Champagne en route to UNESCO [fr]
After 8 years of intense preparation, the “Hillsides, Houses and Wine Cellars of Champagne” candidature has been officially selected to represent France, in the “cultural landscapes” title, during the 39th annual session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee who will meet in Bonn (Germany) in July 2015.
The exceptional worth of the “Hillsides, Houses and Wine Cellars of Champagne” is marked out in a very different way to the other winegrowing landscapes already recognised by UNESCO. Indeed, the specificity of the Champagne dossier rests on an agro-industrial type development of the space, which combined the actions of man and nature, and which enabled the emergence of a universal product: champagne wine.
Until now, UNESCO has recognised vineyards for their spectacular beauty (Lavaux – Switzerland, Le Douro – Portugal), even extraordinary beauty (Pico - Acores), or for the site’s historical character (Tokaj – Hungary, St-Emilion – France).
Champagne’s case involves a series of places representative of the diversity and specificity of its winegrowing territory. Shaped by its eventful history and its geographic location, Champagne is also a land where man moulded a unique heritage (rural, urban and underground) into the chalk, and from the barren earth drew a nectar appreciated the world over.
Three sites amongst the most representative of the work of production, development and commercialisation of Champagne’s wine have been selected to represent the 319 communes of the Champagne AOC:
- the winegrowing hillsides opposite the Marne Valley, the oldest of the Champagne wine region, between Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ;
- the simultaneously demonstrative and functional buildings erected by the Champagne Houses on the Saint-Nicaise hill in Reims and the spectacular underground cathedrals that are the chalk quarries;
- the row of elegant traders’ Houses mixed with the production sites on the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, and the kilometres of networked wine cellars that form a real town beneath the town.
The inscription of the “Hillsides, Houses and Wine Cellars of Champagne” on the world heritage list would be an encouragement to pursue collective efforts to preserve and increase the status of winegrowing landscapes. This inscription would serve as recognition of this unique heritage, and of the savoir-faire of men, which enabled the development process for champagne to become the model for sparkling wines.