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History of Champagne wine during the 19th century

The Champagne vineyards in trouble

During the troubles of French Revolution Champagne wine makers were facing many difficulties (fewer clients) as well as a bad winter which froze half of the vineyard.

French Revolution is followed by the Empire war which brings Napoléon Bonaparte to supreme power.As Napoleon needs a lot of money to finance his wars taxes are seriously increased.

After a long period of revolutionary upheavals, the Empire wars require more and moremen to join the army and lead do heavy taxes. In 1814 and 1815, Champagne region is again a battlefield. Accompanied by the usual violence and requisitions, the province is invaded by the Empire soldiers fighting the Prussians.

As a result, the size of Champagne vineyard is reduced by a third, disappearing completely in the villages of Vitry-le-François and Saint-Menehould.However it resists aroundReims, Epernay, Virtues and Sézanne on the chalk slopes producing great wines.

After another period of German occupation in 1870, the century ends with the terrible phylloxeradiesis.The Champagne vineyard is attacked in 1890and almost entirely destroyed.The reconstitution starts thanks to American plants grafted with French vines.

Champagne benefits from industrial development

Taking advantage of the industrial revolution that started under the Restoration, the production processes are improving and regulatingthanks to researches on the amount of sugar needed toproducefoam, as well ason yeasts. At the beginning of the centurybreakage is of about30% of the bottles produced. At the end of the century it is only of about 8%.

Bottles shifting and disgorgement (removal of the sediment from a sparkling wine after fermentation) that some wine makers were already practicing during the 18th century, finally replaces the old inconvenientchange of bottle that was used to get rid of the deposit.

Many other improvements occur such as the first “tireuses” in 1825, the cork machine in 1827, the dosing machine and the machine to rinse the bottles in 1844, and the machine to tie the cork to the bottle in 1870.

Exponential growth in sales

Champagne wine trade gets best organized and more prosperous. From 1811 to 1870, 21 Maisons de Champagne were created in Épernay, Reims, Châlons-sur-Marne, Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Ludes, Vertus.

The annual sales rise from some hundreds of thousands of bottles in 1785 to already 6,5 million bottles in 1845. More and more bottles are being exported. New markets emerge (United States and Russia) absorbing two thirds of the production. The GrandesMaisons de champagne overcome all obstacles. They are even not affected by the continental blockade and by the war between France and Russia. Of course the American Civil War brings bankruptcies, but nevertheless the sales rise from 11 million bottles in 1861 to 17 million in 1870, and they reach almost 30 million bottles by the end of the century.


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