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Definition and protection

Champagne wines owe their exclusive reputation to the work of the Champagne Houses, and never more so than when faced with counterfeiting. The battle to protect the name "Champagne" has been ongoing since the middle of the 19th Century when it was misappropriated by producers outside the region. This was before the days of appellation protection, but the Champagne Houses were having none of it. They lobbied successfully to have the name "Champagne" exclusively reserved for wines from that area, so preventing its use as a generic term for sparkling wine production. They then consolidated their victory by joining forces with Champagne Growers and drafted the first set of rules governing Champagne production, starting with the demarcation of the production area itself. In so doing, they ushered in the concept of AOC status (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlé), which was granted to the Champagne production area in 1936. But vigilance remains the watchword for Houses and Growers alike, who are understandably chary of a reputation hard won over 300 years. Champagne is their exclusive heritage and any attempt to misuse it will always be prosecuted.


The Champagne appellation is the formal expression of a reputation that was already well established. Since the time of the Romans, wine had been produced on the slopes that border the Valley of the Marne. These were still wines, and they owed their existence to the good fortune of history and geography.


Sparkling Champagne wines were an instant success at Versailles and in the great European courts in the first half of the 18th Century when the first Champagne Houses were established. The Houses proved themselves commercially skilled too, making Champagne known around the world among an aristocratic elite. Their travels in the 19th Century were real adventures, sometimes dangerous, taking them from Russia to the United States ...