France - Champagne
Champagne lies at the highest northern latitude of any major wine region (excepting those in England) but its positioning relative to the mild westerly winds and planting of early ripening varietals ensures success. The cool temperatures serve to produce high levels of acidity in the resulting grape which is ideal for sparkling wine
Starting about 100 miles east of Paris the boundaries of Champagne are legally defined and split into five wine producing districts within the historical province: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the centers for the main Champagne Houses to be based.
There are currently 33,500 ha of vineyards around 319 villages thought this is set to expand. Champagne is also split between 5,000 growers who make their own wine and 14,000 growers who only sell their grapes to other Houses.
The soil is ‘belemnite chalk’ which allows absorption of heat from the sun through the day and its gradual releases during the night – as well as providing good drainage. This soil contributes to the lightness and finesse that is characteristic of Champagne wine. The Aube area is an exception with predominately clay based soil. The chalk terrain has also allowed the construction of underground cellars which keep the wines cool through the bottle maturation process.
The principal grapes grown in the region include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir is the most widely planted grape in the Aube region and grows very well in Montagne de Reims. Pinot Meunier is the dominant grape in the Vallée de la Marne region. The Côte des Blancs is dedicated almost exclusively to Chardonnay.