Chalk characterizes much of La Champagne, the large province in eastern France that stretches from Reims towards Burgundy in the south, and up to the Belgian border in the north. The name is derived from the Latin campanus, a word used by the Romans to describe open, flat land in general, which explains why there is also a Grande and a Petite Champagne in the Cognac region, and a Campania in southern Italy.
From La Champagne comes le champagne, champagne wine, but from a small part of the department only.
Champagne's cool climate also plays a vital part in the success of its vines. This is the most northerly of France's vineyards and its 1537 hours of sunshine per year are only just enough to ripen grapes.
Such a marginal climate poses many problems for growers : winter frosts can be so severe as to kill vines, and spring frosts can destroy fruitful buds.
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