Monday, October 18, 2010

Discovering More Champagne in Hautvillers and Epernay

Every day in the Champagne region of France brings more discoveries and more breathtaking scenery (and more delicious champagne).  Day three was split between two of Champagne’s most important towns – Hautvillers and Epernay.

We left Reims first thing in the morning under the direction of our two extremely knowledgeable guides, Sarah from Reims Tourism and Anna from Atout France.  Both managed to foresee problems before they happened and translate flawlessly for the rest of us.  The only thing they couldn’t help us out with was the weather, which continued to be unseasonably cold. 

The drive to Hautvillers (pronounced “O-va-lee”) was a scenic one and it would only get better.  The town where Dom Perignon, the monk who created champagne, once lived is about a quaint and picturesque as anything you can imagine.  Michel from the Office De Tourisme took us through this village that dates back to the year 658 and is now the home to 900 inhabitants – and nearly 70 growers of wine.  Many of these small champagne houses are set up in the village, though they only do private tours and tastings.

Throughout the tour we heard quite a bit more about Dom Perignon and his discovery of “bubbles” in the wine.  While others thought they were a mistake that needed fixing, he believed he had discovered a wonderful knew way to drink wine.  To help preserve this new found drink he brought in “corks” from Spain and continued to develop champagne for his Abby for 37 years. We toured the beautiful church which houses the grave of Dom Perignon.

After we left the center of town we drove over to one of the smaller champagne producers that have not yet made their way to the United States.  Champagne Tribaut is a family business and Madame Tribaut took as through their production and caves.  It was a cross between the old and the new as I saw my first caves via elevator rather than stars, yet there is so much of the work done by hand here.   It seemed to work as their champagne – especially the award winning Rosé -- was delicious.

We left Hautvillers in the early afternoon for Epernay, the capital of the champagne region.  This is the home to major champagne houses like Moet & Chandon (owner of Dom Perignon and maker of fine champagnes under their own label), Perrier-Jouët and Paul Roger. First, we had a delicious lunch at La Brasserie Parisienne and then we passed through all of the houses on the little train, which takes you on a tram tour through the town of Epernay.  After the tour there was champagne and chocolate waiting for sampling in the tourist office where I had a satisfyingly sweet Blanc de Blanc from G. Brunot and a drier Rose from Tornay. We also tasted some scrumptious champagne-filled chocolates from Thibaut.

There were no stops at champagne houses in Epernay because our guides had something else in mind.  A new champagne bar had opened up in town.  C-Comme Champagne is a showcase of smaller growers from all of the growing areas in the Champagne region.  You can sample one (or all) of the six featured champagnes and then buy a bottle of what you like in the store below.  There are a total of 350 different champagnes.  Both the tasting and purchasing prices are very reasonable. I loved the Trepail Blanc de Blanc and really enjoyed the Pinot Noir Brut Millesime 2004 from Rilly La Montage, but I didn’t care for the 100% Pinot Meunir Sarcy.

After checking into the charming Hotel Jean Moet, a new bed and breakfast (and it was quite a breakfast) that was full of European and antique touches and a delightfully modern shower, we had dinner at La Cave A Champagne.  It was one of my favorite meals here and it included a mouthwatering Tarte Friande de Boudin Blanc de Rethel à la Crème de Morilles (a pork pudding with morel cream sauce), perfect Coq a Vin. 

It’s hard to believe that I’m not even halfway through my journey in France.  Day four proves to be especially interesting, including a new attraction in Champagne (Pre en Bulles) and a champagne bar in a treehouse!


1 comment:

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