In North-East France, on a cold and chalky land oft ravaged by war, the Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars reveal a unique wine-growing landscape, with the vines being the actual supply area, and the villages and town districts being home to wine-making and trading facilities.
The demands of champagne wine production have led to an original threefold system, based on functional town planning, prestigious architecture and unique underground heritage. This wine-growing system, which provides a structure for the landscape and the local economy and everyday life, is the result of a long process of development, technical and social innovation, and major industrial and commercial change, which speeded up the switch from artisan production to a tightly controlled production process and global distribution.
This process of development in which women and the Franco-German heirs of the former Champagne trading fairs played a key role was historically rooted in the Slopes of Hautvillers, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, at the heart of the vineyard, before spreading to the nearest towns in the 17th and 19th centuries. Saint-Nicaise hill in Rheims and Avenue de Champagne in Épernay are the inventions of the local wine industry.
These three component parts of the listed property embody the Champagne wine-growing region and are living and working environments, as well as being a showcase for this traditional form of know-how. They are the birthplace of the benchmark method for making sparkling wine. Champagne is a truly outstanding product and is recognized as being the universal symbol of parties, celebration and reconciliation.
Any applications for world heritage status require the area of the property put forward for inclusion to be identified and delimited. This exercise involved a number of choices being made, based on stringent criteria, in order to guarantee the Exceptional Universal Value of the Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars. The selected property is located at the heart of the AOC Champagne production area in the French départements of Marne, Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seineet-Marne, and combines the supply areas, where grapes grow and ripen, production areas, where the wine is made and matured, and the trading areas, where champagne is showcased and sold worldwide. The listed property has 14 componentparts grouped into three representative ensembles – the historic slopes, Saint-Nicaise hill and Avenue de Champagne – located in the Marne département in the Champagne-Ardenne Region, and stretching out over a 1,100 hectare area. A buffer or vigilance zone has been identified around each of these three sites to aid conservation. An area of undertaking is also part of the area of the listed property in order to preserve the Champagne landscapes and heritage. This area brings together the 320 districts in the AOC Champagne production area.
Follow the guide…
The champagne production chain is represented by the vineyard and by the architectural heritage and cellars. Built heritage in the villages gives a precise illustration of the entire wine industry: press houses (where the grapes are pressed),
wine growers’ houses, cooperatives, Champagne houses (production chains, cellars and prestigious buildings). There are also visible signs of the champagne production process in the vineyard: ventilation shafts (indicating the presence of cellars), boundaries stones (marking growing plot boundaries) and winegrowers’ huts.
The Cumières slopes in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ are the historic and symbolic birthplace of champagne and are located at the heart of the Rheims Mountains Regional Nature Park. The very existence of Hautvillers Abbey bears witness to an ancient and lasting tradition of winemaking. Indeed, it was in Hautvillers that the Benedictine monk Pierre Pérignon played a key role in the development of champagne.
Finally, this site displays features that are specific to the champagne vineyard: omnipresent chalk, the layout and configuration of the villages, the orderly tiering of the land, single-crop growing
This atypical site symbolizes the spatial integration of the champagne production process and the impact of the Champagne Houses on urban design. It also encapsulates the local people’s talent, as former chalk quarries – true underground
cathedrals abandoned once they had been exploited in medieval times – are still used
as cellars today.
It also comprises all the components of the production process:
Champagne’s most prestigious street is one of the best examples of the creation from scratch of an aboveground and underground production environment. It brings together vines, production facilities, cellars, customer reception and prestigious buildings. Its backstory tells the tale of the birth, boom and current situation of the Champagne Houses, in terms of the development of production facilities, communications infrastructure (transport links to Paris, then the capitals of Europe and subsequently worldwide) and showcases.
This avenue therefore boasts outstanding aboveground and underground heritage. The champagne cellars, a unique regional asset, were dug out at the end of the 18th century and throughout the entire 19th century, with the inherent nature of the chalk substratum lending itself to this excavation work, with long galleries being created, linking some of them directly with the canal and subsequently with the railway line.
The champagne merchants who set up their businesses on this street, under the auspices of the Board, built magnificent production facilities above the cellars and then in the 19th century, constructed elegant private residences, the most luxurious of which were called châteaux. The traders’ passion for this avenue meant that a large number of businesses were concentrated on it, aided by the presence of the canal and railway line.
Avenue de Champagne, the former road to Germany (royal road from Paris to Metz and then Sarrebrück, then trunk road 3) was an ageold route for goods transport and also for the intrusions of history (devastating conflicts and invasions): the last wars took a heavy toll on the Champagne region, ravaging its population, land and economy. This remarkable road link, used for centuries to enter and leave the town, made possible trade relations with Paris and the whole of Europe.
The Avenue de Champagne’s stunning buildings with their courtyards and gardens, its attractive parks, vistas of the vineyard and its recent restoration, make it representative of the importance of the wine trade in the development of champagne.
The history of champagne has been marked by pioneering men and women. Their inventiveness and dynamism enabled them to build, develop and pass on a culture and heritage which are now included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Apart from the Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon of Hautvillers, who was one of the trailblazing winemakers, Claude Ruinart (1732-1798), a lawyer and merchant from Rheims, was the first to set up a house on Saint-Nicaise hill. Ruinart was a bold visionary who bought and utilized the hill’s abandoned chalk quarries.
These quarries proved to be fantastic for storing champagne! Other champagne houses followed his lead by establishing themselves on Saint-Nicaise hill in Rheims. These houses ended up buying several of his quarries! A few years later in Épernay, a German wine merchant, Claude Moët, founded Moët in 1743. In 1792, Jean-Rémy Moët took over the management of the house founded by his grandfather. He built a new private residence for himself on what is now the famous Avenue de Champagne (then the Faubourg de la Folie). This was the first of a long series of houses. Jean-Rémy Moët was subsequently elected mayor of Épernay and gave the town great economic momentum for over a
century. In the 18th a and 19th centuries, the champagne trade attracted and aroused the interest of our German neighbours. The major Champagne houses were often Franco-German ventures, with Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Bollinger falling into this category. Young, motivated and creative Germans tended to come to the region to receive training and put down roots. They ended up going into partnership or founding their own houses.
We hear about men’s involvement, but women have played a key role in the history and the development of the Champagne industry. The Clicquot-Ponsardin (1777 – 1866) and Pommery (1819 – 1890) widows spring to mind: two leading figures who made a major contribution to the development of their respective champagne houses and to champagne’s global reputation.. They were strong businesswomen who surrounded themselves with the right people. However, many other women have played their part:, the daughters, wives and mothers of winegrowers, champagne house workers, and many anonymous women who worked first and foremost in the vines. In the second half of the 20th century and with the advent of cooperatives, wine growers started to produce and sell their own champagne, aided by their wives who were not paid for their work. In 1980, they finally obtained social and professional recognition with the creation of the General Association of Champagne Winegrowers’ women’s committee. Other visionaries quickly understood that wine growers and merchants needed to work together in close collaboration in order to develop and safeguard the quality and reputation of champagne wine. In 1931, the very first multi-stakeholder association was created (Champagne Wines Promotion and Defence Committee), made up of MPs and local councillors, civil servants and wine grower and wine merchant representatives. Nowadays, the Champagne Committee, founded in 1941, is an umbrella organisation for 21,000 growers who deliver their grapes to the merchants and / or produce their champagne in cooperatives (grower cooperatives) or alone (independent growers and producers), and 320 merchants who produce and sell two-thirds of the world’s champagne. A representative, united and solid cross-industry body, working for the good of champagne!