|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], Aisne [in 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. In 1144, 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 Troyes.
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], Aisne [inPicardie, 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 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.
The Region of Champagne-Ardennes
|Introduction to the Region of Champagne-Ardennes
|The Information on Départements of Champagne-Ardennes
From the 18th century, Epernay has been the heart of one of the world’s most prestigious vineyards. In the 19th century, the Avenue de Champagne was developed with magnificent town houses. Most of these have become the headquarters for some of the most prestigious Champagne producers, whose impressive cellars, beneath the town, are open to visitors. There are some 200 million bottles of champagne in the 60 miles of caves underneath.
Formerly named Remes, Reims is the capital of the departement of Marne and of the Region of Champagne-Ardennes. It is located on the Vesle River. The Romans built Remes on the site of the former capital of the Remi [an ancient people of Gaul], called Durocortorum.
Christianity had been established in Reims since the third century. In 498, Reims became the spiritual and political center of France. This was due, in large measure, to the conversion, to Catholicism, of the Frankish king Clovis. In the 8th century Reims became the seat of an archbishopric, and from the 12th to the 19th century, it was the traditional coronation site for the kings of France. Subsequent to Clovis’s baptism, 25 French kings were crowned at the gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame.
During World War I, Reims was bombed by the Germans. This resulted in the partial destruction of the 13th century cathedral. It was repaired with the help of a large donation by the American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller. The cathedral was damaged again, during World War II, and was subsequently restored. Its famous rose windows are the work of Marc Chagall. It is considered as one of the finest Gothic structures in France.
Other points of interest, in Reims, include the Church of St-Rémi which was begun in the 11th century. There is a Roman triumphal arch that dates from the 3rd century AD. The Saint-Denis Museum contains a notable collection of French paintings. The University of Reims, which was established in 1969. is also located in the city.
On May 7, 1945, During World War II, on May 7, 1945, the city was the site of the signing of the surrender of retreating German armies. The city is a major trade and production center for champagne. Other products include textiles, aerospace equipment, and processed food.
Tricasse was a magnificent city located on the Seine river. It is now named Troyes and is the capital of the departement of Aube. The Counts of Champagne, who ruled this area prior to there being a France, used it as their capital.
Troyes was an early major commercial center with widely attended annual trade fairs. The fairs set standards of weights and measures, such as the troy weight, which still is in use. In 1420, during the Hundred Years’ War, the Treaty of Troyes was signed here. In the treaty,Charles VI of France recognized Henry V of England as his heir and also as regent of France. In 1429, the English surrendered Troyes toJoan of Arc. She then escorted Charles VII to be crowned at Reims.
Troyes is still a commercial and manufacturing center, producing such products as tires, hosiery, machinery and processed food. The city has many historical structures, including the Church of Saint Urbain (begun 13th century), which contains the relics of Pope Urban IV, a native of Troyes, and the 13th century Cathedral of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul. Today, the city’s boarders bear a resemblance to the shape of a champagne cork.