There have been vineyards in Champagne since the first century BC. Their total area may not be as great as it once was, but what the vineyards have lost in size they have gained in distinction. Champagne was one of the first wine-growing areas to seek, and win, protected geographical status, making it one of the longest-standing AOCs.
An appellation with a long history
- I – 4th Century
The first vineyards are planted in Champagne.
- 9th Century
Champagne wines become known as ‘vins de la Montagne’ (wines of the mountain) and ‘vins de la Rivière’ (wines of the river).
- 14th-15th Centuries
Viticulture in Champagne suffers the ravages of the Hundred Years War – vineyards are abandoned and wine presses are destroyed.
- Late 15th Century
Champagne vineyards resume their expansion – by the end of the century, the number of winegrowing villages has tripled to 400.
- 16th Century
The wines of the mountain and river face growing competition from Aÿ wines
- Late 17th
Wines from the Champagne region become collectively known as ‘Champagne wines’.
The Court of Appeal in Angers finds in favour of the ‘Syndicat des Grandes Marques de Champagne’ (literally ‘the big brands’) and decrees as follows:
‘Henceforth the term ‘Champagne’ or ‘Champagne wines’ shall refer exclusively to wine produced in, and sourced from, the ancient province of Champagne, an area with specific boundaries that shall neither be extended nor contracted.’
Champagne growers lobby the Ministry of Agriculture for delimitation of the official Champagne production area, with the name Champagne strictly reserved for wines ‘exclusively sourced from and produced in the Champagne production area’..
First delimitation, based on a tradition of winegrowing: the Marne (Reims, Épernay, Vitry-le-François) and the Aisne make up an area of appellation representing roughly 15,000 hectares.
Following a difficult period, Champagne adopts a percentile rating system (known as the ‘echelle des crus’ or ‘scale of growths’) for determining the price of grapes sourced from growths.
- 22 juillet 1927
Legal delimitation of the official Champagne production area according to principles that remain in force today. The area includes the Aube together with several other villages that were excluded from the 1908 delimitation. A survey is conducted to identify the villages in Champagne ‘capable of producing appellation wines’. The official Champagne production area comprises 35,280 hectares.