The Champagne region is located East of Paris, along the Marne, Vesle and Aisne rivers. It developed a reputation for quality wine production in the early Middle Ages and continued that reputation as the region's producers began making sparkling wine with the advent of the great Champagne houses in the 17th & 18th century. Today, vineyards cover 34,000 hectares and produce 25 million bottles annually. All 300 Champagne villages scattered around the district are rated for the grape quality potential, and the top 17 are designated as “Grand Cru” vineyards. The best known of these are Bouzy, Aÿ, Sillery and Le Mesnil. The principal grapes grown in the region are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.