Terroir & appellation
The Champagne terroir has two major distinguishing features: northerly latitude and a dual climate that is subject to oceanic and continental influences alike.
In Champagne – and this is the terroir’s primary distinguishing feature – the vines are planted at the northernmost limits of their cold tolerance. Average annual temperature in Reims and Epernay (latitudes 49°5 and 49° North) is just 11°C (50°F). Vines, like all plants, require appropriate weather conditions and in the Northern Hemisphere, rarely thrive beyond latitudes 50° North and 30° South.
The Champagne terroir’s second major distinguishing feature is its dual climate, which is predominantly oceanic but with continental tendencies. This complex weather pattern distinguishes the Champagne viticultural zone from the other terroirs in the same group. The annual mean temperature tends to be higher with no major fluctuations from year to year.
That said, the oceanic influence keeps temperatures on the low side, with little variation from one season to another.
(Variations in temperature from January to July (°C/°F).
Champagne receives barely 1,650 average annual hours of sunshine compared with 2,069 in Bordeaux and 1,910 in Burgundy. The growth rate is accordingly limited, giving the grapes the freshness and crispness that Champagne requires.
Mean annual sunshine hours.
The average annual temperature is 11°C (52°F). There are 1,680 average annual hours of sunshine, rising to 2,100 hours or more in some years (1976 or 2003 for instance).
Spring frosts in the budburst period can destroy new buds.
Winter frosts (on average 3.8 days a year of temperatures below -10°C (14°F) can destroy new buds and even the vine plants themselves.
< Number of years since 1875 when frost damage has exceeded 1%: 55.
The dual climate also provides the region with near-ideal rainfall. Annual precipitation is steady (oceanic influence) but moderate (continental tendencies), which is essential for quality grape production.
Mean annual rainfall (in mm).