Monday, December 05, 2011

Vineyard views in Champagne

It was October and the vines still had leaves. The harvesting was done, but I still saw a lot of people working in the vineyards. What were they doing? I'm not sure, but probably some kind of vineyard maintenance. I think it was too early to be pruning.

A pinot noir patchwork. Looking roughly west, toward Paris.

The vineyards in the first photo are pinot noir grapes on the south-facing slopes of the Montagne de Reims, just outside the town where our rental house was.

Looking northward. I like the grass under the vines.

The vines in the second photo are also pinot noir grapes, but this time on the north-facing slopes of the mountain near Verzenay.

Le Pressoir d'Oger, Château Malakoff.

The third photo was taken looking roughly east from the slopes of the Côtes des blancs, where the grapes are chardonnay. That's a cemetery in the foreground and a grape pressing facility at the top.

More chardonnay. These grapes face the morning sun.

And finally, another look at the chardonnay vineyards on the Côtes des blancs, this time looking up the hill toward the forest at the top. I like the way the vines are planted at different angles to optimize drainage.

I started to think about the differences between the Champagne vineyards and those around where we live in the Touraine. The feel is certainly different. Our local vineyards tend to be smaller parcels surrounded by woods. The Champagne vineyards seem to be vast, mostly uninterrupted seas of vines. The Touraine wine industry feels smaller, more individualized, with small growers making their own wine (there are many cooperatives around, too). Champagne felt much more corporate, with outposts of big wine houses (with familiar names) for pressing and fermenting mingled in with the smaller producers.

By the numbers, if my conversions and calculations are correct, Champagne's vines cover nearly 82,000 acres compared with Touraine's more modest 14,000 acres. And Champagne produces about 352 million bottles a year, whereas Touraine's annual production is only about 37 million bottles. While these numbers may not be completely accurate due to my less-than-rigorous research, they do reflect the huge difference in scale between the two wine regions.


  1. Beautiful photos.
    I love the patterns that the vineyards make on the gently sloping hills at all times of year.

  2. Walt, thanks for these photos. I would, mostly, visit Fred in the Wintertime and by then, everything was brown. I'll make sure that he sees these photos too.

  3. the study of wine is a fantastic study, indeed. I would love to visit the reason, if only for the wine.

  4. jean, yes, they are beautiful!

    mark, it's even nicer when it's green (which means it's probably warm)!

    michael, you should make plans. ;)


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