Winegrowing in the Champagne
region dates back to the Gallo-Roman period, and the practice was preserved in the Middle Ages by local abbeys, as is the case in many French wine regions. It is also in the Middle Ages that the wines of Champagne first earned renown. This is not surprising considering that the kings of France were crowned in the city of Reims, in the heart of Champagne, until 1825. The coronation ceremonies were an occasion to taste local wines, which is undoubtedly how Champagne came to be associated with celebrations.
Production techniques evolved rapidly in the 17th century, and one of the most significant changes was the shift from storing Champagne in barrels, which allowed the sparkling wine to go flat, to storing it in bottles that conserved its natural effervescence. This control of the bubbles was quite erratic in the 17th century, and bottling posed great difficulties due to the pressure that built up in the bottles during the second fermentation, which creates the bubbles.
The vineyards of Champagne cover about 34,000 hectares (84,016 acres) covering mainly the Marne department and also, less, the Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne, and Seine-et-Marne. The production zone was rigorously delimited in a law passed on July 22nd, 1927. There are two important climatic influences here. First, the continental influence brings winter frosts that can be destructive, but it also provides excellent sunlight in the summer. Second, an oceanic influence brings regular allotments of water and minimizes temperature variation through the year. The main grape varieties used in Champagne are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Also permitted but representing only a tiny portion of the actual production here area number of other white grapes: Albane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris.