district is the most northerly wine region of French, located some
ninety miles northeast of Paris. Originally, the wines of Champagne were
still. The cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers, a certain Pierre
Pérignon (1639-1715), developed a system of blending, whereby the wines
from different areas in Champagne and made from different grape
varieties, were blended together.
Pérignon has been credited as being the inventor of sparkling Champagne,
there is little real evidence to support this. There are claims that it
was the English who put the sparkle into imported Champagne wines, in
the seventeenth century. One school of thought argues that warm weather
caused the wine to undergo a secondary fermentation in the barrels in
which it was exported.
The region of
Champagne has a marginal climate and a unique form of chalk soil covered
by a thin layer of richer top soil. Three important grape varieties are
grown - Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. The majority of the
vines are planted in the Montagne de Reims (Pinot Noir), Vallée de la
Marne (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), Côte des Blancs (Chardonnay), Cote
de Sezanne and Aube (Pinot Noi).
a protected name. Only sparkling wines from this region made by the
Champagne method are allowed to carry the name on the label.