France: Champagne

Around Epernay

The Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs
By Tom Stevenson and Michael Edwards

This Guide was last updated on 14 August 2014
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Main appellations


Champagne is the fiercely protected name for sparkling wine produced by the proscribed ‘Champagne Method’ from grapes grown only in this delimited area of northern France. It is the only Appellation Contrôlée that does not need to use this term on the label. The rules for the production of Champagne are strict: from the viticulture, where vineyards are graded by percentage according to the traditionally perceived quality of their terroir, to the pressing of the grapes, the second fermentation in the bottle, the period of ageing in bottle on the lees, through to the final steps of dégorgement (disgorging) and adding the dosage. Due to its northerly situation the production of ripe grapes is fraught with difficulties and risks, and long experience has shown that the wine must be a blend of grapes from different areas and vineyards, and also, except in the case of Vintage Champagne, from different harvest years. Indeed at least 20% of a particular annual harvest must stored to be used in future years. Thus Champagne is very much about the skill and art of blending.

Coteaux Champenois

An appellation covering the same geographic area, for still wines: red from Pinot Noir and white from Chardonnay, produced in very small quantities. The better known reds come from Bouzy as well as Aÿ and Ambonnay.

Rosé de Riceys

A separate appellation for still rosé wine produced in the village of Les Riceys in the Aube district (see micro-region Guide 'The Aube').

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