The French wine growing region of Champagne is often perceived as one specific area which produces some awesome spritzy wine. However, if you look a little closer you will notice that the region of Champagne is actually made up of five distinctive sub-regions which possess their own unique characteristics and soil types. The irony of this is that the uniqueness of each sub-region is negated by the tradition of blending various grapes from different regions to make the wine. To make matters worse, the region of Champagne is dominated by a few very large producers, known as Champagne houses, which sell their blended wine under one brand name. Champagne wine is sold by house style and image instead of the unique and distinctive “terrior” of the region.
The five sub-regions of Champagne are Vallée de la Marne where the Pinot Meunier grape is dominant and thrives in the clay and sand deposits. Montagne de Reims has classic, chalky soils dominated by Pinot noir. Chardonnay is the prevalent grape in the Côte des Blancs, where the grapes love the chalk, sand and clay of the southeast facing slopes. Côte de Sézanne contains both Chardonnay and Pinot noir. Finally, Côte des Bars (also known as Aube) possesses Kimmeridgean soil that is like heaven to a Pinot noir grape. So the next time you’re drinking Grand Cru Champagne, don’t think about the flavors of the fruit and yeast, think about the mystery of the region that is an essential part of the wine.
Annette Solomon, CS