Reims is a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, and is located 129km east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire.
Some may regard Reims as the geographical capital of the province of Champagne, given its size as by far the largest city in the region. Vines have existed in this region for over two thousand years.
From the Roman invasion to the 16th century, the region's history was closely associated with the production of still red wines, then ‘vin gris’ (not grey wine, but off-white tinged with pink) before producers began to take advantage, towards the end of the 17th century, of the natural tendency of Champagne wines to become effervescent.
The increasing popularity of Champagne and its sparkle led to the creation and prosperity of numerous Champagne Houses in the region. Montagne de Reims: south of Reims, is where the best Pinot Noir grows, is a vast plateau 20-25 kilometers in length and varies from 6 to 10 kilometers in width, and is famed for producing rich, full-bodied Champagnes. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are the predominant varieties here.
The vineyards run up the hillsides until they give way to the trees at the top. Here chalk, mostly the favoured belemnite form, is the principal material underfoot, and hence the land is very desirable for planting vines. Its highest point it is 180m above sea level. The vineyards stretch continuously the length of its northern slopes from Villers-Allerand to Mailly, but the most renowned vineyards are on the northeastern slopes from Verzenay and Verzy to Bouzy and Ambonnay, where the purest chalk subsoil is found and is a perfect environment for the finest Pinot Noir grapes.
The global reputation of a particular Reims Champagne (e.g. Piper & Charles Heidsieck) justifies a house respecting these traditional production laws. It guarantees the specific characteristics and subtleties that a loyal customer comes to expect from a particular Reims house. We were again reminded of the long history of the city, as last year in 2011 Notre-Dame de Reims celebrated its 800th anniversary.