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Located in northeastern France, Champagne Viticole is France's most northerly vineyard. Established on an ancient inland sea, it spreads over soils of outcropping chalk.
Champagne Viticole extends east of Paris and north of Burgundy. It essentially covers the Marne département, but also the Aube, Aisne, Seine-et-Marne and Haute-Marne.
Planted late due to its climate and location, it is thought to date back to the 7th century, or even the 5th century according to Mennesson.
The Grande Charte Champenoise of 1114 was the founding act of the vineyard. Guillaume de Champeaux, bishop of Châlons-en-Champagne, confirmed the possessions of the abbey of Saint-Pierre-aux-Monts, in Châlons.
The monks planted vines, also known as galipes, on the best land.
This paved the way for a series of recognition events, and with Henri IV, this Vin de France asserted its identity with the status of Vin de Champagne. It then officially became the wine of the coronations at the Court of France when Louis XIV was crowned on June 7, 1654. In 1728, under the reign of Louis XV, wine was authorized to be shipped in bottles. This marked the beginning of the development of champagne, which could now be exported.
Buoyed by its success, the word "champagne " was soon usurped. This led professionals to organize themselves.
Laws and decrees helped defend the appellation by defining production methods and location, with the law of May 6
1919 modified by that of July 22 1927.
The Champagne terroir is characterized by its dual climatic influence, its steep relief and its predominantly limestone soil.
All these inseparable elements make it a unique vineyard, ensuring the typicity of the wines produced.
The geographical location of Champagne Viticole is accompanied by a dual climatic influence. It is both continental, with summer sunshine, and oceanic, with constant, moderate rainfall.
Temperatures average around 11°C per year. Temperature variations are limited, and rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year.
However, frosts are a hazard that requires particular vigilance on the vines. In winter, they can destroy vines. In spring, they can weaken buds.
This climate, combined with the vineyard's exposure to the sun, is remarkable for its location. The wines are taut and fresh, with low sweetness and a dominant aromatic quality of rare finesse.
The steep, hilly topography of the terroir ensures good sun exposure for the vines and facilitates drainage of excess water.
The subsoil is essentially limestone. This dates back to the Cretaceous era. The name comes from the Latin creta meaning "chalk". It refers to the vast marine chalk deposits from this period, when the seas covered the entire region. The rock thus formed contains fossils such as belemnites, related to cuttlefish, and micrasters, from the sea urchin family. Found mainly on the Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims, it favors drainage, absorbs temperature variations and brings acidity and minerality to the grapes.
Further south and west, it gives way to clayey or marly soils, which are more rounded.
The terroir is also characterized by its fragmentation. Each village constitutes a cru. The 319 crus cover almost 280,000 parcels. The average surface area of the 34,200 hectares of vineyards is around 12 ares. This specificity enables the creation of parcel-based cuvées expressing the full typicity of the terroir.
Champagne Viticole is generally described according to 4 zones: Côte des Blancs, Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Bar.
The scourge of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century and the First World War considerably reduced the size of the Champagne vineyard.
Today, it covers 34,200 hectares, making it one of the smallest vineyards in France. It is organized into 4 production regions.
France is one of the world's leading wine producers, with almost 800,000 hectares of vines. Champagne Viticole represents less than 5% of this total, and accounts for around a third of French wine exports. In 2021, it will benefit from a significant rebound, with 320 million bottles shipped.
It produces mainly champagne, but also, on a more limited scale, still, non-sparkling wines:
- coteaux-champenois, white, red or rosé wine,
- rosé des Riceys, made from grapes grown in the eponymous commune.
The Côte des Blancs is located in the Marne department, south of Épernay. It extends over some twenty kilometers perpendicular to the Marne Valley.
The slopes are mainly oriented
East and South-East, sheltering the vines from the prevailing winds. They are generally planted between 100 and 200 meters above sea level.
This region is the cradle of the Chardonnay grape, from which it takes its name. This white grape is enhanced by a chalky layer that brings finesse and minerality.
The soil in this area is characterized by outcropping chalk, a veritable reservoir of water and heat. The rock stores the sun's heat during the day and releases it at night. It also ensures soil drainage. It eliminates excess water through perfect drainage. This regulates excess humidity in rainy periods and mitigates the effects of drought in summer. On the surface, the chalk reflects light and heat onto the vines.
Although this rock was mined for the construction of Reims, the chalk pits are now used as cellars. They guarantee the ideal temperature and humidity for ageing and preserving champagne.
In this "chalky Champagne ", independent winegrowers, major houses and cooperatives work side by side to produce cuvées featuring Chardonnay. Appreciated by connoisseurs, Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, and even more so Chardonnay Grand Cru, boasts complex, delicate aromas.
Produced from these remarkable plots, it expresses the quintessence of exceptional cuvées.
The specificity of each terroir enables it to express itself differently:
-Avize champagnesare sought after for their minerality and white flower aromas, punctuated by noble citrus fruits,
- Chouilly champagnes are appreciated for their elegance, haloed by notes of sweet fruit, against a background of freshness,
- Oger cuvées can be recognized by their generous aromas, with a hint of pastry, evolving towards slightly spicy notes,
- As for those from Mesnil-sur-Oger, they are characterized by their fullness and complexity, thanks to a softer soil,
- Finally, champagnes from Cramant stand out for their power and concentration.
Following on from the Côte des Blancs, the Sézannais terroir is characterized by the presence of clay or sand on chalky soil. The grape varieties grown in this area are mainly Chardonnay.
The Montagne de Reims is a wooded plateau bordered by hillsides planted with vines between Reims and Epernay. It is the region with the most communes classified as Grand Cru. The vineyards are divided into five zones:
Bouzy-Ambonnay, Écueil, Chigny-les-Roses, Verzenay, Trépail, Nogent-l'Abbesse.
The term "mountain" originates from the change in altitude between the Champagne plain and the cuesta (an asymmetrical relief with a steep slope and a gently sloping opposite side). The vines grow here at an altitude of 200 metres.
Mainly south-facing, with deep limestone soils, the Montagne de Reims is the ideal soil for Pinot Noir. It produces champagnes that are particularly fresh, powerful and full-bodied. The resulting cuvées offer aromas of exceptional finesse. They lend themselves well to prolonged aging, exhaling aromas enriched by notes of dried fruit and spices. They can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with meat dishes.
Chardonnay is found on eastern slopes, sheltered from westerly winds, as in Villers-Marmery and Trépail. Pinot Meunier is planted mainly in the west, in the communes of Ludes and Rilly-la-Montagne.
The region is dominated by the Verzenay lighthouse. Built in the early 20th century by Joseph Goulet, it offers a panoramic view of what its builder called the "sea of vines". The lighthouse houses a museum with a discovery trail on vines and terroirs.
The Marne Valley vineyards begin in the east, at Tours-sur-Marne, and extend westwards. It crosses the historic heart of the vineyard, passing through Épernay, Aÿ and Hautvillers.
With more than 12,000 hectares of vines, the Marne Valley and its 108 communes is the most extensive region of Champagne Viticole.
The grape varieties of choice here are:
- Pinot Noir, mainly planted near the Montagne de Reims, with its limestone soil,
- Pinot Meunier planted further west, on a clay-marl soil with steep hillsides.
This contrast makes for remarkable blends, combining grape varieties and complementary terroirs.
The Côte des Bar, "bar" meaning "summit" in reference to its steep relief, is the southernmost area of the Champagne vineyards.
It covers 8,000 hectares in the south of theAube department.
It wasthe last region to join Champagne Viticole. Until then, it was considered a subsidiary production zone, in case of shortages or price disagreements between merchants and winegrowers. Its status was recognized with the 1927 law defining the Champagne production zone.
The subsoil is essentially made up of marl, a sedimentary rock combining limestone and clay reminiscent of neighboring Burgundy.
Originally planted with Gamay, today it produces mainly a round, fruity Pinot Noir, sought-after for its freshness.
This is the only region to have 3 appellations:
- rosé des Riceys.