The cultural landscapes category was created in 1992 to designate combined works of nature and of man. It goes further than the monument or site itself and shows how human activity is the source of new landscapes and a particular culture.
Our UNESCO World Heritage List inscription
“The Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars are a cultural landscape which has given rise to champagne wine. And in a broader sense, all the work done to produce, make and publicize the champagne wine passed down the generations and preserved in the 320 AOC champagne districts located in the five French départements of Marne, Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seineet-Marne.”
The Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars are living testimony to a perfectly integrated and scalable system, which has enabled champagne to evolve from being an artisan product to having a tightly controlled production process with a focus on excellence. A system for producing, making and selling Champagne wine which has made a profound mark on an area, its development, its rural and urban landscapes, and has shaped the industry, society and the local economy, for close to two centuries. A unique wine-growing heritage ensemble, which
is still operating today.
The Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars are not a standard vineyard landscape and are totally unique. So what makes them unique? This is clear to see in the way that the landscape’s sites are organized, the rise of an original wine production method from the end of the 18th century, a method which has left its mark on the landscape, and given rise to a globally renowned wine, a symbol of celebrations and parties. This is the basis of its Exceptional Universal Value. Unique landscapes which have been and are still today the meeting point between the rural and urban worlds, between traditional cultural practices and technological innovation.
Champagne’s international success, which intrinsically links production and selling, is down to both the winegrowers - small and large vineyard owners and subsequently cooperatives – who have used to their advantage conditions that are on the outer edge of what vines will endure (cold chalky soils) and visionary merchants who have raised the product to a level of excellence and publicized it among the international elite. Some of them were migrants, mainly from Germany (former drapers), or women, rare female captains of industry at the time, just like Madame Ponsardin, known as the Veuve (widow in French) Veuve Clicquot, and Madame Pommery. Champagne’s backstory is primarily a human story.
Champagne’s special production process, including the second fermentation in the bottle, led to the business and area being organized to fit the process, with the unique development of cellars (close to 370 quarries and 25km under Saint-Nicaise hill in Rheims, 110km of cellars under Avenue de Champagne in Épernay, and 10km under the historic slopes).
This stunning underground landscape, still in operation today, is one of the most representative examples anywhere in the world of wine industry heritage.
The planning and architecture of the Champagne Houses is the best example of the alliance between the champagne trade and champagne production, bringing together production facilities and merchants’ premises around transport links (roads, canals and railway lines). This quest for a quality urban and architectural setting and a living environment is also reflected in the number of green spaces, parks and gardens. It can also be seen in the workers’ heritage sites created by corporate philanthropy, such as Le Chemin-Vert garden city in Rheims and the garden city’s
Saint-Nicaise church decorated by prestigious artists from the period such as René Lalique, the master glassmaker.
Champagne is a universal symbol. Since the 18th century, when it sparkled in the courts of Europe, until the present day when it has become a drink for the masses, champagne, from a poor growing region ravaged by war on numerous occasions, is, unlike any other product, associated with the art of living, parties, celebration and the image of France.