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Corporation des Vignerons (corporation of Champagne Winegrowers

Training for professionals in wine and awarding of medals and distinctions.

In the period 1895-1939 training in pruning and grafting for Champagne Winegrowers was provided by the House of MOËT & CHANDON, first at the Ecole pratique de viticulture Moët & Chandon (Moët & Chandon practical school of viticulture) then, from 1912 onwards, at the Centre d’Apprentissage Viticole du Fort Chabrol (Fort Chabrol research and training centre) in Épernay.

The year 1939 saw the establishment of the Corporation des Vignerons de Champagne and with it the formalisation of training in pruning and grafting. Founded as a French "Association Loi 1901" (meaning a nonprofit making organisation), the corporation enjoyed the support of Dr Emile MANCEAU, Paul DAUVISSAT, an engineer at the Epernay horticultural society and Raoul Chandon of Moët & Chandon.

Until 1975 the Corporation oversaw the running of the Centre d’Apprentissage Viticole de Champagne, which was then under the direction of Emile MOREAU. Training in pruning, grafting and wine mechanics was jointly provided by agricultural science teachers and the Corporation’s own instructor/supervisors, and exams in pruning and grafting were held every year.

Since 1975 the Corporation has gone from strength to strength while never straying from its original remit (headed by Jean-Claude COIC from 1992-until end-of-season 2009, then by Jean-Pierre Parisot). Its role now extends to:

  • the awarding of official prizes at the annual Festival of St Vincent, patron saint of the Corporation des Vignerons. Most of the recipients are independent or salaried Winegrowers who deserve special recognition for long service (diplomas or medals, silver medal for 20 years, vermeil medal for 30 years and gold medal for 35 years. Very occasionally, diplomas or large silver and gold medals are also awarded to other deserving figures in the Champagne landscape.
  • a three-part examination in pruning and root grafting, held on completion of 62 hours’ training in the period January to April (42 hours’ practice plus 22 hours’ theory). Examinees are required to sit and pass all three parts: written paper, practical test and oral test. Standards remain high even though the number of examinees decreases each year, partly due to the difficulty of the exam itself and partly because in practice root grafting has largely disappeared.
  • a pruning exam, held on completion of 52 hours’ training (39 hours’ practice and 13 hours’ theory) provided by the Corporation’s instructor-supervisors (qualified personnel, certified by the Association Viticole Champenoise). Independent candidates must attend evening classes in pruning theory, supported by practical training on Saturdays.

Winegrowers who are enrolled in on-the-job training programs attend classes in working hours. They remain on full pay while training and are invited to sit the final exam free of charge.
The pruning exam is also open to candidates from other vine training establishments in Champagne, including: the Centre de Formation d’Apprentis (Avize, Bar-sur-Seine), the Lycée Viticole et Agricole (Avize) and the Maison Familiale (Gionges).
The number of candidates sitting the exam varies from year to year - never fewer than 500, sometimes as many as 1,000. The exam is in three parts, like its grafting counterpart.

Since 2006, some four to five courses have been equipped with computers (PC laptops and video projectors) loaded with SIMULCEP software that was developed by FAFSEA with European funding and help from the UMC, Veuve CLICQUOT and the Corporation des Vignerons. While there is no substitute for actual hands-on training, computer simulations can provide examples of case studies, complete with illustrations. Even more important, they make it possible to track vine growth following pruning by students over periods of several years. In 2009 a think tank was launched aimed at introducing an exhaustive, Level 2 training course for Winegrowers.

  • a certification exam in agricultural machinery for vineyard management is compulsory for recipients of school-centred training ((Lycée pupils and pupils at the CFPPA, CFA, Maison Familiale). The exam is in three parts, assessing the examinee’s knowledge of agricultural machinery, vineyard equipment and winery equipment, and the examiners are drawn from the Corporation.

Course content is regularly updated to keep pace with new requirements regarding safety, environmental protection, vineyard maintenance and grape production systems.

The Corporation des Vignerons de Champagne is a strictly non-profit organization, managed as a benevolent association dedicated to the welfare of Winegrowers wishing to further their knowledge and skills. Its courses and exams comply with the collective bargaining agreements of Winegrowers and Champagne Houses, leading to professional qualifications that are recognised by both bodies.

The Corporation’s board of directors includes an equal number of Champagne winegrowers, Champagne merchants and instructors - which makes this organization unique in France. Its presidents are traditionally drawn from within the Champagne Houses, while its vice-presidents are respectively the presidents of the groupement des employeurs du SGV (group representing SGV employers) and the Amicale des moniteurs (instructors friendly society. The Corporation plays a key role in society by helping young people at odds with conventional schooling to secure their first job and so enter the world of work.

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Among those who deserve special mention for their service as president of the corporation are:

1939-1953 Bertrand CHANDON MOËT Moët & Chandon
1953-1989 Michel BUDIN Perrier-Jouët
1990-1996 Guy GIMONNET Moët & Chandon
1997-2015 Jacques BOUZY Bollinger
2016 Christophe PERNET SGV