There can be no argument that Champagne has become viewed as a wine that simply represents happiness in an effervescent form. It is a wine for celebrating – whether it be in love or in sport. If we are to believe the rich and privileged there really is only one type of sparkling wine – and that is the bottles of bubbly that are sourced from the Champagne wine region in France.
How has one region so dominated the world of sparkling wine? Is real Champagne that much different from the competitors that have vineyards elsewhere in the world – is this entire mythos that has grown up around Champagne valid? Let’s have a closer look at the region in order to understand more about just what makes Champagne so utterly unique.
The Champagne wine region in France is only about 100 miles from the outskirts of Paris (Northeast France). Here one enters wine country. there are five districts that produce wine in the region – including Montagne de Reims, Côte de Sézanne, Aube, Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne. The entire region is about 76,000 acres in extent – small place indeed, with a small number of employees in the wine region. Of the 320 villages in the immediate area, only 5,000 people are employed by the wine industry – and yet these people produce some of the most respected wines in the world – including the signature beverage of province.
In part, Champagne’s magnificent taste is due to the soils in which the vines are planted. Those whose families have worked this soil for generations to produce the wines of the region are adamant there simply is no soil in the world like that in Champagne – and all efforts to duplicate the unique taste of Cham[agne are doomed to failure. The soil is the result of changes in the ocean that once covered the region 70 million years ago. When that sea receded it left behind chalk. Then, 60 million years ago enormous earthquakes mixed in belemnite fossils and marine sediments. The result is a unique soil which drains easily, retains the heat of the sun – which it releases during the course of the night. It is this soil which produces exceptional grapes.
The climate too is ideal for the production of Champagne grapes, as well as the extended bottling / secondary fermentation period required in order to make this truly magnificent wine.
However the Champagne region has much more to offer than Just a bottle of the best bubbly in the world (although that is reason enough to visit) it also has some fantastic opportunities to see the real France – outside of the big cities like Paris. The Champagne region boasts stunning scenery with small villages, many of which serve some wonderful cuisine – another attraction of the Champagne region. Add to this forest and the visual appeal of those magnificent vineyards and one begins to see why the Champagne wine region is so loved by the rich and famous as a holiday getaway. But never, ever forget that wine with its bubbles that seem to whisper ‘celebration’.