The Côte des Bar Champagne region
Côte des Bars is the geographic outlier of the Champagne region, as it is located more than 100Km southeast of Epernay with some significant space in between that is not part of the official Champagne wine region.
The region is named after the towns of Bar-sur-Seine and Bar-sur-Aube located on the west and east side of the region respectively. Part of the Aube department, the region is sometimes also called ‘the Aube’ for this reason, so you may read or hear it being called either the Aube region or the Cote des Bars region.
It is a big region, with 7,897 ha of vineyards. The region produces a very significant portion (almost a quarter) of total production across the entire Champagne region. The wines produced typically have a majority of Pinot Noir in the blend and are characteristic of the region with its Kimmeridgian soil, which is the same soil Chablis has.
Common Côte des Bar Grape Varieties
Covering 83% of the plantings, Pinot Noir is the most planted variety in the Côte des Bars Champagne region. The Pinot Noir that is grown here often travels north to be used in Champagne blends of almost all major houses. The slightly warmer climate, compared to the other Champagne regions, created wines that are a bit riper, with higher phenolic maturity. This makes the Pinot Noir from Côte des Bars sought after for rose Champagnes.
Other grape varieties
You can certainly find some other grape varieties planted in the Cote des Bars including Chardonnay, pinot meunier, and even pinot blanc, pinot gris, and petit meslier.
Vineyards in Côte des Bar
The vineyards of Côte des Bars are very diverse and are not planted along a single slope, as is observed in the other Champagne regions. The terroir and topography is varied and complex, as it consists of many rolling hills and valleys that create many different slopes that are favorable for vineyards.
The slopes help gather more sunlight, as they are south, southeast, and southwest facing, and also help prevent frost damage in spring.
The major rivers that form the region are la Laigne, la Seine, l’Ource, and l’Arce along with several smaller ones.
The soil of Côte des Bars is limestone-based but different from the chalky soil of the northern regions. It is called Kimmedidgian soil and consists of layers of gray marl and chalk, which are often rich in marine fossils. It may not have the purity of limestone of the Côte des Blancs, but its properties for viticulture are largely similar. It is able to hold enough water for the vines to survive, but at the same time provides excellent drainage.
Rosé de Saignée
With its warmer climate and high phenolic maturity of Pinot Noir, Côte des Bars produces some of the best Rosé wines of the Champagne region. Most are made with the Saignée method. This means the red grapes are crushed and macerated in a tank. The color of the skins, along with a lot of aromas, is allowed to enter the juice over a short period of time, until the desired color is obtained. The juice that is freely separated from the skins, or free-run juice, is fermented and the base wine for the Rosé Champagne is obtained. The second fermentation in the bottle turns it into Champagne.
Rosé de Saignée usually has a medium pink color and a rich body. Aromas usually consist of red fruits, like strawberries and raspberries.
Cote des Bar Champagne Houses
Champagne Robert Barbichon
From the small village of Gyé-Sur-Seine, Champagne Barbichon has been a passionate ambassador of biodynamic and organic practices since 2007. That is when the second generation, Thomas and Maxime took over the production from their father. This small family winery focuses on Pinot Noir production with excellent Blanc de Noir and Rosé de Saignée Champagne wines. You can taste the love for their region and their passion for Champagne in all their wines, as they are expressive and well-balanced. An undiscovered, value-for-money winery.
Domaine Alexandre Bonnet
Champagne Alexandre Bonnet has a unique advantage for the Champagne region. It is located in the lovely village of Les Riceys, where in addition to Champagne production, producers can also make a unique Rosé wine called Rosé des Riceys.
Being in the Côte des Bars region, the focus is on wines made from Pinot Noir grapes. The village of Les Riceys has a strong connection with Burgundy, as it is located right on the border of the two regions, and the wines undoubtedly have a Burgundian finesse. The use of the word “Domaine” in the name is an homage to this long connection between the two regions.
Other famous producers from the Cote des Bar region include Champagne Drappier and Champagne Marie Courtin.
Cote des Bar History
One interesting historical fact is that the Cote des Bar was not always part of the Champagne region official classification. For a time, it was not included in the officially designated Champagne production zone, and is sometimes referred to as the Champagne deuxième zone or second zone.
Despite this, today it produces Champagne that many consider to be among the best tasting across all regions. Its Pinot Noir in particular even competes with the Vallée de la Marne and Montagne de Reims.
It’s also interesting to note that the Côte des Bars is one of the areas where organic and biodynamic viticulture appeared first in Champagne.