Popping corks in Champagne

ChampagneAs it’s a no-travel week, I’m going to take advantage of the idea of Throwback Thursdays and allow myself to day-dream of where I was this time last year…Champagne.  Given it’s by far and away my favourite tipple, I can’t quite believe that it took me almost ten years of legally being able to drink the bubbly stuff to make the hop, skip and jump over the Channel to the Champagne region.  Just a two hour drive or so from Calais, it’s the perfect distance for a long weekend.

We stayed in the charming Chateau d’Etoges, out in the countryside walking distance from a village with smaller champagne producers and not far from both Reims and Epernay. Set in beautiful grounds and surrounded by a moat (yes, a moat!), this historical chateau also boasts a delicious restaurant (serving traditional French cuisine which focuses on the local produce – the perfect way to soak up a days worth of booze) and a spa.  Sadly my little camera phone at the time did not do it justice! 

Champagne---Chateau-d'EtogesWhile the attic room we stayed in was a little poky it was comfortable, and I imagine the rooms at a higher price point are rather wonderful.

We split our weekend between Reims and Epernay, booking tours of the cellars and caves at many of the famous vineyards but also making sure to leave some time to pop into the lesser known chateaux to sample their wares.  

Our first visit underground was at Taittinger, where the caves were an amazing sight…the number of bottles of champagne just waiting to be drunk was mind-blowing and it was really interesting to learn all about the intricacies of producing the golden nectar.  Taittinger in particular has a really interesting history (the remains of a thirteenth century abbey can be found among their caves) which adds a little more flavour to the tour.    

Champagne---les-cavesAt Mercier, the tour is conducted on a (rather tired and rickety) little train but the novelty value of travelling this way was an amusing change (as the cellars do become a bit same, same, but different after a while!) And if you leave it towards the end of the day, when you might not be walking in a straight line, it makes perfect sense! 

Champagne---barrel-at-MercierCastellane is also worth a visit – we didn’t do the tour of the cellars here but if you taste the champagne then you can walk around their museum and climb the tower…

Champagne---Castellane-towerwhere you are rewarded with this fantastic view over Epernay

Champagne---view-from-CastellaneOf the larger chateaux, I particularly enjoyed the champagne at Pommery – especially the very easy-drinking and delicious POP Earth, with its notes of grapefruit and almond.  This champagne is made with sustainably-grown grapes and environmentally friendly packaging so there is even less guilt when indulging. 

The stand-out champagne of the weekend for me though was from a smaller producer – Chateau Comtesse La Fond in Epernay. 

Champagne---Comtesse-La-FondAll the champagne, and wine, we tried at this champagne house had so much flavour, especially the ultra brut which was crisp and light and fruity – yum! Definitely put this at the top of your list if you are making the trip across the Channel.

And to top off a wonderful weekend, we drove back past the most idyllic sunset…

Champagne---sunsetChampagne really does have it all!

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