Champagne Journal is an 8 part video series on the History of Champagne.
Episode 1: Trailer and Versailles
The wines of the Champagne region were mostly known locally until the French kings, who resided in the Palace of Versailles, helped spread their popularity within France and other countries.
Episode 2: Chantilly and Dom Pérignon
The Château of Chantilly’s grand gallery houses an exquisite painting that was commissioned, in 1735, by Louis XV for his new, private, dining room at Versailles. This painting, by Jean-Francois de Troy, is significant, because it’s the first painting to depict sparkling champagne. It is titled, “The Oyster Lunch”. Along with the French kings in the 17th century, Dom Pérignon, a monk, had an immense influence on champagne. He was an innovator and expert blender, and is often called the “Father of Champagne”. (Sadly, there is no recorded image of him.)
Episode 3: Moët et Chandon and Phylloxera
Prior to the French Revolution (1789-1799), the patronage of the royals helped put champagne on the map. Afterward, its popularity spread even further. The champagne house of Moët et Chandon and Napoleon were a big reason for this. Did you know all Champagne vines and those of other great wine regions of Europe are now partly American? You will learn more in this segment on the devastating phylloxera plague, which first hit France in 1863. Notably, this grape vine enemy it is still with us today.
Episode 4: Veuve Clicquot and Charles Heidsieck
Several young widows played major roles in the further development of champagne in the 19th century. Without prior business experience, they remarkably went on to fill their husband’s shoes in their family champagne houses and made monumental impacts on the entire industry for the better! One such widow, Veuve Clicquot, along with her cellar master, solved an extremely serious problem that had always plagued the champagne makers. Charles Heidsieck (Champagne Charlie) was the first head of a champagne house to visit the States. It was in 1852 when he was 32 years old.
Episode 5: Louis Roederer and the Cathedral of Rheims
In 1855, Russian Czar Alexander II declared his favorite champagne was Louis Roederer’s. A decade later, 80% of Roederer’s annual sales were to Russia. The Czar wanted an exclusive champagne distinguishable from all others. Louis Roederer, of course, wanted to please his best customer, thus he designed a unique, bottle for only the Czar’s champagne. The Cathedral of Rheims, located in the heart of the Champagne region, is very important to the history of France, because the coronations of many French Kings, Queens and Regents took place there for centuries.
Episode 6: Pommery and World War I
In the 1870s, the British market was expressing its strong wish for a dry (non-sweet) champagne to go with more types of cuisine. Veuve Pommery, another outstanding Champagne widow without prior business experience, decided to take on this challenge. Today, 95% of all champagnes sold are ‘dry’ because of her innovation. In 1914, France and Germany declared war on one another yet again. By the end of WWI, 98% of Rheims would be destroyed.
Episode 7: Krug and World War II
Krug was founded in 1843 by German born Johann-Josef Krug. It has always been a small firm with an international reputation for making some of the very best champagne. Krug is not open to the public, thus we are truly delighted to present you this interview with Rémi Krug, great-great-grandson of the founder. For the French, WWII was the third war with Germany in less than 75 years. The Third Reich wanted to seize the assets of France to pay for their war and this, of course, included champagne.
Episode 8: Duval-Leroy and Favorite Pairings
Women truly played an incredibly important role in the history of champagne. In fact, the business of champagne owes much of its success to women! Carol Duval-Leroy became a widow at a young age (in her mid 30’s). She took over her family firm as CEO in 1991. Champagne Duval-Leroy is now recognized as one of the top champagne brands. Many Americans reserve champagne only for weddings, New Year’s Eve and other fancy celebrations, but it is really a wine that pairs terrifically with many every day foods. This segment highlights the variety of delicious cuisine the French serve with champagne, such as mushroom risotto.
We so hope you enjoy listening to these experts on the intriguing history of champagne and that the next time you look at a beautiful glass of champagne bubbles, you will think of the many wonderful people who have brought it to you, who faced extreme adversity, but never gave up.
Through devastating wars, young deaths and revolutions, the people of Champagne keep adapting and moving forward. And so should we all! We should refuse to quit on our goals and dreams.
Please always enjoy champagne responsibly and we send our best wishes to you for a contented and healthy year ahead.