Where vines grow: The lay of the land in Champagne
Of all the great wine lands of the world, the lay of the land in Champagne reflects less of the beauty of the product for which its fruits are destined than perhaps any other. This is agricultural turf in plain clothes. On a small range of hills rising less than impressively from a chalk plain 145 kilometres north-east of Paris lies the patchwork of vineyards that is Champagne. Too exposed to wind and rain and not sufficiently exposed to the sun, there is no chance of ripening grapes on the flat land, which is instead planted to mundane harvests of cereal crops, sugar beet and carrots. “If we were only twenty kilometres south we would be growing corn or wheat,” Jacquesson’s Jean-Hervé Chiquet told me from his family estate in Dizy, precisely in centre of the heart of Champagne.
And yet this same land sends a shiver down my spine every time I come close. By some miracle its drab hillsides produce fruits that thousands of winegrowers around the globe strive to emulate yet none has equalled…
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