France - Champagne

All Champagne is sparkling wine. But not all sparkling wine is Champagne. The wine known as Champagne can only come from the region in France of the same name. La Champagne (the region) is located 90 miles northeast of Paris, and in the northernmost wine region in Europe. Of its 84,000 acres, 60,000 (300 individual vineyards) are planted to the varieties that go into Le Champagne (the wine). These include: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The soil of Champagne is a unique chalk which lies just below the thin, constantly-fertilized top soil. The cool climate is almost marginal for grape growing, even in warmer years, dictating the grapes will always be high in acid--not ideal for still wine--but perfect for sparkling. Most of the important Champagne houses (producers) are located in the city of Reims, famous for cathedrals as well as Champagne, and the town of Epernay to the south. These houses are famous for their miles of cold, dark, chalky cellars, in which their prized Champagne ages for many years.