James Richard-Fliniaux, a wine-grower in the historic, Champagne-producing village of Ay, has an electric jeep for touristic excursions. These pretty vineyards are classified as Grand Cru, and many of the prestigious Champagne houses source grapes from them. Lasting two hours, the eco-visit traverses all 7.5 miles of Ay vineyards. Along the way, you have the chance to hop off the car and step into the vines while Richard-Fliniaux explains the Champagne-making process from the planting of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes to the dual fermentation required to create the carbonation. Bien sur (of course), a tasting of Richard-Fliniaux’s wines is included in the outing. With 24 hours’ notice, a gourmet picnic can be prepared. Think salad topped with salmon, chicken, or Italian ham; seasoned escargot; a regional specialty called pate en croute; molten chocolate cake or a fruit basket all washed down with Richard-Fliniaux’s DEDICACE cuvee of Grand Cru d’Ay, made with 80% Pinot noir and 20% Chardonnay. For the “picnic” excursion, the maximum is three people, priced at 65 euros (about $87 US) per person. The “degustation” tour is priced at 35 euros (about $47 US) per person, with a maximum of six people, and includes a Champagne tasting. ay-eco-visite.com The Wine Trail of Mutigny Near the “Champagne Capital” of Epernay, the hamlet of Mutigny has developed a 1.4 mile wine trail that threads through the heart of the vineyards. Along the way, signs are posted to explain the Champagne production process, and English-speaking guides provide additional insights. With a spectacular location overlooking the Marne Valley, the village itself has just 230 inhabitants, many of whom are winemakers. The stroll is capped off with a Champagne tasting. The Mutigny events hall decorated with chandeliers and tables made from oak wine barrels is a festive setting for lunch or aperitifs. Various menus showcase local recipes and products: home-made terrines, coq au vin, Chaource cheese, and the famous rose biscuits that are best dunked in a flute of Champagne.
Sebastien Ogier celebrates world title by winning Rally France; Loeb’s last race ends in crash
6, 2013, near Cleebourg eastern France. Both men were not injured. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)The Associated Press STRASBOURG, France Sebastien Ogier celebrated his world title by winning the Rally France on Sunday while nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb’s last race ended in a crash. Ogier took the overall lead by winning the three morning stages before containing his rivals in the three afternoon stages. The Frenchman clinched the world title on Thursday when Thierry Neuville of Belgium failed to win the power stage. Ogier finished the race 12.2 seconds ahead of Dani Sordo of Spain. Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland took third place, 19.5 seconds off the pace. Thierry Neuville of Belgium placed fourth, more than a minute behind Ogier. In the rain-soaked stage 15, Loeb’s Citroen DS3 slid wide on a corner and rolled before landing on its roof. The French driver was not injured in the crash.