Paysage de Champagne

Champagne, a UNESCO World Heritage site

 An outstanding heritage – An outstanding heritage  An outstanding heritage – An outstanding heritage

Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars

Recognition of outstanding heritage

On 4 July 2015, eight years of endeavour finally paid off: the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. The 21 representatives of the States Parties unanimously recognised the Outstanding Universal Value during the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee, which was held in Bonn, Germany. This was greeted with joy in the streets of Champagne and across France. For it marked a historic moment for the region and the nation at large. This unique heritage had now gained global recognition. 

"You can't imagine the sense of pride and joy. This is a collective reward for all the growers. This listing distinguishes our designation and etches into the stone tablets of UNESCO our vine-growing history within the great Champagne family,"

Pascal Férat former President of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons

unique "cultural landscapes"

The Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars, unique "cultural landscapes"

The Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars feature on the World Heritage list under the "Organically evolved living cultural landscapes" category. Created in 1922, this category represents combined works of nature and of man. It therefore goes beyond the sole scale of the monument or site, and highlights the way in which human activity can give rise to new landscapes and a specific culture. 

As such, the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars are cultural landscapes which gave rise to Champagne wine. This listing therefore, more broadly, recognises all the work done to grow the grapes, make and distribute Champagne wine. Three distinct ensembles were chosen to support the nomination: the historic hillside vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Saint-Nicaise Hill in Reims and Avenue de Champagne in Épernay. The 319 villages within the Champagne AOC production zone join these three sites.

Vignes en Champagne

"Thanks to all the pioneers who built a unique heritage with agricultural landscapes, cellars and houses. These people enabled Champagne wine – a symbol of reconciliation and celebration – to go global. They have handed down an outstanding heritage which has been recognised today."

Jean-Marie Barillère former President of the Union des Maisons de Champagne

But what is so special about these Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars?

An in-depth insight into this unique and outstanding heritage

Paysage de Champagne

A living heritage that changes over time

The listing of the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars as a World Heritage site distinguishes all of the lands, climate, landscapes, practices, know-how and everything which contributes to the fact that Champagne only comes from Champagne and is, as such, unique and inimitable. In that sense, it is much more than recognition of a conventional vine-growing and wine-making site: it shines the spotlight on a whole territorial and social organisation of Champagne around the production of its outstanding wines, which has enduringly shaped the history of the region and beyond. This is a living heritage, whose contours, key issues and history are continuing to be written day after day, year after year. 

Explore the site

The hillsides

For this is no ordinary wine-making landscape. Its history has made all the difference: the development from the late 18th century of an original production method which shaped the landscape and gave rise to Champagne. That world-famous wine synonymous with parties and celebration.  

All Champagne wines start their journey in the vineyards, which are exemplified by the historic hillsides. The Cumières hillsides in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ are the historic and symbolic birthplace of Champagne, on the banks of the Marne, the river which flows through the département of the same name.

These hillsides also present features unique to the Champagne wine region: predominance of chalk, location and organisation of the villages, orderly tiering of the land and single-crop growing. A beautiful natural setting which walkers and cyclists can enjoy exploring, to the sound of birdsong and surrounded by stunning views from the hilltops.  

"Enhancing the appeal of our regions, entrances to our towns and villages, and our streets is still important and a priority for promoting this unique heritage. By showcasing and harmonising our Champagne sites and regions we will be able to raise our global reach and standing together. »

Pierre-Emmanuel TAITTINGER President of the Association viticole champenoise in 2015

The Champagne Houses

The Champagne Houses epitomise the alliance between production and trade, by grouping the production and showcasing tools around communication routes (roads, canals and railways). These majestic residences are admired the world over by enthusiasts of architecture and greenery alike, since they are set within enchanting gardens and parks. They are also thriving culture venues, providing an original insight into the region of Champagne through myriad art exhibitions.

The Champagne wine cellars

Champagne’s very particular production method – entailing as it does a second fermentation in bottles – called for holistic consideration of the way in which the activity and the space are organised. An extensive network of cellars had to be developed to store the precious bottles.

For that, the Champagne community had the bright idea of reusing old underground quarries once used to extract chalk – called crayères. Impressive networks of galleries have been carved out between them to store and age the wines several metres below ground.  There are 370 in Champagne, covering a distance of 25km beneath the Saint-Nicaise hill in Reims. There are also 110km of cellars under Avenue de Champagne in Épernay and nearly 10km beneath the historic hillsides. Attempts to measure the full breadth of the network were made, but had to be abandoned at the sheer size of the task!  

On venturing deep inside these chalk cellars, we are immediately struck by the cool, damp atmosphere which provides the perfect conditions year-round for Champagne wines: 10-12°C, with humidity levels of 90-100%. We also can't help but gaze in wonder at these majestic constructions and the sheer scale of the galleries where rows upon rows of bottles are stored. 

Coteaux, Maisons, Caves de Champagne - Patrimoine mondial
Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars – World Heritage