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Champagne is a historic province in northeastern France. The name derives from the Latin campania, meaning "plain." The county of Champagne was incorporated into France in 1314. Champagne now comprises the departments of Ardennes, Marne, Aube, and Haute-Marne and parts of Aisne, Seine-et-Marne, Yonne, and Meuse. It is a generally arid plateau that slopes toward Paris. Its strategic location has made it a battleground whenever France has been invaded from the east. The Falaise de l'Ile-de-France, a limestone ridge, borders Champagne on the west, separating it from the Ile-de-France, core of the Paris Basin. Grapes grown on the lower slopes of the Falaise are made into the famous sparkling wine in the miles of cellars carved out of the chalk under REIMS and Epernay. Both cities are route centers where the AISNE and MARNE rivers breach the Falaise. The kings of France were crowned in the magnificent Gothic cathedral at Reims. The city has a flourishing textile industry, initially dependent upon the sheep-raising of the Champagne Pouilleuse ("dry or beggarly Champagne"). This infertile chalk plain constitutes most of the province and is being reforested. To its east are the fertile cornfields, pastures, and orchards of the clay vale of Champagne Humide ("wet Champagne"). The principal town is TROYES, the medieval capital of Champagne. The region's mean annual temperature ranges from 10 deg to 15 deg C (50 deg to 60 deg F), and rainfall ranges from 510 to 1,020 mm (20 to 40 in).

Timothy J. Rickard
Source: The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release #8, ©1996

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