The Location of Champagne-Ardennes
The Region of Champagne-Ardennes, in the north-east of France, is comprised of the départements of Ardennes, Marne, Aube and Haute-Marne.
However, the ‘region’, designated for the production of Champagne, also includes
parts of the adjoining départements of Yonne [in Burgundy, to the south],
Picardie, to the west], Seine-et-Marne [in Ile-de-France, to the west, south of Picardie], and Meuse [in Lorraine, to the east].
The old French province of Champagne roughly covered this same area.
The name ‘Champagne’, is derived from the Latin word campagna, meaning countryside.
The western boundary of Champagne-Ardenne is located a short 90 miles east of
Paris, making a visit, from
Paris, an easy day trip.
It is an area rich in history, with some of the most spectacular scenery in France.
The region is dominated by lakes, rivers, canals, forests.
There are huge preserves and parks, and the vineyards stretch for miles.
Wild life flourishes in its magnificent verdant forests.
Its lakes and rivers are a backdrop for every imaginable outdoor activity.
There is biking, boating, fishing, hiking, with the list being endless.
When in Champagne, don’t forget to visit the world renowned champagne houses and caves.
The History of Champagne-Ardennes
The history of the region goes back to 500 BC when it was settled by the Gauls.
This area was then called lower Belgium.
However, many of the towns have names that are actually of Celtic origin.
The French Ardennes, which border Belgium to the east, has been the site of numerous, devastating clashes.
It abounds in memories and monuments placed throughout its lush green forests and valleys.
The Ardennes house one of Europe’s largest fortified castles, Château Sedan. Château Sedan claims to be the largest military structure of its kind in the world.
Many Franco-Prussian battles were fought here during the 18th century.
During the early Middle Ages Champagne was a duchy under
Merovingien rulers. About the 10th century it became a hereditary estate known as the county of Champagne.
Louis VII of France fought a 2-year war that resulted in the conquest of Champagne.
In 1180, Louis was succeeded as king by his son
Philip II (Philip Augustus).
Ultimately, he became one of the most powerful European monarchs of the Middle Ages. His full name was Philip Augustus.
From 1181 to 1186 Philip combated a coalition of barons in Flanders, Burgundy, and Champagne.
At their expense, he increased the royal domain.
In 1214, a coalition of European powers, which included England, challenged France’s growing power.
Philip's forces, however, decisively defeated the coalition at the Battle of Bouvines, and established France as a leading European country.
In the 12th and 13th centuries Champagne became known for its commercial fairs.
The fairs were attended by merchants from all over Europe.
Champagne’s capital was then located at
In 1314, the Count of Champagne inherited the region. When he became
Louis X, Champagne became an
official province of the royal domain of France.
The Gastronomy of Champagne-Ardennes
The production of Champagne is centered around the cities of
Reims, Châlons-en-Champagn and
Épernay. The composition of the subsoil, combined with Champagne’s micro-climates, determines the subtle differences between each cru and influences the characteristics of individual wines. This subsoil extends down hundreds of feet to provide the ideal cellars [caves] to store the wines at a constant temperature and humidity.
The chalky limestone soil, and caves below, probably contributes to the Champagne’s great taste.
Although other French wine-producing regions claim to have made sparkling wine earlier, this area was the first place to produce it in significant quantities.
Large and spectacular caves can be visited under the cities of Reims, Epernay, Aÿ and Châlons-en-Champagne, as well as in many towns and villages of La Champagne.
The area of Champagne production was established by law in1927.
The production area, known as ‘la Champagne’, is spread over 312 villages.
It consists of the entire Region of Champagne-Ardennes plus the departement of Yonne [in Burgundy, to the south],
Picardie, to the west], Seine-et-Marne [in
île-de-France, to the west, south of Picardie], and Meuse [in Lorraine, to the east].
This area only comprises about 2.5% of all French vineyards. La Champagne’s vineyards are cultivated alongside chalky hills.
These hills are the remnants of a build-up of maritime sediments that date back some 200 million years.
The deep chalky subsoil stores the sun’s heat and reflects warmth into the vine roots.
It assures perfect drainage and preserves humidity in the soil.
The soil supplies mineral elements to the vines, giving Champagne wines unique characteristics and finesse not found anywhere else.
Three grapes varieties are exclusively grown: Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay.
Champagne styles include pink, (from white grapes to which a red wine is added for color prior to bottling), Blanc de Blancs (from the Chardonnay grape), Blank de Noirs (from Pinot Noir or Pinot-Meunier).
A vintage champagne, consisting 100% of grapes from the same year, has an exceptionally rich texture and full body.
A vintage champagne cannot be marketed for 3 years.
It should be drunk with an exceptional meal.
Non-vintage champagne is not made from grapes of the same vintage or year.
It cannot be marketed for 1 year subsequent to Jan 1.
A Benadictine Monk, named Dom Perignon, supposedly created the Methode Champenoise.
The process, of making this very special sparkling wine, was probably discovered by accident sometime in the early 18th century near the Abby of Saint Pierre. Another fine champagne, named after a Benadictine Monk, is Ruinart.
Other prestige brands include:
Bollinger, Piper Krug, Moet & Chandon, Mumm, Piper Heidsieck, Taittinger and Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin.
Please see our
wine and champagne page.
- The Cheese
The region serves such hearty dishes as andouillette Troyes [a tripe sausage] and potée champenoise.
The later is a pôte-au-feu consisting of smoked ham, from the Ardennes, cabbage and sausage.
The region is abundant in wild game, which lends to many specialty dishes.
Local ingredients also contribute to many fish and seafood dishes.
The Economic Activity of Champagne-Ardennes
The Agriculture & Industry
Champagne’s soil is mainly chalk, and the region’s topography is principally that of a plateau.
The region is known for sheep raising,
wool manufacturing and cheese.
But, it is best known for Champagne, and other wines, which constitutes the region’s main industry.