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.
Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe.