logo Saint Thierry Champagne Remi Harlaut-Paris

The Champagne Vineyard

L'appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) "Champagne"

(the mark guaranteeing the quality of Champagne)

It dates back to the turn of the century. Few people know this because it is the only appellation allowed not to put the designation "AOC" on the label.

To have the name "Champagne" a wine must meet certain standards, it must :

come from grapes grown in a limited area - 30000 ha,
come from the 3 authorized vines "Chardonnay", "Pinot Noir", and "Meunier".
come from vineyards pruned in the "Chablis", "Cordon", "Guyot, or "Vallée de la Marne" style,
come from vineyards not exceeding a yield of 50 to 60 hl/hectare,
come from a "moût" (must) characterized by a vinification level of 1600 kg for 1000 l,
be created following the procedure described further on,
not be put on the market before being stored for at least 15 month after the bottling or 3 years after the wine harvest for vintage wines (usually standard Champagne is not sold until it has been stored for 3 years - vintage Champagne 5 years).
In 1978 "le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne" (the Interprofessional Champagne Wine Committee) decreed that machine-picked grapes did not have the right to the appellation "Champagne" nor "Côteaux Champenois".

The soil

The subsoil is particularly chalky. In some areas chalk mixed with sand or clay is found. The vineyards are planted at varying levels on more or less steep slopes. The ground exposure is also diverse.

There are 4 distinct winegrowing regions :
* la Montagne de Reims,
* la Vallée de la Marne,
* la Côte des Blancs et le Sézannais,
* la Côte des Bar et Montgueux.

The Champagne region encompasses 312 wineproducing villages each with its own "cru" (growth). Each '"cru" is named after the village it comes from. For example : Verzy, Aÿ, Le Mesnil, Chamery...

The 312 districts were classified at the turn of the century using a scale from 80-100%. This reflected the prices at which the "crus" were sold. Today this system of classification is used less regularly. 17 districts are classified as "Grand Cru 100%" and 34 districts "Premier Cru". The vineyards are broken down further into localities and plots of land. About 240000 plots of land divide up the Champagne region. The properties range in size from a few centiares to several hectares.

The climate

The Champagne vineyards are above the northern limit of the wineproducing zone! The continental climate is influenced by the ocean. The average annual temperature is 10°C and the number of hours of sun from April to September varies between 1200 and 1400 hours. The grapes'ripening is therefore particularly slow and difficult : this creates the "finesse" of Champagne.

The vines

Distribution of vines :

"Le Chardonnay", the only "cépage blanc" (white vine) makes up 26% of the vineyard. The "cépages noirs" (dark vines) "le Meunier" and "le Pinot Noir" share equally the remaining 74%.

Characteristics of Champagne vines :
* Le Pinot Noir : gives a red fruit flavour and brings strength and body to the wine.
* Le Meunier : this vine brings fullness to the wine - it develops faster than others.
* Le Chardonnay : gives floral and sometimes mineral hints when it is young. It repens slowly and this characteristic is ideal for wine maturation. It's the wine with "finesse".