Archive for the 'French Bubbly Breaks' Category


Author: admin
April 18, 2010

The overnight one: Champagne Eric Isselee

The place:

It’s hard to beat the feeling of waking up in the morning surrounded by the vines of the Cote des Blancs. And at Champagne Eric Isselee’s B&B, Les Grappes d’Or, you get a particularly good sweep of it -patchworks of green trestles, interrupted only by the pale, serpentine tracks of narrow roads. The sunny lounge, which connects the three double bedrooms, is the place to take in the panorama over a glass of fizz. The decor is cosy (peach-coloured floor tiles, textured walls, rustic furniture) and the welcome, from Eric and Carole Isselee and their two bubbly children, is wholly personal.

The tasting:

Inside the family home, learn Champenois tasting techniques. No sniffing, slurping and spitting here – champagne’s flavours are best released when you breathe in through your mouth straight after swallowing. So, with six types of bubbly on offer, the onsite B&B is a wise choice. You’ll find the Isselee’s bottles excellent value: the Cuvee Tradition (£15), made from the oldest vines, has a golden aura; the Rose (a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes; £13) has a distinct berry edge; and the Brut Blanc de Blancs (£12) tingles with fruity flavour.

The lowdown:

Champagne Eric Isselee is eight kilometres south of Epernay on the D10 (350 Rue des Grappes d’Or, Cramant 51530; 00 33 326 575496, www. champagne-eric-isselee.com). Tastings are free, but call ahead to arrange a visit to the cellars. Doubles at Les Grappes d’Or cost from £40, B&B.

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Author: admin
April 18, 2010

The adventurous one: Leclerc Briant

The place:

The cellars at Leclerc Briant are crayeres: a labyrinth of chalk tunnels where constant temperature and humidity provide ideal fermentation conditions. Access requires some bottle – you descend 30m into the musty entrails using a rope and harness – but a cave expert is on hand and abseilers get an initiation certificate, a (slightly cheesy) touch much appreciated by kids.

The tasting:

Once you’re up on terra firma again, it’s inside the main house for a soothing degustation, where you’ll discover that the Leclerc Briant family don’t just have green fingers: their production methods (organic and biodynamic) are as green as the vines they’ve been cultivating since the 19th century. This means you get guilt-free Premier Crus such as La Ravinne (£22), a strong, rounded champagne made using Pinot Meunier grapes from the fields around Cumieres, and a light, floral Cuvee de Reserve Brut (£18) – perfect for an aperitif.

The lowdown:

Abseiling costs £25 and requires a separate ticket (individuals join a group). Tastings include a cellar tour (£7 a glass, £11 for two of the Monocru range, £15 for a glass of vintage bubbly no longer on sale). Reservations are imperative. Leclerc Briant, 67 Rue Chaude Ruelle, 51207 Epernay (00 33 326 544533, www.leclercbriant.com). Stay in town at the quaint Villa Eugene, former home of the founder of Mercier champagne, with its 19th-century-inspired rooms (00 33 326 324476, www. villa-eugene.com; doubles start at £90, room only).

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Author: admin
April 17, 2010

The working one: Jean Milan

The place:

On the voluptuous Cote des Blancs hillside of Champagne is the petunia-coated village of Oger, where Sheila, the Irish Setter, welcomes you to the Milan family’s property. The Milans are known for two things: top-notch. Grand Cru, Blan de Blancs champagnes, made from Chardonnay grapes; and grape-picking days. When harvest arrives, champagne fans become ‘workers’, with a laid-back programme of breakfast, a cellar- and pressing-room tour (including a tasting of mout, or freshly pressed grape juice), champagne lunch and a grape-harvesting lesson in the vines.

The testing:

Milan’s champagnes are all Grand Cru, so even the cheapest, the Brut Special (£15), is a steal. For a versatile champagne (good for aperitifs, fish dishes or desserts) with a peachy finish, ask for the Brut Millenaire (£16); or Les Terres de Noel 2004 (£27), a citrussy number excellent with goat’s cheese.

The lowdown:

Grape-picking days (£36), held in September, must be reserved. Tasting is free (it is presumed you’ll buy). The cellar tour is £6.30 Champagne Jean Milan is 11km south of Epernay on the D10 (6 Rue d’Avize, 51190 Oger; 00 33 326 575009, www.champagne-milan.com). During harvest, stay in a gite eight kilometres south of Epernay in Cramant, from £63 a night for four (00 33 326 579534, www.ericsylviacom).

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Author: admin
April 17, 2010

The picturesque one: Champagne G. Tribaut

The place:

The Tribaut family’s champagne house sits on the edge of the chocolate-box village of Hautvillers, near Epernay. It’s a bucolic medley of narrow alleys, flowerbox-clad houses and a Benedictine abbey where, allegedly, the enlightened 17th-century monk and cellarer, Dom Pierre Perignon, first discovered how to turn flat, murky wines into the sparkling elixir we all know and love. The village still swarms with wineries, but the 12-hectare Tribaut estate holds its own with unrivalled views and six inexpensive, quality champagnes, carefully assembled using homegrown Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.

The tasting:

On a sunny day, grab a table in the garden – a flower-filled den of romance with views over undulating fields of vines. Tastings are free, and there is no obligation to buy, but you probably will: Tribaut’s champagnes are that good. The Cuvee de Reserve Brut (a light, fruity affair with a suave finish) is a steal at £13; and the Grande Cuvee Speciale (£17 a bottle) is particularly rich, with fine bubbles and hints of lemon.

The lowdown:

G. Tribaut lies five kilometres north of Epernay on the D301 (88 Rue d’Eguisheim, Hautvillers 51160; 00 33 326 594057, www. champagne.g.tribaut.com). It’s open daily (closed on Sundays Jan-Mar). Stay in the rustic Le Chene Plat B&B, outside Hautvillers in the village of Cumieres: simple, but homely doubles from £45, B&B (00 33 326 516646, www.lecheneplat.fr).

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Author: admin
April 17, 2010

The child-friendly one: Charlier & Fils

The place:

A real curiosity, this -the drive to the house takes you past a 35m-tall statue of Pope Urban II, whose armpit makes a novel, entertaining lookout point for youngsters. The colourful estate, with its map of the region made entirely of plants, sets the fun tone for the cellar tour. Here you’ll learn about methods used in the pressing and fermenting rooms. The Charliers are among the only families who still ferment their wines inside foudres – oak barrels big enough to hold the equivalent of 500 cases-worth. Children love climbing into the furnished showpiece foudre, and there’s a display of M Charlier’s old agricultural tools.

The tasting:

Grown-ups get to sample two of Charlier’s six champagnes and a Ratafia (£9), made from fresh grape juice and eau-de-vie. Infused by the oaky barrels, bottles such as the Carte Noire (£12) have a fruity edge with a woody finish. The plum-pink Rose Prestige Brut (£12) is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes, which have body aplenty for meat dishes.

The lowdown:

Champagne Charlier & Fils lies 20km west of Epernay on the N3, D1 and D23 (4 Rue des Pervenches, 51700 Montigny-sous-Chatillon; 00 33 326 583518, www.champagne-charlier.com). Free visits and tastings by reservation only (closed September harvest). Sleep in the 17th-century Chateau des Etoges with its moat, gastronomic restaurant and play area (00 33 326 593008, www.chateau-etoges. com). Doubles start at £126, room only.

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