Champagne is one of the most incredible regions on the planet.
It’s the only place in the world where champagne is allowed to be produced. It’s filled with countless vineyards, producers and champagne houses. You’ll also find magnificent underground cellars where millions of bottles of champagne are stored, some of them up to 60 years old. The mild climate and the chalk soil make this unique area exceptionally well suited to growing grapes.
But the region is special for many other reasons. Below are some must-know facts about the Champagne region!
Did you know that …
.. in 2015, the Champagne region was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage area?
The enchanting Avenue de Champagne, Fort Chabrol and the cellars of houses including Pommery, Ruinart, Veuve-Cliquot form part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. Together with many other champagne hills, houses and cellars.
.. the Champagne region consists of no less than 34,000 hectares of vineyards? Divided into 4 important growing regions?
- Montagne de Reims
- Vallée de la Marne
- Côte des Blancs
- Côte des Bar
Where should we begin?
To get your bearings, the Route Touristique du Champagne was created, covering hundreds of miles in the Champagne region. Divided into 5 different routes which lead you through the delightful vineyards and beautiful champagne houses.
.. Champagne has the highest yield of grapes per hectare of all French wine regions?
But that this yield is subject to all kinds of restrictions? The yield per hectare is fixed each year and is generally not permitted to be more than 10,400kg of grapes, unless otherwise determined by the Comité Champagne, depending on specific circumstances.
.. the seasons are absolutely critical to the winemakers in the region?
In most of Europe we can eat grapes year-round. We barely notice the different seasons any more. But as a champagne producer, the seasons mean everything. When to prune, sow, harvest… and extremely importantly, when the grapes begin to grow!
.. the harvest of the grapes always takes place in September and each village is allocated its own starting date for each grape varietal?
The growers cannot just decide for themselves when they start harvesting.
“From the moment that the grapes start to change colour (véraison), samples are taken twice a week from around 450 vineyards in the entire Champagne region.
These samples are tested for the extent of colouring, average weight, estimated sugar ratio, total acidity, and the presence of botrytis cinerea. Botrytis cinerea and mildew were present this season. And will no doubt have affected the harvest dates in several areas this year.
The measurements are then passed on to the laboratory of the official Champagne Comité on the same day. They fix the results for each vineyard, and then compare these against the averages. Based on these results, each council area and grape varietal is assigned its harvest commencement date.”
.. all grapes are handpicked?
This means as little waste as possible, and retains the flavour. It is also mandatory under the regulated champagne laws. That means thousands of volunteers are needed each year, to help with the harvest.
.. only sparkling wines from the Champagne region can use the name ‘Champagne’?
Everyone knows that Champagne comes from the Champagne region. It’s a protected brand in many countries around the world, which means that the name cannot be used for other products or wines. This agreement has however not been made by the United States, which means they can still use the name ‘champagne’. Many champagne houses in France, as well as the official Comité Champagne, are far from happy about this fact.