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Champagne France Northern France Champagne

Champagne (Champagne Ardenne) France French Holidays

According to the locals, squid fossils in the chalk give sparkling wine from Champagne that extra touch of class compared with sparkling wines from other wine growing areas made using the champenois process, and this is why only champagne from designated areas of Champagne can lay claim to the title. Fine wines have been grown in this region for centuries, the vineyards having been planted by the Romans, and it was only in the seventeenth century that the bubbles were added.

Five thousand people are employed by the champagne industry all year round and during the harvest this number rises to about 40,000 people.

Champagne Ardenne

The best place for tasting champagne (called a dégustation) is Épernay, the centre of champagne production and home to many different maisons (champagne houses) who are happy to give a guided tour of their cellars. Otherwise, Reims is home to the big names in champagne production such as Veuve Cliquot, and also boasts a stunning Gothic cathedral where the kings of France were traditionally crowned. The region's capital is the medieval city of Troyes, which has pretty streets and is well worth visiting.

The region of Champagne Ardenne (usually referred to just as Champagne) is divided into four départements : Ardennes; Aube; Marne; and Haute Marne. The countryside is mainly rolling fields and much of it is cultivated, producing wheat and cabbages, among other things. Otherwise there is plenty of woodland in the Ardennes, and an ancient forest at Verzy that has some 1,000 year old beech trees. The five rivers of Aisne, Aube, Marne, Meuse and Seine traverse Champagne, which is useful for irrigating all the crops but sometimes causes floods.

There is a small airport at Reims, and Reims is an hour and a half from Paris by train. Road access is good and the Route Touristique de Champagne meanders nicely through the vineyards, giving you a good view of the countryside. The region is good for such activities as mountain biking, hiking and horse riding. All manner of water sports are possible as one of Europe's largest artificial lakes, the Lac du Der Chantecoq, is near Saint Dizier, and there are plenty of gorges and rivers on which to practise.