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The Champagne region

Find out the wonders of the Champagne wine-growing area

Out and about in Champagne, you can't help but be struck by these fascinating landscapes shaped by its people over hundreds of years

The vineyards

A truly one-of-a-kind wine region

Champagne is a 100% French product. The wine region it comes from is located in France, some 90 miles east of Paris. This is the only place in the world that it is made.

The production zone of the Champagne appellation d'origine contrôlée , whose perimeter is defined by legislation enacted in 1927, covers some 34,300 hectares and encompasses 319 villages, also called "crus".

Nearly 280,000 plots, tended by more than 16,000 growers, make up the area under vine in Champagne! Most of these plots are very small, averaging a surface area of no more than 12 ares (1 are = 100 sq.m.). That’s barely larger than a tennis court.

Out and about in Champagne, you can't help but be struck by these fascinating landscapes shaped by its people over hundreds of years. Doctor of geography Raphaël Schirmer said that "A whole civilisation goes into the cultivation of vines". So next time you look out over the Champagne scenery, take the time to appreciate the magnitude of this work. Work which UNESCO has honoured by recognising the Champagne Hillsides, Houses & Cellars as a World Heritage site.

Champagne, a World Heritage site

 A terroir with altogether unique characteristics  A terroir with altogether unique characteristics
Paysage de vignes

Champagne culture

The terroir

The word "terroir" comes from the Latin "territorium", meaning territory. But the notion of "terroir" encompasses so much more than simply the location of a place. This is how the French dictionary Larousse defines it: "Areas of land within a region, considered from the viewpoint of their agricultural value and supplying one or more characteristic products."

Wine, for example, comes from a terroir. It derives part of its characteristics (minerality, aromas, etc.) from the soil, climate and topography of its territory. The Champagne terroir is unique for many reasons. Because of its geographical location, distinctive, rugged climate, the characteristics of its soil and its hillside vineyards, the Champagne terroir is the only one of its kind in the world.

The Champagne terroir

A multi-faceted wine-growing area

The Champagne wine-growing area extends across several large regions, with more than 120 miles separating the furthest ones from each other. It is an area criss-crossed by rivers and shaped by rolling hills (or "hillsides"). It harbours a varied patchwork of landscapes, each comprising different soils and subsoils. The grape varieties that are planted across the regions have been chosen over the years in light of this diversity – with the most compatible chosen each time. 

This all explains why, within a single "Champagne" designation, there is such a wide variety of wines with just as many different personalities.

The area under vine extends across five départements:

  • Marne (66% of the area under vine),
  • Aube (23% of the area under vine),
  • Aisne (10% of the area under vine),
  • Haute-Marne,
  • Seine-et-Marne.

 

wine-growing-sub-regions

The main wine-growing sub-regions

Four main wine-growing sub-regions make up the area under vine: Montagne de Reims, Marne Valley, Côte des Blancs and Côte des Bar.

They each have their own specific features in terms of topology, soil and subsoil. Far from being minor differences, these characteristics have a direct impact on the wine. The same grape variety will not have the same profile from one region to the next, because the levels of sunshine or the subsoil might be different, or because it grows in different natural environments, whether next to coniferous or hardwood forests for example… Taste two Chardonnays, from two different regions, and experience the differences for yourself!

Moulin de Verzenay © Michaël Boudot

Montagne de Reims

Flanked by the two rivers, the Vesle to the north and the Marne to the south, Montagne de Reims forms a broad headland carpeted with woodland and thickets.

vallée de la marne

The Marne Valley

The Marne Valley vineyards thrive on steep hillsides, mostly on either side of the river, stretching towards Paris for as far as the eye can see.

Village d'Avize © Michaël Boudot

Côte des Blancs

Its name comes from the main white grape variety planted there: Chardonnay. The region extends from the north-east of the area under vine to the south-west, at right angles to the Marne Valley.

cadole

Côte des Bar

Côte des Bar lies right to the south of the Champagne AOC area, south-east of Troyes.

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"Champagne is a world-famous wine, and yet few people are familiar with our vines and their diversity"

Vignes pendant l'été en champagne

A unique AOC designation

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wine-growing regions

319 crus

across 5 départements

34 200 ha

across 280,000 plots