Champagne Terroir & Grape Growth Factors
Before we get into the article about the growth and terroir factors that affect grape production, if you would like to see our family produced Champagne products, please click HERE.
This article discusses the growth factors that are important when it comes to the production of grapes and how the natural terroir affects the produce.
Growing Conditions for Grapes
It is a fact that there is no other area on the planet that has the growing conditions that is found in the Champagne area, and this is why Champagne can lay claim to being the best sparkling wine in the world. The vines in the Champagne region rarely produce ripened grapes, the result of this is that there is found an acidity, extract and richness that is produced with the fine line that exists between success and failure for such a fine Champagne.
The terroir of the Champagne region is perfect for the production of grapes for a number of very important factors. The reason for this is that the chilly climate and soil that is very lime-rich are decisive factors for making Champagne the fine sparkling wine that it is. Ironically, if this region were found all over again people would likely not want to grow here for these reasons, as on paper they don’t seem beneficial for the ideal conditions for producing such a high quality sparkling wine.
The Contrast with Burgundy
Nowadays Champagne has only one AOC, this is surprising especially when we consider that the land area amounts to 84,000 acres. the vast bulk of this land is spread over 300 villages, so a great number of settlements contribute towards making the Champagne that we know today. When we contrast this to Burgundy, we see roughly 100o AOCs, and this is over roughly 30,000 acres, the AOCs in question here have unique characteristics and compete for recognition.
Having just the single AOC for Champagne is by and large due to commercial reasons, their desire is to blend wines from all over the region and would rather this than have differing vineyards being profiled. All in all you can see that when you buy a bottle of Champagne that a great deal of commercial organisation has occurred in the background.
Premier Cru and Grand Cru Villages
When the Cru status was established there were only 12 villages that has achieved the status of Grand Cru. by 1985 this figure had increased to 17 with 5 villages having their status promoted. An interesting point to note is that in all the vineyards within the Champagne region, only 9% of them have achieved the Grand Cru status.
Every single Premier Cru and Grand Cru villages are located in the Marne department. Remember, we keep two types of fine Champagne in stock, if you would like a Grand Cru for yourself or as a gift, let us know and we will try source it for you.
Here are some of Grand Cru villages in case you want to look for a fine Champagne for your next family gathering or celebration.
Grape Growth Factors
- Location: In terms of the AOCs the Champagne region is by far the most northerly, and in geographical terms it lies 90 miles from Paris. Nearly all of the region is located in the Marne department, so now when someone asks about the location of your Champagne then you can impress them!
- Climate: The Atlantic heavily influences the northern climate as it is rather wet and cold, which results in cooler summers and with seasons that are often quite variable. Furthermore, the growth cycle of the vine is pushed to the limit due to the arrival of frost in the spring which can be a major problem for Champagne in general.
- Aspect: Typically the vineyards will be planted on the south-east facing hills and are located at an altitude of between 370 – 650 feet. The slopes also help the vines maximise the amount of sunlight that they receive as if you compare this to a flat land then the typical bottle of Champagne being produced would have had many less hours of sun over the year.
- Soil: The soil in this area is very chalky, or is a mix of chalk and clay. The subsoil in this region is by and large chalk, and when the rain falls a huge amount of water is stored up in the chalk that lies below the vines. If there is too much rain then the chalk simply drains away the excess, and conversely when there is a drought a great deal of water is still retained in the subsoil meaning that the vines stay well watered, without this your fantastic bottle of bubbly would not be in the same condition.
- Vinification: Mechanical harvesting is banned and the vast majority of grapes are pressed used the traditional process of the ‘Pressoir Coquard’. Having said that stainless steel vats do get used in the fermentation process, although the second fermentation is always in the bottle which guarantees the quality of fine Champagne. So next time you buy a Champagne birthday gift you will be all the wider for it!