Champagne wasn’t always a sparkling wine. But is has always been a prestigious drink, appreciated by the aristocracy and the richest bourgeois. The wine produced in this region has a very long history and various players have contributed to creating one of the most prestigious drinks we know now.
At first, bubbles were undesirable in wine. They were considered the “wine of the devil” because the fragile bottles used to explode. The process to understand how it became sparkling has been very long. Merchants and winemakers acted a lot to improve the quality and the bubbles of the wine.
Romans were the first to plant vines in the region of Champagne. At first, it seemed difficult to make great wines due to the cool climate. But the significant knowledge of the Romans concerning vineyards helped a lot. It seems that they were right.
Champagne has been widely used to crown the different kings of France.
Clovis was the first one to make the wine of the region famous. In fact, it was the bishop of Reims, capital of the Champagne region, who baptized the first king of France. The drink, not yet sparkling, was the one chosen to celebrate this great event.
Later, Charles III, called the Simple, was the first king to be crowned in the Reims Cathedral. It was the beginning of a very long tradition. 33 kings of France were crowned in Reims and Champagne was the wine chosen for each of this coronations. This was the best way to make the beverage luxurious and prestigious. All the greatest aristocrats of the country were drinking Champagne. The influence of the French kingdom was so consequent that a lot of European monarchs then used to drink Champagne too.
Philippe le Bel (“the Fair”) sanctified the “holy wine” (not yet sparkling) when he chose to serve it during his wedding with Jeanne, Queen of Navarre and Countess of Champagne in 1284.
Later, the Duke of Orléans who introduced the sparkling version of the wine to the rich and famous people. It boomed in the market from this moment.
Nowadays, the story of Dom Pérignon is a mysterious one. Some people used to say he was the inventor of the sparkling wine, or more precisely the first to understand how the Champagne became sparkling and then improved the process. Others say he wasn’t.
But everyone agrees that the famous monk of the Hautvillers Abbey has improved the Champagne making process and played an active role in improving its quality. He doubled the number of hectares under vine and improved the techniques. The wine of Dom Pérignon was so prestigious and good that he used to sell its bottles twice the price of the greatest houses of the region. Discover Hautvillers during a wine day tour from Paris!
Other monks and religious people played a major role in Champagne. Wine was used by religious people to celebrate mass. So they improved the techniques year after year in Champagne as they have done in a lot of French regions. Other monks such as Dom Ruinart have done incredible work for Champagne. He worked hand in hand with the famous Dom Pérignon.
Like Dom Pérignon, Dom Ruinart is not the founder of the brand that uses his name. The brand Dom Pérignon was created by Moët to produce the most luxurious cuvee, using only grapes from the greatest vineyards and making only the greatest vintages while Ruinart was created by the nephew of Dom Ruinart. The cuvee Dom Ruinart is the most prestigious of the brand, now held by LVMH as (like? As se lit ici comme “sous le nom de”) Moët & Chandon.
When the sparkling version of Champagne became more and more popular, some wealthy people decided to invest in the production and became the greatest ambassador of this drink.
The most widely known is Claude Moët for sure. Founder of the current greatest producer of Champagne (10% of the whole production of the region), he understood the power that this drink could have. Actually, he was the first winemaker to produce exclusively sparkling wine. He established a personal contact with the consumers. He integrated the very close circle of the royal court of Versailles and became soon after one of the few merchants accredited to serve the royal court during the 1730s and after . One of the most famous consumers of his Champagne was “Madame de Pompadour”. We can take you to visit his famous house during a wine day tour from Paris.
Florens-Louis Heidsieck was the founder of the great house “Heidsieck & Co” – now divided between Charles Heidsieck and Pipper Heidseick. At first, he didn’t know anything about Champagne but he discovered it when he settled down in Reims. A hard-worker, he started to build his empire in 1785. Shortly after, he presented his Champagne to the Queen Marie Antoinette, married to Louis XVI, in 1788.
With Mr. Heidsieck and Claude Moët, Philippe Clicquot, the creator of the brand Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin in 1772, was a real glob-trotter and went all over the world to make Champagne famous. Other great players in Champagne such as Mr. Perrier-Jouët, Mumm and Bollinger have built the celebrity of the most luxurious drink.
Women have played a huge role in the history of champagne and champagne making. The most famous is undoubtedly the “Veuve Clicquot”. She was officially the first woman to take the lead of a Champagne house and to become one of the most influent business women. When she became the director of the house Veuve Clicquot, it was producing 100,000 bottles a year. When she died, the famous brand was selling over 700,000 a year. She also managed to conquer the Russian market and make the brand internationally popular.
The other fact that made the widow (“veuve” in French) Clicquot Ponsardin famous is when she once decided to blend her champagne with a red wine of Bouzy in 1818, hence the champagne rosé was born. Now famous worldwide, she was the first to do so. In addition, the Dame invented with her famous cellar Master, Antoine de Müller, the first riddling table (table de remuage in French), a process that continues to be used as it is a crucial step in the disgorgement process. You can visit this house during a wine day tour from Paris, depending on availability.
The other great female player in the history of Champagne is the widow Pommery. Jeanne Alexandrine Pommery, took the lead of the famous house in 1819. Thanks to her knowledge of English and her culture, she quickly widened the activities of the company, especially in England. She created a cellar in the old “crayères”. Otherwise, she built the famous house of Louise Pommery, her daughter. This house is now a famous 2 stars Michelin restaurant. We suggest you have your lunch in this sumptuous institution during our VIP wine day tour from Paris (depending on availability).
Champagne’s history was built by names famous worldwide. But not only. We often forget to mention that the entire champagne region has striven for it. All the people living in the region are the best defenders of this drink. They worked hard to preserve the culture and the history of it. Even while going through difficult events such as the 2 world wars, the “Champenois” never stop working for the drink and the culture of the region.
From independent champagne makers to civilians, the identity of the region is real and they never stop believing in the potential of the region. The process of champagne has been through many centuries and it has been hard to achieve the result we have now.
After long stories and a lot of great players, Champagne is now reputed as one of the most famous and luxurious drinks in the whole world. Used for the most incredible events such as the recent Royal wedding of Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Megan, Champagne still has the image of a noble drink. But thanks to a new communication campaign, the independent winemakers of Champagne decided to promote the fact that Champagne is made to be drunk in the everyday life as well as great moments.