Vallée de la Marne Champagne Wine Region
Vallée de la Marne is the biggest viticultural sub region of Champagne, home to 12,150ha, or 35% of all Champagne vineyards. It is significantly bigger than other Champagne sub regions. The region extends east to west, from Aÿ towards Paris, along the banks of the Marne river, with vineyards also south of Epernay. The two ends of the region are as far as a hundred kilometers apart, showcasing the vastness of the territory. The eastern side of the region is between the Montagne de Reims to the North and the Côte des Blancs to the South. Vallée de la Marne is considered the cradle of Champagne, where legend wants Dom Perignon to produce the first bottles of sparkling wine. Many of the most well-known Champagne houses are based at the eastern end of the Vallée de la Marne.
Varieties in Vallée de la Marne
Pinot Meunier is the main variety by far in Vallée de la Marne, accounting for around 59% of the region’s current vineyard surface. Of the three main Champagne varieties, Meunier has the latest budburst and ripens the earliest. This makes it well-suited for the Vallée de la Marne vineyards which are particularly frosted prone.
For years, the master blenders of the champagne houses were using Meunier only for the Non Vintage wines, having the perception it does not age particularly well, especially compared to the long-lived Chardonnay wines. However, recently there is increased interest and experimentation of a wider inclusion of Meunier in a variety of Cuvées.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Together, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay consist of a bit more than 40% of the vineyard area of the Vallée de la Marne. They are planted on the east side of the region and on chalky soil. Pinot Noir is found where the Champagne region connects to the Montagne de Reims to the north, while most of the Chardonnay is found north of the Côte des Blancs.
Vineyards in Vallée de la Marne
The vineyards of the Vallée de la Marne are found on either side of the Marne river, which flows from Epernay towards Chateau Thierry, just a short distance from Paris. As the river flows east to west, most of them are on the right bank of the Marne valley and have a southern aspect, however, there are a few vineyards on the left bank as well. The low-lying valleys created by the Marne river are particularly frost-prone in spring, so Meunier, which buds almost a week later than Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, can manage to avoid most of the damage.
The soil of Vallée de la Marne can be split into two main types. On the east, the vineyards are on chalky slopes, in between Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs. Going west, the chalk moved deeper into the subsoil, leaving mark and calcareous clay soils on the surface. The hardy Pinot Meunier is planted in these soils, and it seems like the climate and soil of the Vallée de la Marne suit it very well. The increased clay in the soil means it can hold more water, making it a cooler soil, less influenced by the environmental temperature. Cold soils slow down the ripening, but this is not a big problem for Pinot Meunier since it ripens very fast.
Vallée de la Marne Grand Cru Villages
Out of its nine villages, the Vallee de la Marne only has two Grand Cru villages; Aÿ and Tours-sur-Marne. They are both located in the eastern part of the region, an area with pure chalky soil. Of the two, Aÿ is the biggest with 356 ha, while Tours-sur-Marne only has 52 ha of vineyards. Pinot Noir dominates in both of them, giving wines with power, similar to those of neighboring Bouzy.
Typical Champagne Styles
With such dominance of black grapes in Vallée de la Marne, rosé wines are somewhat of a specialty. They are mostly made by blending red wine with white wine, in order to achieve the perfect salmon-pink color. These rosés are made with a majority of Meunier, which gives them incredible fruitiness and contributes to a juicy palate. Many of the rosés made in the neighboring regions of Blanc de Blancs and the Montagne de Reims are using Meunier grapes from the Vallée de la Marne to add complexity and style.
Champagne Producers in Vallée de la Marne
Champagne Cristophe Mignon
In a small village west of Epernay, Champagne Christophe Mignon champions the signature grape of the region – the Meunier. Instead of multi-varietal blends, the winery focuses on making single-varietal wines, from each of the three grapes they cultivate. Most of the wines are made from the Meunier grape – in a blanc de noir style and rose both blended and saignée. What’s more, all wines are made in a brut nature and an extra brut style, so choose the one you prefer the most.
The family is one of the oldest growers in the region, with a history of champagne sales dating back to 1929. The Domaine also follows organic and biodynamic practices both for the vineyard and winery. The moon on the labels is proof of their dedication to biodynamics, as they follow the lunar calendar for all their work.
This family champagne of G.Tribaut is located in the heart of Champagne tradition, the village of Hautvillers, where the legend of Dom Perignon is part of the local history. In this 1er Cru Village Hautvillers, the family farms 12 ha of vineyards. All three grapes are grown, giving them the opportunity to produce many different styles, from fruity roses to Blanc de Blancs. Hautvillers might not be a grand cru vineyard, but there is no doubt that it produces excellent Champagne grapes.