Champagne from France and Champagne region
The wine of kings and princes and now the wine for every celebration, champagne is cloaked in glory and prestige and coveys to the world all that is French elegance and seductiveness. Its reputation has as much to do with its history as with its particular characteristics, which means, for many, that only wine from Champagne is the champagne; it is not as simple as that …
Between them, Reims and Epernay in the Marne share the role of capital of Champagne. The former has the additional appeal of its monuments and museums, which draw crowds of visitors who, at the same time, can discover the cellars belonging to the “great houses”, many of which are very ancient.
The whole of the wine-growing area has similar, undulating countryside, where four main regions are traditionally identified. In the Montagne de Reims (6,800 ha), some of the vineyards face north and are on sandy soil. The Cote de Blancs (3,150 ha), just outside Epernay, benefits from a relatively predictable climate. The Marne valley (1,876 ha) and its two banks (5,153 ha), extend to the vineyards in the Aisne, and the slopes of the Surmelin valley (2,989 ha) are covered in vines. Here, despite what on might expect,the quality of the grapes produced rarely varies, whether the vineyads face north or south. Finally, there is the vineyard of the Aube (7.099 ha) in the extreme southeast of the appellation, and separated from the other areas by a 75 km zone where no vines are grown. The Aube is higher adm nor susceptible to spring frosts than the other areas, yet it produces wines of no lesser quality. This is where you find the only appellation communale: Rose des Riceys. There are other impotant geographical regions: Epernay (1,240 ha) the valleys of Vesle (986 ha) and of Ardres (900 ha), the region of Congy (1,013 ha), Sezanne (1.382 ha) and Vitry-le-Francois (343 ha).
As the sea retreated some 70 milion years ago, upheavals caused by tellurian quakes ensued, forming a chalk base that is permeable and rich in essential minerals and which brings finesse to the wines of Champagne. A shallow layer of clay and limestone covers the subsoil on nearly 60% of the land devoted to vines. In the Aube, the soil composition is marl, which is closer to that found in neighbouring Burgundy.
If frost – and at this latitude, spring frosts are frequent – makes reliable production difficult, the climatic extremes are nevertheless tempered by extensive mountain forests, which balance out the mild Atlantic maritime climate and the harsher continental alone, maintaining a certain lever of humidity. The lack of extreme heat is made on the context of the wine -growing and climatic conditions. Of the 31,458 ha devoted to vine-growing, Pinot Noir takes up 12,254 ha, Pinot Meunier 10,877 ha and Chardonnay 8,952 ha. Other varieties – Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier and Arbanne (91 ha) – share the remaining area (32,715 ha) uder cultivation. The winemaking industry provides 31,000 jobs for the region, including 14,800 wine-growers and producers.
Read about Champagne - Part two