There are seven permitted grape varieties in the Champagne region, and each are planted in various locations to best display the ‘terroir’ of that plot.
The plantings are predominantly made up of the black grape varietals (Pinot Noir and Meunier), as well as the most important white grape (Chardonnay), followed by a total representation of 0.3% of plantings made up by the remaining white grapes (Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris).
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30% of plantings
Adds to the blend: Ageing ability, mineral quality, citrus and floral aromas
Best site:Côte des Blancs
Ripens last of the three varieties
38% of plantings
Adds to the blend: Body, acidity, and red berry aromas
Best sites: Montagne de Reims, Côte des Bar
Ripens second of the three varieties
32% of plantings
Adds to the blend: Structure, roundness, and a ripe fruity character
Best site: Marne Valley
Ripens first of the three varieties
Image Credit, Wine Folly, winefolly.com
Montagne De Reims
The Montagne De Reims is the most northerly area of significant plantings in Champagne which lies directly south of the City of Reims, in a distinct vertical half circle shape. Pinot Noir is the King in these not so high ‘mountains’ being only 180 meters above the lay of the land. Thestand out Grand Cru villages are in the most southerly slopes of the area – Verzenay, Bouzy and Ambonnay.
Cote Des Blancs
As it’s name suggests, Chardonnay dominates the of the Cotes Des Blancs with an impressive 96% of total area plantings, due largely to the chalk lead soils on impressive south-east facing slopes. The yield from this area is the largest and also contains the most Grand Cru sites, which are – Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Cramant, Avize, Chouilly and Oger. This level of outstanding crop explains the volume and demand for Blanc de blanc style.
Vallee De La Marne
The Marne’s western cooler plots of clay and sand make a perfect home for Meunier. Just over half of the Marne’s plantings are Meunier with the other proportion belonging to Pinot Noir whose proportion is on the increase in the East, home to the Southern facing Grand Cru village of – Ay.
The Cotes De Bar or ‘Aube’ is so far South (over 100km from the Cotes Des Blancs), it borders Burgundy /Cote-d’Or. As such, Pinot Noir is the grape variety of choice with vines only being planted in the 1980’s, so a relatively young but distinguished set of plots. There are no Grand Crus sites in the Cotes Des Bar, but the villages to mention are – Celles-sur-Ource, Urville and Les Riceys (the main source of still red’s, and Champagnes largest village).
Cote De Sezanne
Further south again than the Cotes Des Blancs, this is another Chardonnay lead spot producing Chardonnay destined for blending rather than producing a single varietal cuvee.