Champagne is without a doubt the most famous wine region in the world although little is known of its location or environment by many Champagne drinkers.
Champagne is located about 100 miles East of Paris, and is the northernmost great wine region in the world. Its climate presents difficulties, as the Pinot Noir grape which is grown there is very temperamental. In Bordeaux, where the Pinot Noir is famed, the vintage is notoriously unpredictable. In Champagne, the regional climate presents such problems, that it has been historically difficult to make anything resembling red wine there. This left medieval monks scratching their heads until they reasoned that if they couldn’t make a normal wine, they would try something completely different. Hence ‘Champagne’ of the sparkling variety was born. It is unclear how much of an influence English drinkers had on this development, and it is often said that sparkling Champagne was introduced in England before the vintners of Champagne discovered it! This may have occurred as wine from Champagne that was exported to England entered a secondary fermentation in the bottle before be drank by English consumers.
The popularity of Champagne with the English and others abroad led Merchants such as Moet to hold the strongest hand in the Champagne trade – often at the expense of the growers. This led to the ‘Champagne Riots’ (less fun than it sounds!) of 1910-1911, after which the vineyards laid more of a claim to the profits made from Champagne. This arguably has led to a greater diversity as viticulture has been more carefully tweaked from vineyard to vineyard.Champagne is split into 5 districts: The Aube, Cote de Blancs, Cote de Sezanne Montagne de Reims and Vallee de le Marne. The main centre of the Champagne industry is Reims, where many of the large Champagne houses are based. Principally the success in producing sparkling wine is derived from two things in Champagne - constant rain and chalky soil.