This Day in Champagne Wine History
A toast over a glass of champagne has a deceptively timeless quality (or some other form of sparkling white wine). It’s simple to envision that “bubbly” has always been connected to joyful events, especially when it comes to luxury and ostentation. The champagne industry’s past, however, shows differently. The timelines take through the historical cultural, and experimental change of Champagne wine.
496 AD: Champagne’s place in wine history was secured. Before the Middle Ages, wine was blessed and used to celebrate the Eucharist from the earliest times of Christianity. At that time, the monastery controlled all of the vineyards. As a result, Champagne’s historical status was assured in 496 AD thanks to this customary wine use and the unique setting of the Champagne vines. The first king of France was crowned and the Frankish warrior Clovis was baptized in Reims Cathedral on Christmas Day of that year. Saint Rémi, a bishop from a villa surrounded by vines not far from what is now Epernay, was the one who crowned Clovis. Additionally, Champagne wines were utilized in the Consecration.
898 onwards: As of this year, Reims, the de facto capital of the Champagne province, hosted the coronation ceremonies for all French kings. The coronation dinners are reported to have featured an open bar of champagne wines, which quickly gained popularity for their flavor and delicacy. Champagne was offered to any visiting royalty as a matter of course. Mary Queen of Scots and Francis I, King of France, each departed Reims with many casks of the local wines. When Louis XIV was crowned in Reims, he reportedly received hundreds of pints of wine as gifts. Hugh Capet established a custom that lured succeeding kings to the region by featuring the local wine prominently at the coronation banquets when he was crowned King of France in 987 at the cathedral of Reims. Early Champagne wines were created from Pinot noir and were light, pinkish in color.
7th century: During this time, for aristocrats and clergy, wine evolved into a sign of prestige. Monasteries were buying their own vineyards and producing an increasing amount of wine. Abbey vineyard holdings considerably rose in the seventh century. From the sixth century to the late eighteenth-century French Revolution, Catholic Church monks were essential to the wine-making process. King of France coronations took place in Champagne’s Reims Cathedral due to the region’s reputation for high-quality manufacture.
12th century: During this period, the Catholic Council of Troyes, Champagne, formally approved the Order of the Knights Templar. The 100 Years War continually destroyed the land (1330s to 1450s).
July 16th, 1429: On this day, Charles VII was guided by Joan of Arc to Reims, where he was crowned in the cathedral. The region was afflicted by numerous other conflicts and battles throughout history and into the 20th century. Some of the wars that had a significant impact on the region were the Napoleonic Wars (which lasted until 1815), the French Revolution (which took place from the late 1780s to 1798/99), World War I, and World War II.
1661: In this year, Non-sparkling Champagne gained popularity in London society once gastronome Charles de Saint-Évremond arrived. Saint-Évremond fervently marketed the Champagne region’s wines at gatherings and banquets. The Earl of Arlington and the Duke of Bedford, two of London’s most influential and affluent men, as well as the Duke of Buckingham, began ordering cases of Champagne on a regular basis. The wine wasn’t meant to be sparkling, but it was. Wooden wine barrels were frequently used to ship wine to England, where merchant houses would then bottle the wine for sale.
1661: This year saw the replantation and rebuilding of the Benedictine Abbey at Hautvillers. The Hautvillers Benedictine Abbey was rebuilt after it was destroyed during the French Wars of Religion, and its vines were replanted. With 25 acres (10 ha) of vineyards by 1661, the Abbey was also receiving tithes in the form of grapes from neighboring towns, including the renowned wineries of Ay and Avenay-Val-d’Or. To support the development of the Abbey’s expanding winemaking enterprise, the Abbot commissioned the construction of a cellar and sought to appoint a treasurer and cellar master.
1662: In a study he published, the English scientist Christopher Merret explained how the presence of sugar in wine eventually caused it to sparkle and that virtually any wine could be made to sparkle by adding sugar to it before bottling. One of the earliest records of the manufacturing of sparkling wine indicates that British merchants were making “sparkling Champagne” before the French Champenois were consciously producing it. In parallel, George Ravenscroft and others in Britain made advancements in the glass industry that made it possible to create stronger wine bottles that could contain the fizz without blowing up. Sparkling Champagne became gradually more popular.
1668:In this year, one of the characters in the George Farquhar play Love and a Bottle was shown gazing in awe at the continuous spray of bubbles in a Champagne glass. Other European courts started to learn about the bubbly curiosity as sparkling Champagne’s reputation increased in London, especially the French, who had previously detested the bubbles as a wine flaw.
1st September 1715: On this day, the effervescent Champagne became a favorite among the French elite at Philippe II’s court when Louis XIV of France passed away in 1715. More Champenois wine makers tried to intentionally dazzle their wines, but they lacked the knowledge necessary to regulate the process or construct wine bottles that could resist the pressure.
September 1715: In this year, Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, Louis XIV’s nephew, succeeded him as the Regent of France after his passing. The sparkling Champagne was a favorite of the Duke of Orleans, who served it at his weekly petits soupers at the Palais-Royal. This caused a fad in Paris as eateries and the affluent class tried to imitate the Duke’s preferences for the sparkling wine. To cash in on this trend, Champenois winemakers started transitioning from producing still wines to sparkling wine.
1730: In this year, Champagne Chanoine Frères house was established. Champagne Champagne maker Chanoine Frères is headquartered in the Reims area of Champagne. The house creates both vintage and non-vintage cuvee in addition to the Tsarine and Tsarina ultra dry wine lines.
1734: In this year, Taittinger Champagne house was formed. The Benedictine Abbeys, which at the time held the best vines in the area, were partners with Jacques Fourneaux when he started a wine company in Champagne. The wine-house was relocated to a sizable home on the Rue de Tambour where Theobald I of Navarre (1201-1253) had once resided after the First World War. According to a long-standing myth, he was the one who, after returning from a crusade in the Middle Ages, imported the Chardonnay grape from Cyprus. Utilizing genomic analyses, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have refuted this assertion.
1757: In this year, the Henri Abelé Champagne House was founded. Champagne’s oldest Houses, Abelé was established . It was offered to passengers on the Titanic, which departed Belfast on April 2, 1912. A bottle of Henri Abelé Champagne is among the roughly 7000 artifacts that marine archaeologists have discovered among the ship’s debris.
1772: In this year, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne house was founded. Champagne producer Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin was established in Reims in 1772. One of the biggest Champagne houses is it. Major innovations are attributed to Madame Clicquot, who in 1810 produced the first vintage champagne known to exist and in 1816 developed the riddling table method for clarifying champagne. She combined still red and white wines in 1818 to create the first blended rosé champagne, a technique that is still utilized by the majority of champagne producers today.
14 July 1790: On this day, Champagne wines had become so well-known by the 18th century that they were the only wines offered at the Fête de la Fédération, which was celebrated on the Champs de Mars on July 14, 1790, to celebrate the success of the French Revolution.
Late-18th century: During this period, Over 90% of the wine produced in the Champagne region was still non-sparkling pinkish wine by the end of the 18th century. The French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars briefly stopped Champagne’s rise to fame. Champagnes merchants falsified company documents by changing the titles of their clientele to “Citizen” in order to spare some of their noble clients from the guillotine. The merchants tried their utmost to make sure cases of their preferred Champagne followed when many aristocrats emigrated to neighboring nations.
September 1814 to June 1815: Whatever their other differences may have been, the European powers were brought together at the Congress of Vienna a few years later by their shared love of Champagne. From September 1814 to June 1815, negotiations went on for nine months while being conducted with “wits that shone like Champagne itself.”
August 1815: Russian armies eventually took control of the Champagne region following Napoleon’s defeat. Champagne was used as a requisition and a kind of payment during the occupation. The Widow Cliquot is alleged to have stated as her wine was being removed from her cellar: “They drink now. They will pay tomorrow “. Her prognostication would prove accurate because the Russian empire would go on to become the world’s second-largest consumer of Champagne over the following century, up to the Russian Revolution of 1917.
1818: In this day, Billecart-Salmon Champagne house was founded. In Mareuil-sur-A, France, there is a medium-sized champagne house called Billecart-Salmon. One of the few businesses still held by its founding couple, Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon, it was established in 1818. Out of 150 of the best Champagnes from the 20th century, the Cuvée Nicolas-Francois Billecart 1959 took top place in the Champagne of the Millennium 1999 competition. The winning champagne’s magnum later sold for £3,300.
1830s: During this period, André François, a pharmacist from Châlons-sur-Marne, provided formulas with exact measurements of how much sugar is required to make wine shine without creating too much pressure for the wine bottle to handle. The wine was more easily sealed, with fewer opportunities for the priceless gas to leak out of the bottle, thanks to corking machines and improved corks.
1846: In this year, a wine without any added sugar was first introduced by the Champagne firm Perrier-Jout. Critics initially had negative opinions of this style, describing the wine as being overly harsh or brute-like. However, during the course of the following generation, this “brut” style, which contains substantially less sugar than wines designated as extra dry, came into vogue for Champagne and is now the contemporary form in which the majority of Champagne is produced.
September 20th, 1849: On this day, Champagne Binet was established. The house makes Champagne in the styles of Brut, Blanc de Blancs, and Rosé de Saignée. As its President, Arnaud Vidal is responsible. Grand Cru grapes are used just to make Champagne.
April, 1854: On this month, Reims was connected to the rest of France, especially its coastal ports, by the French national railroad network. As a result of being connected to the global market, Champagne’s sales began to soar. Production peaked in the 1850s at 20 million bottles annually on average.
June 1 , 1860: On this day, Ayala & Co was founded. Champagne manufacturer Ayala & Co. is headquartered in Champagne’s A region. The 1860-established house creates both vintage and non-vintage cuvee. Hadrien Mouflard, a former Champagne Bollinger secretary general, is currently in charge of running it. Caroline Latrive is the chef de cave. The house joined the Syndicat des Grandes Marques as one of its first members in 1882.
1889: Champagne wines enhanced the charm of the international exhibits held in Paris and Brussels in 1889 and 1900, respectively. Today, its superiority is still admired as the mark of unsurpassed quality; without Champagne, no significant occasion is complete.
January 1911: On this month, Riots broke out in the towns of Damery and Hautvilliers as tensions approached a breaking point. Trucks carrying grapes from the Loire Valley were pushed into the Marne river by vine growers in Champenois. More wine and casks were then dumped into the Marne as they swooped upon the warehouses of manufacturers infamous for producing fake Champagne. The French government passed regulations outlining the origins of Champagne wine in an effort to allay the fears of the vine growers.
May 6, 1919: On this day, A number of legislation were approved by the French government to build the foundation for the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system, which would firmly define winemaking regulations and geographic borders. To stop fraud and unlawful substances like rhubarb and apple juice, steps were taken. Legally, the term “Champagne” could only be used to refer to grapes that were grown inside the boundaries of the Champagne area, which later included the Aube.
17 January 1920: On this day, sales significantly declined as a result of the Great Depression’s worldwide economic crisis and the enactment of prohibition in the United States, which effectively shut off yet another market. More soldiers would march through Champagne’s vineyards during World War II. Even while World War II did not leave the same level of destruction in the region as the previous conflict, it was nevertheless a worrying time.
1931: When André Citroen’s Yellow Cruiser expedition crossed the Karakoram Pass in Central Asia in 1931, champagne poured on the “Roof of the World.” Twenty years later, Champagne that had been perfectly chilled in fresh powder snow was served to Maurice Herzog and his team as they celebrated their victory on Annapurna. At the summit of Everest twenty years later, Pierre Mazeaud uncorked a bottle of Champagne. And Jean-Loup Chrétien, the first non-Soviet cosmonaut to fly in space aboard a Soviet spacecraft, followed in the footsteps of the early aviators by asking for a glass of Champagne shortly after touching down.
May 7, 1945: Alfred Jodl, the head of the German military, presented General Dwight D. Eisenhower with an unconditional surrender offer at Reims. Six cases of Pommery from the 1934 vintage were served to commemorate the signing the following morning. Don and Petie Kladstrup, who specialize in the history of wine, stated that a historian of World Battle II would later remark that “the last explosions of the war were the popping of Champagne corks.”
1985: In order to indicate that their wine is produced using the same techniques as Champagne, manufacturers of “champagne style” sparkling wine now used phrases like méthode traditionnelle instead of the term méthode champenoise, which was previously prohibited.
2008: By this time, sales had gradually increased since mid-20th century, reaching over 200 million bottles overall. The French government is considering expanding the region’s AOC zone to enable additional production in response to the rise in global demand. In order to enlarge the AOC by around 30%, this expansion was allowed in 2008 and 40 additional villages were added to the Champagne production (although 2 villages were delisted). The relationship between vineyard owners and Champagne producers still exists, with the bulk of the 19,000 growers in the region selling their grapes to the roughly 300 Champagne producers.