AT the heart of many a celebration, champagne is a byword for success. But what exactly is it?
We went to Fluteau, a business in the Aube district in the heart of the champagne region to find out.
Jeremy, the fourth generation of his family to make the fizz, explained the processes that go into creating the bubbly, from the crushing of the grapes in a giant press to the insertion of the cork.
It starts out as a regular conical shape before it is jammed under high pressure into the bottle neck — which then forces it into the trademark mushroom shape.
It’s a strange mixture of tradition and tech that’s fascinating to follow from grape to glass.
And at the end, of course, you get to taste it. And taste it. And taste it.
A glass of bubbly inside one of the district's medieval buildingsBecause there are degustation (tasting) opportunities across the region where proud hosts are happy to let you taste their wares.
We spent most of our time in magnificent Troyes, Aube’s capital and one of Europe’s most intact medieval cities.
It has dozens of well-preserved half-timber houses that are more than 500 years old.
So common are they that seeing a kebab shop in one soon becomes normal. The city was built around the imposing cathedral.
GETTING THERE: P&O Ferries has fares from £49 each way for a car with up to nine passengers between Dover and Calais.
Book a trip longer than five days by July 7 for travel before the end of October and get a £30 fuel voucher or ticket upgrade allowing travel up to four hours either side of your booked sailing.
Pets welcome. See poferries.com or call 01304 448888.
STAYING THERE: Le Jardin De La Cathedrale in Troyes has rooms from £177 per night. See jardindelacathedrale.com.
OUT & ABOUT: See aube-champagne.com.
Having just watched the partial destruction of Notre Dame in Paris due to fire, it was heartening to visit a cathedral of comparable scale in all its glory. The detail is simply extraordinary.
We stayed nearby, at Le Jardin de la Cathédrale where the rooms are palatial and around every corner there is a quaint curio — a stuffed owl, a modernist statuette, shelves of leather-bound books.
Most memorable here was the exquisite breakfast — all from local patisseries on vintage porcelain with local cheeses served with not just jelly but Pinot Noir jelly, the grape behind much of the bubbly here.
The food was fantastic throughout the city but Chez Daniel’s in Rue Mole served up traditional fare with a bright, Provencal twist.
Chez Felix, a simple bistro in the city’s historic centre offered local specialities in a gorgeous setting.
And as well as all that eating and drinking, it would be foolhardy not to do a little bit of shopping.
Having our own car and whizzing over for a weekend by P&O ferry made packing the extra bottle or two a breeze.
For anyone used to driving in the UK, the French roads are just a joy — particularly in Aube, one of the least populous areas of France and just a couple of hours from Calais.
The ferry crossing from Dover was speedy and hassle-free. Splash out just a little bit more and you can even bring a little champagne luxury to the journey.
From £12 you can gain access to the Club Lounge with a complimentary glass of champagne on arrival as well as soft and hot drinks and a menu with reasonably priced food.
Add on another £12 and you can book Priority Boarding, ensuring you’re among the first to get on — and get off.
It all makes for a sparkling weekend break indeed.
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