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, historic region and former province, France

Champagne (shäNpäˈnyə), historic region and former province, NE France, consisting mainly of Aube, Marne, Haute-Marne, and Ardennes depts., which formed the modern administrative region of Champagne-Ardenne from 1972–2016, when it was merged, with Alsace and Lorraine, into the region of Grand Est. The Champagne region is almost, but not fully, coextensive with the former provinces of Champagne and Brie.

Abutting in the west on the Paris basin, Champagne is a generally arid, chalky plateau, cut by the Aisne, Marne, Seine, Aube, and Yonne rivers. Agriculture, except in the Ardennes dept., is mostly confined to the valleys. Crests divide the plateau from northwest to southeast into several areas. In the east, bordering on Lorraine, is the so-called Champagne Humide [wet Champagne], largely agricultural, and the Langres Plateau. In the center is the Champagne Pouilleuse [Champagne badlands], a bleak and eroded plain, traditionally used for sheep grazing; however, Troyes and Châlons-en-Champagne, its principal towns, are located in fertile valleys and are centers of the wool industry. A narrow strip along the westernmost crest of Champagne is extremely fertile. The area around Reims and Epernay and the SE Aube dept. furnishes virtually all of the champagne wine exported by France. Reims and Troyes are the center of the area's textile industry. The St. Dizier area is a metallurgy center. Other fertile districts are around Rethel and Sens.

Champagne's central and open location made it a major European battlefield from the invasion by Attila's Huns, whom Actius defeated at Châlons in 451, to World War I, which left vast areas scorched. Yet the same geographic position gave the towns of Champagne a commercial prosperity in direct contrast to the bleakness of the countryside. In the Middle Ages, Champagne was famous for its great fairs, held at Troyes (the capital), Provins, Lagny-sur-Marne, and Bar-sur-Aube. Merchants from all over western Europe met six times each year. Their laws regulating trade had a profound influence on later commercial customs; the troy weight for precious metals is still used. Prosperity was accompanied by cultural brilliance, culminating in the work of Chrétien de Troyes and in the Gothic cathedral at Reims.

The county of Champagne had passed to the counts of Blois in the 11th cent.; the main branch held Champagne after 1152. The domain was greatly extended; large parts of France, including Blois, Touraine, and Chartres, were dependent upon the Champagne counts. Most famous of the counts was Thibaut IV, who in 1234 inherited the crown of Navarre from his uncle Sancho VII. In 1286 the daughter and heir of Henry III, Count of Champagne and King of Navarre, married Philip IV of France. When their son ascended the French throne (as Louis X) in 1314, Champagne was incorporated into the royal domain. The bishoprics of Reims and Langres were added later. Champagne declined in prosperity thereafter; however, the enduring popularity of its sparkling wine, which was developed at the end of the 17th cent., somewhat revitalized its economy. More recently, efforts have been made to reforest the area and reclaim it from erosion.


, sparkling white wine
champagne (shămpānˈ), sparkling white wine made from grapes grown in the old French province of Champagne. The best champagne is from that part of the Marne valley whose apex is Reims, the center of the industry. Champagne was reputedly developed by a monk, Dom Pérignon, in the 17th cent. It is a mixture of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and is named for the vintners and shippers responsible for each blend. After the first fermentation the wine is blended; it undergoes a secondary fermentation, then is drawn off into bottles reinforced to withstand high internal pressure, and is sweetened to induce further fermentation. The carbonic acid retained in the bottle after the final fermentation renders champagne sparkling. The wine is matured in the labyrinthine tunnels of the old chalk quarries of Reims. Any sediment that forms is collected on the cork by tilting the bottle neck downward and frequently rotating it by hand. After fermentation comes the dégorgement process, whereby the neck of the bottle is frozen and the cork is removed; the lump of frozen sediment shoots out, propelled by the pressure in the bottle. The space left is filled with the proper dosage of cane sugar dissolved in wine and usually fortified with cognac. Brut champagne is theoretically not sweetened; extra dry champagne, very lightly. Sparkling American wine is sometimes called champagne.


See studies by S. Sutcliffe (1988), F. Nicholas (1989), M. Edwards (1994), M. McNie (1999), T. Stevenson (2003), D. and P. Kladstrup (2005), and G. Liger-Belair (rev. ed., 2013).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a historical region in northwestern France. Now the departments of Marne, Haute-Marne, Aube, and Ardennes. Area, 2,600 sq km. Population, 1,337,000 (1975). The principal city is Reims.

In 1974, 40.7 percent of Champagne’s economically active population was employed in industry and construction, and 14.6 percent in agriculture. Such cities as Reims, St. Dizier, and Mézières have metalworking and machine-building industries. The region also has a textile industry, a knitwear industry (Reims, Troyes, and Sedan), a wood-products industry, and a paper industry. Food products are manufactured; of particular importance is the production of champagne in Reims, Epernay, Châlons-sur-Marne, and Bar-sur-Aube. Agriculture is dominated by the cultivation of wheat, barley, Indian corn, and, on the slopes of the cuestas of Ile-de-France, grapes. Livestock is also raised.

Champagne is first mentioned in historical sources as a county formed between the late ninth and late tenth centuries. During the Middle Ages, Reims, Châlons-sur-Marne, Troyes, and Provins were noted for the production of woolen fabrics; sheep were raised in the region. In the 14th century wine-making became a major industry.

In the 12th and 13th centuries the trade fairs of Champagne played an important role in Western European commerce. The fairs were held in a fixed order in the cities of Lagny, Bar-sur-Aube, Provins, and Troyes, so that virtually throughout the year a fair was under way in some city of the region.

Champagne was first joined to the royal domain in 1284; the union became permanent in 1361. In the 14th century, during the Hundred Years’ War of 1337–1453, Champagne was one of the main theaters of military action; as a result, the economic significance of the fairs declined. The Jacquerie, an antifeudal peasant uprising, spread to part of the region in 1358.

On the eve of the French Revolution, Champagne was one of the most backward provinces in France. When France was divided into departments in 1790, Champagne ceased to exist as an independent entity.



a sparkling grape wine saturated with carbon dioxide by secondary fermentation of wine material that has been specially prepared and processed in hermetically sealed bottles or tanks. The increased content of carbon dioxide in champagne causes the wine’s frothing and sparkling when the bottle is opened.

Champagne took its name from the French province of Champagne, where it was first made in the mid-17th century, and the process of saturating wine with carbon dioxide by secondary fermentation is referred to as champagnization. In accordance with French law, the name “champagne” can be used only for bottle-fermented sparkling wine produced in the province of Champagne. Sparkling wines from other wine-making regions of France are called mousseux. In the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, German sparkling wines are produced under the name Sekt, and the Italian name is spumante. In the USSR the terms Sovetskoe shampanskoe and Igristoe are used. The different varieties of the latter include Donskoe, Sevastopol’skoe, Muskatnoe, and Tsimlianskoe.

Wine material obtained from special grape varieties is used to make sparkling wines. Wine may be secondarily fermented in the bottle or in the tank; tank fermentation may be done in several steps or by the continuous method.

Bottle fermentation begins with the preparation of a tirage mixture containing blended wine material, a sugar solution, and a separate pure yeast culture. The bottles are carefully corked and racked for fermentation and aging. After three to four weeks the sugar added to the wine ferments, and a pressure of up to five atmospheres develops in the bottles as a result of the formation of carbon dioxide. The aging of the wine in contact with the yeast (from the moment the wine is poured into the bottle until the yeast residue is removed) lasts three years. During this period the champagne acquires its characteristic flavor and bouquet, as well as its ability to sparkle and froth, as a result of complex physicochemical and biochemical processes.

Toward the end of the aging process the bottles are racked to clarify the wine and collect the sediment on the cork; this process is called riddling or remuage. The necks of the bottles are frozen to facilitate the collection of sediment on the cork, after which the bottle is opened and the sediment is removed, along with the cork; this process is called disgorging or dégorgage. A liquor of high-grade wine, sucrose, and brandy spirits is added to the bottle for the required sweetness. The bottle is then recorked, put through a final aging period, and packaged and shipped.

In step-by-step tank fermentation, the wine is fermented in large-capacity tanks (usually 5–10 cu m) for about one month. It is then cooled, filtered, and poured into bottles.

In the continuous tank-fermentation method, which was developed in the USSR, all steps from the initial processing of the wine material to the finished product are conducted in a continuous flow. In this procedure the blend of wine materials is biologically deaerated in fermenters with a high yeast concentration. It then undergoes pasteurization and additional fermentation with yeast in a series of fermentation tanks or a single tank with numerous chambers. After the addition of sugar solution it is enriched by biologically active substances in special devices called biogenerators, cooled to a temperature of about –5°C, and filtered. A final dose of sugar solution is added, and the wine is poured into bottles. The continuous method produces a champagne as fine as bottle-fermented varieties.

Soviet champagne contains 10.5–12.5 percent alcohol by volume. Different types of Soviet champagne are distinguished according to sugar content: brut (to 0.3 percent), extra dry (0.8 percent), dry (3 percent), semidry (5 percent), semisweet (8 percent), and sweet (10 percent). Bottle-fermented champagne is marked “aged” (vyderzhannoe) on the label.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


province in northeastern France renowned for its sparkling wine. [Fr. Hist.: EB, II: 724]
See: Wine
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a white sparkling wine produced around Reims and Epernay, France
2. (loosely) any effervescent white wine
a. a colour varying from a pale orange-yellow to a greyish-yellow
b. (as adjective): a champagne carpet
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
So with a mock groan which made her laugh again, Neddy ordered the champagne.
The fact that this young woman had never moistened the selvedge edge of her soul with a less plebeian tipple than champagne, had a marked and subduing effect on Harris.
The car of the balloon was small and neat, some bags of ballast the untidiest of its contents, and he had found a light folding-table and put it at his elbow, and on that was a glass with champagne. And about him, above and below, was space--such a clear emptiness and silence of space as only the aeronaut can experience.
He felt, in the dark, in the locker, put his fingers in the Roman pie, and got some sandwiches, and he also opened rather successfully a half-bottle of champagne. That warmed and restored him, he grumbled at Grubb about the matches, wrapped himself up warmly on the locker, and dozed for a time.
The host had not quite so good a bargain as he at first hoped for, but he made amends by slipping in two bottles of Anjou wine instead of two bottles of champagne.
Philip filled her glass, hoping that champagne would make her more affable; he was anxious that his little jaunt should be a success.
A footman had poured champagne into their glasses, and Lady Ruth talked easily enough the jargon of the moment.
Sabin's attention was directed solely to one group of men who stood a short distance away before the counter drinking champagne. The central person of the group was a big man, with an unusually large neck, a fat pale face, a brown moustache tinged with grey, and a voice and laugh like a fog-horn.
The "protection" of the PDO (a legislation invented on this occasion in the Champagne area and afterward extended to many wines and agricultural products) would allow the segmentation of the market into two strictly separated categories, ordinary sparkling wines and quality sparkling wines, namely Champagnes.
However, the rather pricier Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne Brut NV, selling at Au31.91 a bottle, still came out on top among the 14 champagnes tested.
But old favourite Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne Brut NV, selling at pounds 31.91 a bottle, still came out on top among the 14 Champagnes tested.
True champagnes from venerable houses, such as Pommery, start at about $25.

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