We all love to celebrate a special occasion with a bottle of bubbly and there is nothing nicer than hearing the pop of a champagne cork to get the party going. I have to say that I am rather partial to pink champagne and always look for an excuse to buy a bottle to celebrate even the smallest of celebrations.
Over the years I have travelled extensively through France, so when the occasion arose to visit the region where they are famed for their champagne, I jumped at the opportunity. I had always heard how lovely the area was, so it was not long before we set off exploring the region called Champagne. There are in fact four departments that make up this area, being the Ardennes, Marne, Haute-Marne and Aube. Champagne is steeped in history and the magnificent Gothic Cathedral of Reims was the setting for the coronations of all the French kings.
The landscapes and forests of the Ardennes are really quite beautiful. Reims, Chalons-en-Champan and Epernay are the focal points where vineyards for centuries have been making sparkling wine because the soil composition is perfect as well the micro-climates which have contributed to the vast production of sparkling wines for longer than any other region of France.
The castles or Chateaux in Champagne all tell a story about the history of the region. Le Chateau de Boursault was inspired by the famous chateau Chambord in the Loire Valley and was constructed for Madame Cliquot, the owner of Veuve Cliquot, the very famous French Champagne that today is renowned the world over.
Boasting 30,000 hectares of Champagne vineyards that stretch in every direction as far as the eye can see and picturesque villages with magnificent chateaux abounding wherever you look, the region is a marvellous area of France to discover then go about exploring.
The famous Champagne vineyards of Mumm, Mercier, Moet & Chandon, Perrier-Jouet, Veuve Cliquot, Joseph Perrier, Taittinger and so many more are open to visitors who can enjoy tours around the estates. Visitors have the chance to see just how champagne has been produced in the area for centuries and the French owners are extremely proud of their heritage.
As with all the regions of France, Champagne has some delicious specialities too. Boudin blanc de Rethel is certainly one of my favourites as well as andouillette de Troyes which is a tripe sausage made with pork. I love ham so when I discovered ‘le jambon des Ardennes’ I was in heaven. There are a few cheeses which are also fabulous. Some are matured with ‘marc de Champagne’ alcohol. These beautifully creamy cheeses are rich and full of flavour, so if you ever come across either a Chaource or a Langres, I strongly recommend you try them.
We spent two glorious weeks travelling through Champagne. We stayed in some magnificent Chateaux and ate like the kings themselves. Needless to say we sampled a lot of different champagnes at each of the estates we visited and came away with a bottle or two to take home with us. All in all, we had a wonderful time amid some of the nicest people we have ever met and are planning another trip to this beautiful region of northwest France in the spring of next year.