Barzy-sur-Marne_visite en combi Volkswagen© Champagne Leveque Dehan - Didier TatinBarzy-sur-Marne_visite en combi Volkswagen© Champagne Leveque Dehan - Didier Tatin
©Barzy-sur-Marne, visite du vignoble en combi Volkswagen|Didier Tatin

Bubbling with Joy: the Champagne of the Aisne

The queen of all wines, Champagne* is universal – something we call for for parties and festivities, something we reach for when there is good news to be announced or a happy event to be celebrated. Its explosion of tiny bubbles replicates the effervescence we feel inside. And of course, this goes all the more for champagne in France, where it is thought to have been invented by the monk Dom Perignon in 1697.

It’s a little-known fact that in the south of the Northern French département of Aisne, on the sloping hillsides along the Marne very close to the city of Reims, certain winegrowers are using the noble grape varieties of Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay to create this sparkling nectar. From within this zone d’appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), the Aisne is actually providing 10% of national champagne output.

A total of 36 villages and more than 500 growers between Trélou-sur-Marne and Crouttes-sur-Marne are involved, creating a 120km Route Touristique du Champagne on which you can visit a huge choice of wine cellars and share exhilarating moments as a couple, a family or friends.

*Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health. Consume with moderation.

Northern France _ Aisne _ Hiking _ Vineyard ©Aisne Tourisme - Sylvain CambonNorthern France _ Aisne _ Hiking _ Vineyard ©Aisne Tourisme - Sylvain Cambon
©Northern France, Aisne, Hiking, Vineyard | Aisne Tourisme - Sylvain Cambon

Feel-good moments with Eric Lévêque on a jaunt through his vineyards by vintage Volkswagen.

In the pretty little village of Marcilly in the heart of the Vallée de la Marne, local-born Eric Lévêque leads the family firm that was established in 1887, meaning that five generations have now devoted themselves to these vines. Together with his wife Nadine, Eric welcomes guests into their pretty flower-filled winegrow-ers’ house that has been awarded a ‘Pierre Cheval’ prize by the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coteaux, Maisons et Caves de Champagne.

Eric’s passion and respect for the history, details and values of his estate shine through when he shows peo-ple around – not least in the very personal touch he adds by taking guests around the estate in a nine-person 1960s Volkswagen campervan, to show families or friends the different grape varieties he grows alongside the Marne, from Ubac to Adret.

You’ll immerse yourself all the better in the beauty of these champagne landscapes by stopping off at a con-temporary lodge to learn all about the geology of this region and of these lands. Eric’s promise as he shares the secrets of his estate is to take you far away from the cares of everyday life – and he succeeds.

Happiness is a champagne mood

 Vincent Cespedes, philosopher

A sensory deep-dive into Eric and Nadine Lévêque’s grape varieties

Stepping into the Lévêques’ lovely 19th-century cave with its beautifully preserved original stonework, you’ll be fascinated by the video presentation explaining the painstaking work involving in producing wine here. Winemaking is no straightforward task: trimming, de-budding, manual harvests, hand remuage to get rid of sediment in the case of the great vintages… All these and more need to be taken into account.

Within this sensory space, you’ll taste different grape varieties and test the very limits of your senses. Are the messages your senses receive always good? Enter fully into the experience through your eyes, your sense of smell, your tastebuds. Surprises, and even the awakening of a sixth or a seventh sense, await you. Eric will lead you there gradually, guiding you through what is a very joyful experience – after all, champagne is the wine of happiness!

Projects that will make you love vineyards even more

Eric and Nadine are always thinking up new and innovative ways of showcasing their estate and its products. One way of grabbing your attention and reawakening your tastebuds is a very special kind of sensory experiences in their atmospheric cellar – this one a ‘blind’ tasting in the dark, enjoying a meal with wine pairings that will challenge your senses as well as showing you how much what we normally smell and taste is influ-enced by our visual perception. Take that away and things are very different, purer…

Local's tip

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Wine-, champagne- and cheese-tasting evenings

I tried out the tasting workshops organised by La Fontaine des Sens in Château-Thierry and I can’t recom-mend them highly enough. They’re brilliant. If you love good wine and champagne, good cheese, charcute-rie, you’ll enjoy this as much as I did.

Last time I took part in one of their workshops, I discovered that you can pair champagne and cheese to stunning effect. I was surprised – but with the right advice and the right pairings, it’s perfect. Chaource cheese, blue cheese and Comté, for example, all go very well with champagne.

If you want to join in one of these epicurean evenings at La Fontaine des Sens, which take place fortnightly, check out their Facebook page.

Catia, Office de Tourisme advisor, expert in nature and heritage outings in Château-Thierry

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