Not many regions in the world can be associated so directly with the typical products of their area as is the case with La Champagne, France. Its sparkling and fermented wine that would later be named after this cold region in the northeast of France, was invented by a Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon.
The religious man, who joined a monastic life in the Abbey of Hautvilliers, incorporated some changes in the production of wine by 1670. He created, probably by accident, this recognised sparkling white wine that, until today, is associated with the most exclusive celebrations around the world.
In recognition to the handcrafted work that has been carried out for over three hundred years in this region, with the aim of creating a delicious beverage with a protected designation of origin, following the méthode champenoise, UNESCO awarded this French region on July 2015 with the title of being a continuing, organically evolved cultural landscape. Thus, its “hillsides, houses and Champagne cellars” have become part of the exclusive list of this organization belonging to the United Nations.
While the candidacy of La Champagne region was composed by 14 key elements, exactly half of them were the hillsides situated in Hautvillers, the former home of the monks, inspirers of this original wine-making process. Another important point of the route are the green slopes in the surrounding area of Aÿ-Champagne. These are devoted to vine monoculture and topped by the Château de Mareuil.
Another neuralgic cornerstone of the “Champagne route” is the Saint Nicaise Hill, placed inside the city of Reims, the biggest of the region. There can be found 370 excavated chalk galleries, some of them dated back to the medieval times. In these tunnels, the visitors will come across a long-standing tradition, tens of millions of champagne bottles stored there due to the constant temperature and humidity. The Saint Nicaise’s cellars store famous champagne brands, as Pommery, Ruinart, Veuve-Clicquot, Heidsieck, Taittinger o Martel.
A mandatory visit around the heritage of the region is the Avenue de Champagne, in the city of Épernay. Since the XVIII century, numerous and elegant champagne production centres were settled there. Nowadays, the most prestigious wineries of the country have their headquarters there, as in the case with Moët & Chandon, Mercier, Michel Gonet o Georges Cartier.
Now that this French region celebrates its first anniversary as a World Heritage Site, it would be a great idea to benefit from this occasion and visit the previous awarded monuments: the Notre-Dame Cathedral, were the French kings were crowned for almost a thousand years, the Abbey of Saint-Remi and the Palace of Tau in Reims, as well as the Basilique Notre-Dame de l’Épine and the Notre-Dame-en-Vaux in the city of Châlons.
For those who are enthusiastic about this refined French-wine that want to know better the history of this beverage, a trip to La Champagne in its first anniversary as a World Heritage Site is a plan that, undoubtedly, will mark them with some unforgettable memories.
Traducción: Paloma Sánchez Iglesias