Terroir & appellation
Three major features – climate, subsoil and relief – combine to create a mosaic of micro-terroirs. There are almost as many geographical permutations in Champagne as there are acres of vineyard.
Nature is very much the driving force in Champagne, but it is also the source of an infinite variety of natural environments. Winegrowers have always respected these differences, knowing that they affect the characteristic qualities of the grapes and therefore the wines. Today these variations in terroir are the target of a zoning programme aimed at identifying and qualifying different vineyard plots.
A Champagne wine grower distinguishes not just between growths (‘crus’) but between individual plots, each with its own name and long-established reputation.
Names redolent of history and tradition - ‘Les Soupe-Tard (late diners), ‘Les Gouttes d’Or (drops of gold), les ‘Froids Monts’ (chilly peaks) to mention but a few ...
Each plot is worked in accordance with its own specific profile, to create a wine that bears the stamp of its origins. Together the plots produce a range of wines with complementary or contrasting characteristics for blending.
The zoning programme launched some years ago by Comité Champagne technicians has steadily advanced our empirical understanding of the terroir. By recording information on a scale of 1/25,000, this vast research project makes it possible to analyze every aspect of the growing environment in Champagne.
The data produced are cross-referenced on a series of maps detailing factors such as geological formations, soil texture, frost zones and risk of erosion or earth movements.
This has given winegrowers the tools to optimise their practices at every level of the winegrowing process (choice of grape or rootstock, vineyard cover cropping, use of treatments etc).