by Paige DonnerArticle first published as Route du Champagne on Technorati.
Every year for a weekend in summer, champagne houses along the Côte des Bar open their doors and welcome visitors for champagne tastings, cellar visits, art exhibits and live music acts.
The catch? Get this – not only is there NO catch, but to drink your fill of fine French champagne straight from the vineyards costs you a whopping 15 Euros – TOTAL.
Yep. Nope. Not a misprint. Each year a certain part of the Côte des Bar, which is the champagne growing-producing region closest to Troyes, the southernmost major town in the region of Champagne, France, swing open their doors for an entire weekend of festivities. During the weekend of La Route du Champagne they welcome tens of thousands of visitors to taste their champagnes and enjoy the exquisite Côte des Bar landscape. They even elect a Miss Champagne, a young maiden from one of the nearby villages, to officiate at some of the tastings.
To participate in the tastings along the Route du Champagne you must purchase the specially designated champagne flute glass, this year printed with the “La Route du Champagne en Fete! 2012” slogan. That flute of champagne costs you 15 Euros. Once. And with that, this year, you had over 20 champagne houses and producers and even a Champagne Château – Château de Bligny – where you could get your fill of champagne. Of course, proper etiquette means that you either spit or designate a driver. But with all the impressive art exhibits, the festive decorations along these pictoral and picturesque small country roads and the live music – well, this weekend of champagne tasting was more like a celebration of summer and bubbly all wrapped into one.
One of the most surprising things about this Bar-sur-Aube region of Champagne, indeed the entire Aube region, is how different it is in terms of landscape from even the other counties in Champagne. The history of the region is that its gently sloping hills and graceful terrain was first tamed by monks, Cistercian monks to be exact. The most famous of which, in terms of champagne, was St. Bernard de Clairvaux who died in 1153. There are references all over the region to this monk who is just as famous here as Dom Perignon is in other parts of Champagne. Local legend has it that it was this Cistercian influence that rendered such a manicured and tapestried look to the rolling hillsides of Pinot Noir (dominant) and Chardonnay dotted by peacefully grazing sheep and cows.
If you want more history on the region, go to www.aube-champagne.com which is the regional tourist information site. Since this year’s weekend of La Route du Champagne is now fini, start planning for next year’s which will take place the weekend of July 27th, 28th and will focus on the Celles sur Ource geographical area of the Côte des Bar. For more information click on routeduchampagne.com. It’s best to make your plans in advance, as though this weekend may not be well-known to American or Canadian tourists, it is famous among the Europeans who are within driving distance – Belgians, Germans, Swiss – and word has it they plan their summer vacations around this weekend on their way south. Can you blame them? Many of the champagnes available during the weekend can be purchased for anywhere from 13 – 30 Euro per bottle from the producers directly. And this is where you can get those hard-to-find explosively fresh Blanc de Noir champagnes.