Meeting in the Bar
Back when my Champagne love affair first began, I blind-tasted Cedric Bouchard’s Inflorescence, a bottling he still makes but has since renamed. I wasn’t sure it was Champagne. Its ripe concentration, the kind of dense vinosity we love in fine white wine, was an impressive shock, along with a fine mousse which made me write ‘silk’.
Bouchard is now a cult producer, under the estate name Roses de Jeanne, and is required tasting experience of any serious student of Champagne.
These days, within seconds of arriving off the autoroute into the Côte des Bar, I’m hit with a multi-sensory landscape, one that’s completely different from the rolling panoramas of the Côte des Blancs or Montagne de Reims. The Aube’s sunflower yellow, russet and fern-green colours pop, punctuated by timber-framed and coffee-limestone-coloured villages.
Time-frozen vistas and sparse traffic make everything painterly. Sensual wreathes of wood smoke and forest floor cling to your clothes. And the hazy lemon light explains why impressionist painter Renoir spent his summers in the Aube village of Essoyes.
Aube is the name for the departement (the French word for county), and Côte des Bar is the Champagne wine district within it. Being 130km south and a touch east from Reims and Épernay, or the Marne departement, the Aube is a Champagne satellite, like Chablis is to Burgundy.