Taking a trip down to the Aube is a worthwhile adventure, and for any wine loving traveler who is visiting both Champagne and Burgundy it is a must. From Epernay, it is about 1 & 1/2 hours trip on the A26 & A5 motorways, from Dijon in Burgundy it is the same time on the A5 & A31. On the way down from Epernay you will pass through miles and miles of France’s cow town- the production area for brie, and the hilly farms between Dijon and the Aube are equally gorgeous.
Most of the producers here feel closer to the vignerons of Burugndy than the marketing masters of Reims, and there is a tremendous amount of creative energy in the region. In the past, this was the poor part of Champagne. In fact, the harvest party in the Aube is called the “Chien”, the French word for dog, while in the Marne it is the “Cochelet”, or pig. Apparently, a pig was too valuable, even when the harvest was done, to slaughter for the party. In 1911 the producers from the Aube staged a demonstration to keep the right to grow Champagne that turned into a famous riot. Nobody has questioned them since!
The soil is very different here to the chalk of the Marne area. The Aube is mostly kimmeridgian clay, and very similar to Chablis which is just south of here. This soil lends Chablis like character to the base wines, and also makes for shallower, higher caves… This stuff is not easy to excavate! The weather is also decidedly more continental here, with colder winters and warmer summers than in the Marne. With spring frost always a threat, very little Chardonnay is grown in the area, but the warm weather in summer makes Pinot Noir reliably ripe and it is by far the most planted grape in the region. This was not always the case in the area, and lately many visionary producers have returned to planting Champagnes ancient grapes. The Aube is the place you will find the most plantations of the native Arbanne and Meslier, as well as the Champagne selections of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.
The most central base for a Champagne adventure in the town Aube is Bar-sur-Seine. I stayed four nights at a hotel just outside of that town and right next to the motorway. I found this to be a great location for getting to appointments around the Aube, and I recommend it strongly. Here is my list of places to visit in the Aube:
Le Val Moret, Rue du Maréchal Leclerc, 10110 Magnant, France Phone:+33 3 25 29 85 12, http://www.le-val-moret.com/en/: This hotel and restaurant is a great base in the Aube, and could not be more centrally located. It is under 10 minutes away from Bar-sur-Seine, one of the few towns in the area big enough to have a laundry, a couple of bakeries, restaurants and a couple super markets. It also has a quite good restaurant, with a solid list of local producers at very fair prices, as well as a reasonable selection of Burgundies. I love the “Terroir” menu of local specialties, and tried most everything on it with great pleasure. It is listed on the English website as the Local Selection menu. The rooms are simple, but very clean, spacious and comfortable. Unfortunately, internet connectivity is a problem in the whole region, and the wifi here is not much good beyond email. On vacation, I would see the lack of connectivity as a bonus! They also have a heated, indoor pool here, which unfortunately I did not have the time to enjoy, but looked fantastic! Light sleepers will rejoice in the quiet here- although the motorway is close, I heard nothing in the room.
The first wineries are in the south Aube, and if you are planning a day out tasting, would be good to group together. I think two appointments a day are plenty for fun trips… One in the late morning and one in the afternoon.
Champagne Fleury: Address: 43 Grande-Rue, 10250 Courteron, France Phone:+33 3 25 38 20 28 http://www.champagne-fleury.fr/ email@example.com : The granddaddy of biodynamics in Champagne, Fleury converted fully to organics in 1989 and has been Demeter certified since 1992. The wines here are the best of their kind, always lively, pure and full of the complexity of long lees ageing. It is worth the trip to see the giant Fouderes used for the Blanc de Noirs alone.
Champagne Fluteau: Address: 5 Rue de la Nation, 10250 Gyé-sur-Seine, France Phone:+33 3 25 38 20 02, http://www.champagnefluteau.com/?lang=en : The Fluteau’s make great Aube Champagne and have been blessed with a very large proportion of Chardonnay for the region. Thierry and Jeremy Fluteau speak perfect English- no surprise as Thierry’s wife (Jeremy’s mom) Jennifer is from Chicago!
Champagne Jean-Jacques Lamoureux: Address: 27 Rue du Général de Gaulle, 10340 Les Riceys, France Phone:+33 3 25 29 11 55 http://www.champagne-jeanjacques-lamoureux.com/gb/ firstname.lastname@example.org : Any trip to the Aube would be incomplete without a visit to Les Riceys, just 3 miles from the boarder of Burgundy. The edge of Champagne is not just famous for bubbles, but also for a still wine called Rose des Riceys, certainly the most ageable and complex of all still roses. Vivien Lamoureux makes great, fruit driven, Pinot Noir dominated Champagne primarily, along with some great specialties like his wood fermented trilogie.
Champagne Jean Josselin: 14 Rue des Vannes, 10250 Gyé-sur-Seine, France, +33 3 25 38 21 48, http://www.champagnejeanjosselin.fr/index.php?lang=en email@example.com Jean-Felix Josselin is making the most transparent, terroir driven, kimmeridgian flavored wines in the area. They have finesse and texture that is all Champagne, but a range of flavors that are startlingly Chablis like. There brand new reception area was still under construction when I visited, but it will be gorgeous when it is done. The best part of the visit is the friendly old winery cat… He jumped right in my lap when I sat down to taste and take my notes!
The following wineries are in the north-eastern part of the Aube, and once again would be good to group together. Be mindful of how long the appointments last in France and don’t overbook yourself!
Champagne Louise Brison: Hameau du Grand Mallet, 10360 Noé-les-Mallets, France +33 3 25 29 62 58 http://www.louise-brison.fr/en/welcome-champagne-louise-brison The all organic, mostly wood fermented Champagne’s of Francis and Delphine Brulez have almost broken our website on a couple of occasions due to the overwhelming demand. These are sleek, complex Champagnes of great finesse and worth driving to the middle of nowhere to taste at the source. The trip to Noe-les-Mallets can be disorienting- you will past a giant wind farm and seemingly endless wheat fields before dropping into a valley of gorgeous vineyards. They also have oaks on their property with truffles… But they don’t sell them! They are all to eat!
Champagne Drappier: Rue des Vignes 10200 Urville – France +33 (0)3 25 27 40 15 - +33 (0)3 25 27 41 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.champagne-drappier.com/en/champagne-drappier Drappier is one of the very few grand marque houses in the Aube, but is run more like a great Burgundy domain than a Reims Champagne selling factory. The house is loaded with history, and the family has been making wine for eight generations. Drappier is at the cutting edge of Champagne in so many ways- low sulphur counts, the largest plantations of all the old varieties, plowing with horses, barrel fermentation, the list goes on and on. This is one of the great visits in the Aube… Don’t miss it!
Chateau de Bligny: Address: Rue du Château, 10200 Bligny, France Phone:+33 3 25 27 40 11 http://www.chateaudebligny.com/en/welcome/index.php The only Chateau bottled Champagne is located just one village over from Drappier. This gorgeous castle has 30 hectares of vineyards, and produces one of the very few Clos bottlings in Champagne. The Chateau de Bligny Cuvee Six Cepages Brut Champagne is a field blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay, Arbanne, Meslier and Pinot Blanc and comes from a walled vineyard just behind the castle.
I hope this encourages you to explore the Aube on your next trip!
A toast to you!