The Champagne wine region is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Paris [source: wine-pages]. The key to this rich, grape-growing land is chalk. You might think of chalk as that annoying substance that shrieks on chalkboards, but this chalk helps to produce fantastic grapes for winemaking. There are three reasons the chalk is so useful:
- Chalk in the soil will reflect sunlight back up the vines to boost growth.
- Chalk can absorb up to 40 percent of its volume. During rainy seasons, chalk can retain the water to ensure drainage for the vines.
- Because the chalk maintains moisture so well, the vines are protected during extremely dry periods. The grape vines receive water through the roots that are buried in the subsoil [source: UMC].
There are specific steps involved in caring for Champagne grapes. Growers throughout the region know they must adhere to these standards or they won't be popping any corks in the spring:
- Pruning: There are four authorized ways to prune, but in general, this just means cutting back stems.
- Binding and lifting: During binding, the vines are attached to wires to control growth. Lifting involves wiring new growth (shoots) upright toward the sunlight.
- Palissage: Vines are clipped in place on the wires due to strict spacing regulations.
- Ebourgeonnage: Clipping off excess new growth. Some buds may be hacked off in the process.
- Shredding: Any clippings dropped below the grape vines are added into a compost to ensure healthy vines and help deter diseases.
- Special processes: There may be additional steps taken due to any number of random farming problems. In short, call in the experts [source: UMC].
Each employee of the vineyard works in sync to carry out these steps to ensure agricultural success.