Famous for its sparkling white wines that bear the name of the region, Champagne is a cultural and culinary destination of modern France. Its name comes from Roman times, campania meaning fields in Latin, and is believed to refer to an Italian province with a similar landscape. Largely an agricultural region of France, the landscape combines rolling plains, lakes and water meadows together with dense forest and hills. It is a region also known for its eclectic cultural traditions, including both haute and nouvelle French cuisine. Aside from its astounding number of vineyards, Champagne offers impressive towns with meticulously restored centers and striking churches – it is a charming and quiet region of France.
• Rich history
• Religious significance
• Historical landmarks
• Traditional restaurants
• World famous wineries
Viticulture, or the science and study of grapes, has been documented as existing in the region as early as 79 A.D., although fossil evidence suggests that wild vines flourished naturally in the region over a million years ago. During the Roman Empire in approximately 92 A.D. Emperor Domitian declared that the vineyards in France be uprooted in order to eliminate competition with the wines of Italy. For centuries vineyards were cultivated secretly – the wines of Champagne being prized above all since then!
Charlemagne was a major influence on the region as he encouraged the planting of wine grapes, and it is from this source that the superior sparkling white wine is said to have come into being. As Christianity and the influence of the church spread, many vineyards were given to monastic orders. The vineyards of Champagne were considered worthy of offering to God or the King and for centuries the wines of this region were used for sacrament and the royal table.
Aside from its strong wine history, Champagne has served as a sort of crossroads for both military and trade routes; throughout history it has seen much devastation and destruction during conflicts. Following the Fronde rebellion, there was a period of relative stability that ensured a peaceful and prosperous era that allowed the local wine producers to perfect their craft, with many of the major vineyards being founded between this period and the French Revolution.
The two World Wars saw a momentous drop in wine production for the Champagne region, with thousands of farmers killed or displaced by the conflicts. The aftermath of WWII saw immensely increased production, a renewed pride, and an interest of the local farmers to restore quality to the special place that Champagne is today.