Eight years of work and campaigning making for a worthy application have now been rewarded by UNESCO World Heritage status, with the official announcement being made in July in Bonn. A look back at a ’unique’ adventure!
World Heritage is a label given by UNESCO to places or properties of Exceptional Universal Value, i.e. of interest to the whole of humankind and with no equivalent anywhere in the world. The 2014 list of universal and exceptional sites contained 1,007 properties worldwide, 39 of which are located in France. They include Notre-Dame Cathedral, Saint-Rémi Abbey and the Palace of Tau in Rheims.
In 1992, UNESCO further developed the definition of world heritage by gradually introducing broader cultural landscapes and properties and industrial sites that have contributed to the development of humankind.
UNESCO went on to recognize vineyards for their spectacular (Lavaux in Switzerland and the Douro wine region in Portugal) and even exceptional beauty (Pico Island in the Azores) or their historic nature (Tokaj wine region in Hungary and Saint-Emilion in France). The exceptional value of the Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars differs considerably from that of these landscapes. The Champagne Region has been shaped by its tumultuous history and geographic location and is also a landscape in which humankind has created a unique rural, urban and underground heritage in the chalk and from a thankless soil has managed to produce a delicious drink that enjoys worldwide popularity. The inclusion of the Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars is recognition for this unique heritage and for the know-how of the people who have made the champagne production method into a benchmark method, as well as encouragement to keep up efforts to conserve and develop vineyard landscapes. Pékin
Following the Champagne Committee’s initiative, a team of experts started work in 2006, in order to see whether a UNESCO World Heritage application would be appropriate and feasible. The Association Paysages du Champagne (Champagne Landscapes Association) was founded in 2008 to coordinate the application process and play a role galvanising and uniting all the protagonists in the AOC Champagne area.The association then put together the application by making an inventory of the region’s incredible wealth of wine industry heritage. Key milestones in the UNESCO adventure include September 2012 when Daniel Rondeau, France’s ambassador to UNESCO, submitted the nomination to the World Heritage Centre, so that its exhaustiveness could be checked, and January 2014 whenAurélie FILIPPETTI, France’s Minister of Culture and Communication, decided to put forward the Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars application, alongside the Climates of Burgundy application, for inscription in summer 2015. The last key stage for the application, just before the meeting announced its final decision in Bonn, was the publication of ICOMOS’ opinion (ICOMOS is the advisory body for the World Heritage Committee) following a rigorous expert assessment lasting 18 months. ICOMOS recommended to the World Heritage Committee “that the Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars should be listed”. And the rest, as they say, is history!
The Association Paysages du Champagne is managed equally by the local councils and wine industry professionals and was tasked with drawing up the application, galvanizing stakeholders and local residents, and organizing and planning efficient and sustainable management of the Champagne landscapes, a vital task stipulated by UNESCO in order to preserve this set of precious properties with a strong and unique history. The region’s stakeholders, politicians, academics and associations, among others, all became aware of this unique living cultural heritage and joined forces to protect it.
Pierre Cheval is the Association Paysages du Champagne president. A wine grower in Aÿ where he heads Champagne Gatinois, Pierre Cheval was the administrator of the General Association of Winegrowers for several years before becoming its vice-president. He was also the second ever wine grower to be a commander of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne (a Champagne wine fraternity) and he headed the Avize Winegrowing School until 2012. Pierre
Cheval has also been the deputy mayor of Aÿ
•The local community lent massive support to the application
The Association Paysages du Champagne created resources enabling everyone to back the application. Support forms were handed out across the region to gather support from local people and visitors (close to 53,000 ambassadors supported the application!). The association also got involved in a whole range of local events in order to publicize its campaign (including the Habits de Lumière
culinary and cultural festival and the European Heritage Days).
• The districts in the AOC Champagne production area joined the association
The 320 districts that make up the AOC Champagne production area (in the Marne, Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne areas) were asked to join the association.
• Knowledge-sharing tools were created to publicize champagne’s heritage
Guides and reference works were created to raise awareness and support the project developers. They can be accessed on www.paysagesduchampagne.fr
Des projets pédagogiques sont mis en place en partenariat avec le Rectorat de Reims. Un concours a été lancé en 2013 sur le patrimoine du Champagne…
The association also made a film to share the fundamental values with the general public. It can be viewed on the association’s YouTube channel. Educational initiatives were set up in partnership with Rheims education authority. And a champagne heritage competition was launched in 2013…
• Passing on our heritage to future generations
We are duty bound to convey the wealth of our heritage to future generations and to teach them to appreciate what surrounds them and is part of their daily lives.
Our initiatives for children always prove very popular. Young people were involved several times over the course of the year through creative competitions, fun knowledge-sharing resources and balloon release events.
Property inscription criteria are very stringent and this continues once a property has been included on the list, as the stakeholders must demonstrate their capacity to manage and protect the property in the long term. The Association Paysages du Champagne is aware of the need to develop a package of measures guaranteeing not only the preservation of the property in the short, medium and long term, but also designed to showcase it, so starting in 2012, the association developed a virtuous management plan for the entire region, working in partnership with all the stakeholders involved in the AOC Champagne production area. The Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars management plan is innovative as it incorporates the area’s history and how it is perceived and experienced.
The management plan has three component parts:
— Part I: Site guidance document: a framework document confirming the long-term guidelines covering the property, resulting from forwardlooking participatory workshops and drawing on assessments of the state of conservation and factors affecting the property.
— Part II: - Short-term themed implementation: specific phased initiatives, identified partners, evaluation indicators and identified sources of funding.
–– Part III – Charter: voluntary undertaking made by the AOC Champagne production area stakeholders within their spheres of responsibility to preserve and develop the Champagne landscapes.
The management plan is supported by everyone involved and is a vision of a common destiny. The management plan stipulates the collectively decided level of commitment of all the region’s stakeholders, whether they are from the local councils, private sector or civil society, namely their commitment to ensuring the long-term future and development of the property. This initiative, which has already led to major public and private sector work to showcase and restore the property, is supported by an ambitious programme of initiatives. The implementation of evaluation and monitoring procedures will enable the management system’s impact on the property to be assessed and to support stakeholder involvement over time. This is vitally important as inscriptions on the World Heritage List are re-evaluated every six years!
The state and the World Heritage Centre require a coordination body to be set up and an accountable manager to be appointed for the implementation of the management plan in order to guarantee the governance and management of the French properties inscribed on the World Heritage list.
The first regional conference (the biggest body of the future management structure bringing together all the stakeholders, partners and sponsors) meet in Epernay on 3 October 2014.
This conference enabled joint decisions to be taken on the major principles underpinning the future management structure:
- Equality: between the local authorities and champagne industry professionals.
- Practicality: the management structure became a non-profit association (1901 law).
- Coordination: the association’s main remit will be to coordinate the involvement of all the region’s stakeholders in managing the property listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.