In 1882, thirty-five Champagne Houses formed themselves into a union with the aim of protecting the name Champagne, in France and across the world, from misappropriation by other producers of sparkling wines. The Union gave a formal framework to the collective action that had been in motion since the middle of the 1830s.
Despite resting on a very weak legal foundation (it was 1935 before the concept of appellation d’origine was enshrined in law) the Houses then obtained a ruling from the Court of Cassation in 1889 that stipulated as follows:
"The term Champagne is taken to refer alike to the place of production and the method of production of certain wines specifically known by that name and no others."
In short, "Champagne only comes from Champagne". Without this collective action, Champagne would have become a generic name like Eau de Cologne.
The closing years of the 19th Century also saw the Champagne Houses mobilize against a new foe: phylloxera, which which first appeared in Champagne in the late 1880s. The Houses threw themselves into the struggle, providing Growers with the materials and advice necessary first to attempt to save and then to reconstruct the Champagne vineyard. That was the first official contact between Growers and Houses, laying the basis for the creation of the joint trade association (the "interprofession") several decades later.
UMC membership today comprises 80 Champagne Houses that produce and export 60% of the total volume of Champagne wine. Together they account for 2/3 of Champagne turnover and 85% of total exports (or 20% of the total export value of French wines and spirits), representing France’s second largest international trade surplus.
The Champagne Houses, including some that have been in existence since the first half of the 18th Century, are the cornerstone of the worldwide renown of Champagne wines. Their special talent lies in the crafting of cuvees that perpetuate the characteristic style of each brand. Every cuvee - or blend- is assembled from particular grape varieties, vineyards and vintages, using fruit that is largely supplied under long-term contracts with independent growers (vignerons).
The UMC and the Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne (Champagne growers union or SGV) are the two groups that make up the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC, now known simply as the Comité Champagne).
Non-members of the UMC (at least 200 Négociants Manipulants that do not fulfill membership requirements) are still entitled (if they so wish) to attend the tripartite negotiations defining wages and working conditions for Champagne House employees.
Presidents of the Union since its creation, and their Grandes Marques Champagne brands:
|2013||Jean-Marie BARILLERE||David CHATILLON|
|2007||President Ghislain de MONTGOLFIER|
Vice-president Jean-Marie BARILLERE
|1994||Yves BENARD||Yves LOMBARD|
|Syndicat de Grandes Marques||Union des Grandes Marques & Maisons de Champagne||Syndicats des Maisons (aka|
|1993||Jean-Claude ROUZAUD- L. Roederer||Jean-Michel DUCELLIER - Ayala||François-Xavier MORA|
Marne & Champ.
|1991||Roger DUVAL - Duval Leroy|
|1986||Claude TAITTINGER - Taittinger|
|1983||Alain de VOGÜÉ - Veuve Clicquot|
|1979||Michel COLLARD - Philipponnat|
|1975||Jacques LEPITRE - Lepitre||Michel DUNTZE|
|1974||Claude d’HAUTEFEUILLE - Bollinger||François d’AULAN - P. Heidsieck|
|1972||Gaston BURTIN - Marne & Champ.|
|1960||Bertrand de VOGÜÉ - Veuve Clicquot||Alexandre MÉRAND - De Castellane|
|1952||Christian HEIDSIECK||René CHAYOUX - Ayala|
|1949||Jacques de la MORINERIE - Delbeck|
|1943||Le Syndicat des Maisons|
(aka Syndicat d’Épernay) allowed the UMC to represent the body of Houses.
|1942||Charles CHARBONNEAUX - G. Goulet|
|1934||The creation of the UMC. |
in the war united the Grandes Marques
brands and the Champagne Houses in the face
of the Nazi occupiers.
|1926||Bertrand de MUN - Veuve Clicquot|
|1923||Fernand BLONDEAU - Irroy|
|1919||Bertrand de MUN - Veuve Clicquot|
|1914||Raoul de BARY - Georges Goulet||Alexandre HENRIOT|
|1909||Bertrand de MUN - Veuve Clicquot|
|1897||J. BURCHARD-BELAVARY - Delbeck|
|1882||Florens WALBAUM - Heidsieck|