Le relief champenois

The topography in Champagne

Landscapes shaped by Champagne growers themselves

A wine region shaped by its hillsides

In addition to its climate and soil, topography is also key to understanding the Champagne terroir.

The Champagne vineyard area is a carefully shaped undulating region. The Champagne region is an area of "vine-covered hillsides", where the vines are predominantly planted on slopes. Average gradient is 12% but some of the slopes are as steep as 59%. This can make vineyard maintenance quite an acrobatic task!

This topography is particularly well suited to producing Champagne. The hillsides provide each vine plant with optimal exposure to sunlight. They also optimise drainage as excess rainwater can run off.

"My vineyard is located in Les Riceys growing region, which is fairly hilly. My brother and I used to love clambering about here when we were younger. As we’ve got older, we’ve learned to live with this rugged terrain, which sometimes makes our work a challenge but also makes so many things possible!"

In pictures

The topography in Champagne

Relief champenois
Relief champenois © Michaël Boudot
Relief champenois © Michaël Boudot
Relief champenois © Michaël Boudot
Coteaux en Champagne

Champagne culture

Where do the Champagne hillsides come from?

The Champagne hillsides formed tens of millions of years ago as the centre of the Paris Basin – the geological region covering most of the northern half of France – gradually sank under the weight of accumulated sediments. This led to up-thrusting along its northern and eastern sides. The newly formed hills then came under attack from erosion, wearing down the steepest slopes to produce the gently rolling landscape you see today.

The soil in Champagne

Sunlight and the vines

At every stage, the production of Champagne is the fruit of close collaboration between nature and the people of the land. The vine plantings in Champagne reflect this fact. 

Indeed, the growers sought to optimise exposure to sunlight by planting the vines on slopes: in this way, the vines maximise their time in the sun. 

That’s why, if you look closely, you’ll notice that a majority of vineyards are planted on south-, southeast- and east-facing slopes. This allows them to soak up a maximum amount of daily sunlight, which gently warms the vine plants, helping the grape clusters to grow healthily until they are fully ripe and ready for harvesting.

Cave de Champagne UNESCO

Champagne culture

The "Champagne hillsides, houses and cellars" form a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site

The hillsides in Champagne are both unique and striking to behold. Beyond the direct influence that they have on the way vines grow and therefore on the Champagne wine-making process, they are also a treasured part of our heritage. Since 2015, the Champagne hillsides, together with the region’s houses and cellars, have thus been officially recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Champagne, a World Heritage site


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