Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Montagne de Reims and its Grand Cru vineyards (after Peter Liem)

In his best-selling book Champagne, Peter Liem states that the 20 or so subregions into which the Comité Champagne divides the appellation "... is useful but perhaps a little too granular for most people's needs." He reduces this granularity to the seven subregions that I graphically illustrated in a recent post. In that post I promised to delve into Liem's subregions and began with a look at the Côte des Blancs. I continue herein with the Montaigne de Reims.

The Unions des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) divides its Montaigne de Reims subregion into four subzones:
  • Grande Montagne Reims
  • Massif de St. Thiery
  • Monts de Berru
  • Reims: Vesle & Ardre
Montagne de Reims is a forested plateau south of Reims that is known for rich, full-bodied Champagnes and the dominance of Pinot Noir. According to, the subregion is comprised of 94 villages, stretches over 7989.30 ha, and has a variety distribution as follows: Pinot Noir, 40.32%;  Pinot Meunier, 33.59%; and Chardonnay, 26%. The map associated with this characterization of the region is shown below.

Modification of a map secured from cambridgewineblogger
It should be noted that combines Petite Montagne, Vesla, and Ardre (shown separately in the map above) into a single subzone called Vesle & Ardre.

In his graphical representation of Montagne de Reims, Liem divides the villages into two buckets: West and North (to include all the villages located outside of the Grande Montagne subzone); and Grande Montagne. In his description of the wines and terroir, however, he does distinguish between Grande and Petite Montagne. Liem does not spill any ink on the villages falling into the Monts de Berru and Vesle & Ardre (beyond Petite Montagne) subzones.

Montagne de Reims is more of a wide plateau than a mountain as its horseshoe shape -- open to the west -- is only 293 m (940 feet) at its highest point. The plateau is mostly covered with thick forests with vineyards occupying the flanks and, depending on their position on the horseshoe, having exposures ranging between northwest and south. Grande Montagne occupies the northern, eastern, and southern slopes of the horseshoe while Petite Montagne, a lower slope, occupies a northwesterly offshoot.

Grand Cru sites are located on south and north exposures while Premier Cru sites can be found at all exposures. The Grand Cru sites are pictured on the map below and described in detail in the table following.


Table 1. The Grand Crus of Grande Montagne.
-          Most southerly of the Grande Montagne Villages
-          On north bank of the Marne
-          Newcomer (1955) to grapegrowing
-          Terroir produces combination of mountain (more rigidly structured) and river wines

-          Ranks among the greatest terroirs of Champagne
-          Among warmest terroirs of this subzone
-          True mountain wine
-          Bedrock of hard chalk
-          Some parts of topsoil at 50 cm
-          A 3-m-deep layer of sedimentary soil runs through center of village – ideal for Pinot Noir

-          Among greatest terroirs of Champagne
-          Portion of vineyard faces SE (Tempers ripeness, resulting in wines more delicate than Bouzy)
-          Three rolling hills provides wider variety of sun exposure than experienced in Bouzy
-          Chalky terroir
-          Soil poor near Bouzy
-          Deeper alluvial soil at the base of the slope in the eastern portion
-          Thinner closer to Trépail
-          More calcareous soil exposed in SE vineyards 9ideal for Chardonnay)
-          Deep topsoils below the village
-          Les Crayères – chalky vineyard on east side of village
-          Les Bermonds
-          La Grande Ruelle
-          Le Bout de Clos
-          Le Parc – thick layers of tufa above the chalk
-          Clos d’Ambonnay – notably calcareous soils (structure, complexity, salinity)
-          418 ha (1033 acres)
-          Pinot Noir darker than in south-facing villages (distinctive gaminess and metallic, iron-like undertone
-          Well-drained soils
-          Some clay-heavy parcels, some chalk-heavy parcels
-          Clay seems deeper

-          Located on the flatter land below the slope (other side of A4)
-          92 ha (227 acres)
-          Mild, NE-facing slopes in southern part of village

-          La Loge
-          Les Blauer Germains
-          Les Champs de Romont (southern part of village)
-          Westernmost Grand Cru in northern Montagne de Reims
-          Classified Grand Cru in 1920
-          70 ha (123 acres)
-          Strong, 80-member Coop operates herein
-          35 lieux-dits
-          400 parcels of Pinot Noir (89%) and Chardonnay
-          Pinot Noir not as powerful and vinous as is the case for south-facing slopes
-          Among the last subzones in Champagne to be harvested (difficulty ripening)
Varied terroir with chalk subsoil
-          Les Baraqumes – cooler site producing structured, spicy PN
-          Les Godats and Les Coutures – further downm the slope; fatter and warmer
-          Les Cotes – Southern side of the chalky ridge so more exposure than the preceding
Data sources: Peter Liem, Champagne, South-facing. North-facing

The Premier Cru vineyards and the remaining subzones of the Montagne de Reims will, in a subsequent post, round out the discussion of the region.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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