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History of Champagne wine between the 10th and 15th centuries

The growth of the vines in the Champagne region

During the 10th century, the vines were particularly abundant in the area around Reims and Vitry-le-François. They were a little less important although still significant in the area around Epernay.

From the 10th century on, the vineyard started to expend thanks to the increasing notoriety of the wines of Champagne. The fact that the bourgeoisie started to be interested in wine growing and wine production also contributed to the growth of the vineyard. At the beginning of the 10th century, Reims had become the very heart of Champagne wines trade and its reputation was continuously growing throughout France and even abroad.

Transport opportunities

At that time the main means of communication was waterway which allowed to transportall goods in good condition towards Paris and Normandy and from there by sea towards Flanders, Holland and England. The fact that most of the vineyards were located in the valley of the river Marne favored spreadingthe wines all across the region.

Goods were first transported on the exceptionally dense network of Roman roads which lead into the capital of Gaul Belgium. From the 12th century on, they were transported on the paved roads that had been constructed to give access to the famous Fairs (Markets) of Champagne. For that matter, these markets have very probably helped promoting the Champagne vineyards by advertising about wines.

Popular wine growing

At the same time, the winemakers’status was evolving. Thanks to the abolition of serfdom, winemakers became tenant farmers. Peasant who would clear the soil for vine growing would benefit a special contract. And, from the 13th century on, they would be given land would they plight to plant vine and pay their annual tax in wine.

Hundred Years War

The Champagne region was one of the main scenes of the Hundred Years War.All the miseries and devastations did often slow down the development of vine growing. The vineyards were deserted and the wine presses were knocked down. The inhabitants of Reims resisted King Edward III’s assault and acclaimed Joan of Arc as their liberator, which would stop the war. 15 years later, the enemies from England and Burgundy had definitely left the Champagne area which allowed the vines to grow and spread again.

The renown of Champagne wines

Since the 13th century Holland, for example, regularly imported Champagne wines. The development of the trade of Champagne wines participated in improving the control of quality. It was already importantnot to give inthe temptation to produce more to the detriment of the quality. From the beginning of the 14th century, all leases where already mentioning the obligation for peasants to grow their vines with as much care as a Bourgeois would.

Still considered as luxury products, Champagne wines were only accessible to the rich and their peers. Reims frequently welcomed important people among which the Kings of France who, except for 2 of them, would all be crowned in the cathedral in memory of King Clovis’ baptism.

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