne was already a household name amongst Europe’s elite.
Champagne has unique qualities that make it one of the most well-known and luxurious wines in France. When drinking a glass, you’re first met with the perfect amount of bubbles which is no accident, for the winemakers here have perfected every aspect of the wine. Next, you’ll experience a soft, creamy and mellow quality amongst the higher calibre Champagne in the wine region. A rule amongst the winemakers is that this sparkling white cannot be ‘loud’, with tight bubbles and a crisp taste. Across the region, you’ll come across crayères; these are chalk wine cellars often carved out of the bedrock where the Champagne undergoes its second fermentation process to achieve those bubbles.
When exploring the Champagne wine region, it’s important to visit the main sites of wine production. Reims is the cultural capital of the region, serving as the coronation site of French royalty for a thousand years. The city is home to some of the most famous Champagne Houses in the region, including Ruinart which boasts the largest crayère in France. This wine cellar is so large, the government declared that it should be a national monument.
Using predominantly Chardonnay grapes, Ruinart makes sure their vineyards grow on different terroirs where the grapes develop with different characteristics. This is all so that their wines boast complimentary and complex notes, creating that typical smooth and mellow taste in delicious Champagnes. Enjoy a glass with a biscuit de Reims on our indulgent cycling tour, A Taste of Champagne.
As mentioned earlier, Aÿ has historically been the centre of production amongst the Champagne vineyards. On day 2 of our Leisurely Cycling in Champagne tour, you’ll have the chance to visit here and learn all about how this town has shaped the drink we know and love today. If you’re searching for a break in tradition, however, then a tasting at Roger Brun Champagne House is very recommended. One of their most popular wines is the ‘Romance’ sparkling rosé.
One often thinks of that classic, golden colour when it comes to Champagne, but sparkling rosé is gaining in popularity, especially as a celebratory drink. At Roger Brun, expect a crystalline glass of pure sunset, teasing notes of raspberry and strawberry that transport you to warm summer evenings. The Champagne House says their rosé is best enjoyed either with a light starter, such as pâté, or a dessert like strawberry cake. This is to either compliment the subtle berry notes or bring the sweetness out.
The most prestigious and luxurious Champagne would have to be Dom Pérignon. A monk from Hautvillers, Dom Pérignon pioneered many of the modern winemaking traditions still in use today. Most importantly, he was the first to blend grapes in order to complement and balance elements to create truly delicious wines. With such a famous namesake, Dom Pérignon lives up to its reputation, recognised today as the best Champagne internationally. In a vintage wine, all the grapes used to make the wine are harvested from the same year’s vines. With over 43 vintages, the brand sets exceptional precedence, where two vintage years in a row is typically seen as a rare event. As such, boasting 43 vintage years is almost myth-levels of phenomenal.
If you’re looking for more of a hidden gem of a Champagne House, then G. Tribaut is worth a visit. Found in Dom Pérignon's hometown of Hautvillers, this family-run vineyard has a passion for all things wine. Founded in the 1930s, the estate is now run by a brother and sister who carry on the family legacy. The Champagnes found here are deliciously rich and wonderfully traditional. You’ll even find Dom Pérignon himself making an appearance on the bottles, highlighting the family’s reverence for the wine traditions. Both our Champagne cycling tours visit the town, so keep an eye out for G. Tribaut if you’re looking for a tasting.
For more recommendations about wine regions cycling holidays, give us a call on 020 3918 7841, or alternatively, view our Champagne cycling holidays here.
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