Côte des Bar, land of champagne

© T. Joly
To the southeast of Paris, the Aube department is home to a part of the champagne appellation area. The Chassenay d'Arce cooperative produces a large selection of excellent cuvees there.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
225 km from Paris to Ville-sur-Arce on autoroute A5 till exit 22, then on D135 till Bar-sur-Seine and Ville-sur-Arce.
- By train
Intercités train from Paris Est to Bar-sur-Aube, 30 km away from Ville-sur-Arce. The journey takes 2 h 10 mn.
Intercités train from Paris Est to Troyes. The journey takes 1 h 30. Then Les Courriers de l’Aube bus till Bar-sur-Seine, 8 km away from Ville-sur-Arce.
- Hotels
Hôtel du Commerce in Bar-sur-Seine
Au Petit Château in Bar-sur-Seine
- Bed and Breakfast
La Grive d’Arce in Merrey-sur-Arce
Seine en Bulles in Merrey-sur-Arce
Hôtel du Commerce à Bar-sur-Seine
Le Caveau de la Tour à Bar-sur-Seine
Going around
It is better to have a car to discover the area.
- Aube tourist office
Ph: 0325425000
- Chassenay d’Arce
Ph: 0325383475
For most tourists, Champagne goes with Reims and Epernay. However, it is also produced a hundred kilometres further south, in the Aube department, near Troyes. More precisely in the Côte des Bar, a limestone plateau dissected by steep-sided valleys dug out by small rivers, so called because it stretches between the cities of Bar-sur-Aube and Bar-sur-Seine. 8,000 ha of vines are grown there and the most common grape variety is Pinot noir, which gives the champagnes of this region a more vinous and more full bodied character than those of the Marne.

Arce valley © T.Joly
 Hillsides covered by vineyards
The vineyards are planted on hillsides, while the plateaus are covered with forests and the bottom of the valleys are occupied by meadows and wheat or barley fields. A peaceful and pastoral landscape where are nested small villages boasting mansions, old winemaker homes, washhouses, churches and chapels inherited from the past.
About twenty kilometres long, the Arce valley is a perfect example of this scenery and one of the most renowned terroirs of the Côte des Bar. There, the village of Ville-sur-Arce is home to the Chassenay d'Arce cooperative, Aube region's largest champagne producer with 1.5 million bottles per year. Founded in 1956, it brings together 130 vine growers, totalling 325 ha, with 90% being located in the valley.

Chassenay d'Arce © T. Joly
 Visit and tasting
On Saturday it offers guided tours of the facilities. The other days tourists can go on their own in the 19th century cellars where a showroom contains ancient tools, explanatory panels and videos giving information about the methods of cultivation of the vine and the elaboration of champagne. Then, visitors are of course invited to taste Chassenay d’Arce’s cuvées that give a good overview of the quality and diversity of the champagnes produced in Aube.
It includes a classic but excellent entry level champagne called “Cuvée Première Brut” that pleases everyone and suits all occasion as well as a “Cuvée Blanc de Blancs Brut Millésimé 2006” offering the typical elegance and finesse of 100% chardonnay champagnes.

© T. Joly
 Rare champagne
Very expressive and complex, the “Cuvée Vintage Brut Millésimé 2006” is more representative of the region’s production because it has a more vinous and more marked Pinot Noir character. Champagnes made with this grape variety can combine elegance, balance, complexity and full body as in the top-end cuvees called Confidences Brut and Confidences Rosé. Lastly, don’t leave Chassenay d’Arce without tasting the “Cuvée Pinot Blanc Extra Brut 2008”, a very rare champagne made of Pinot Blanc, a grape variety the cooperative’s members grow on no more than 4 ha.

September 05, 2017
Thierry Joly