The Avenue de Champagne '“ the best address in France?
That's it. I've found it. The next address I want to move to. Avenue de Champagne, Epernay, France.
There’s just one small problem. I may need to win the lottery first – and big. The recent Euromillions jackpot of 151 million may just about have been enough, and even then...
But just think of the neighbours – Perrier-Jouet, Pol Roger, Moët et Chandon, De Venoge, Boizel. Imagine the dinner parties you could host!
If there is one drink in the world that epitomises luxury and celebration it’s champagne, but surprisingly many know little about where it comes from or how it’s made. There’s one sure way of finding out what makes this drink the most special in the world – go there.
Wine tourism is ingrained in the wine regions of the New World, with South Africa and New Zealand leading the pack. France lagged behind for a while but is now making up lost ground big time. Under three hours from Calais, Epernay, the capital of champagne offers a multitude of places to learn about the world’s best fizz, with cellar visits, exhibitions, films and tastings. Beneath the town is virtually another town, with more than 200 million bottles of champagne maturing in over 100km of cellars.
One of the new guys on the block in terms of wine tourism is the house of Boizel. Located plumb centre on the Avenue de Champagne, the company was founded in 1834 and is still family-run with Madame Evelyne Roques-Boizel the president and her two sons running the show. Opened to the public as recently as May this year, the champagne house offers a tour of the on-site winery and the extensive cellars, located 30 feet below ground. Characterful, elegant, delicate champagnes to taste, culminating with the sublime 2004 vintage Joyau de France.
Although one of the smaller of the champagne houses, Boizel has established a reputation for uncompromising quality. It is also a major exporter. Sourced from 50 different vineyards, many of which are premier cru and grand cru, wines are aged for at least 36 months and the low dosage gives a dry taste, full of delicacy, complexity and finesse. Brut Reserve from the Wine Society at around £32 per bottle.
Of similar size, but less well-known is Champagne Charles Mignon. Manon Mignon, daughter of the owner, has created an astonishing ‘champagne experience’, combining an exhibition of first-class photography with a visit of the winery and cellars, finishing with a short film describing the production methods. Developed over several years, Manon has created an informative and enjoyable experience.
Naturally, there is a tasting of some of the extensive range of champagnes and a boutique full of interesting gift ideas. Charles Mignon champagne is in most M&S stores in the UK.
So next time you feel like a stroll along the Avenue, head for Epernay, book into a hotel like Hotel Castel Jeanson in Ay, a grand cru village crammed with champagne producers on the edge of Epernay, and find out all about the world’s most exclusive fizz.
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.
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