The Champagne Region
Champagne is France’s most northerly wine-growing region. Situated northeast of Paris, the region comprises three main districts: the Vallée de la Marne, Montagne de Reims, and the Côte de Blancs.
Three grape varieties are permitted in the production of Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay is most commonly planted in the Côte de Blancs, Pinot Noir in Montagne, and Pinot Meunier in Marne.
Champagne’s marginal vine growing climate of cold winters and warm summers means that non-vintage blends form the mainstay of production – as grapes from one harvest rarely make a good wine in their own right, although exceptional years are sold as vintages.
This phenomenon of blending grapes from different vintages has resulted in the development of individual house styles (Champagne producers are known as houses) – and so it is brand and consistency, rather than any other factor that is of paramount importance when buying Champagne. The majority of growers sell their grapes or wine to larger houses.
Champagne is made using the ‘Champagne method’ (methode champenoise), which involves secondary fermentation in the bottle. Rosé Champagne may be made using grape skin contact or (and unlike any other French region) by adding a small amount of red wine to the blend.
The current annual production exceeds 300 million bottles.