What is common between the Reims cathedral located in Champagne and the Basilica of Vézelay located in Burgundy? Well both are listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List and both buildings will since last Saturday be joined by their respective local wine culture on the list of UNESCO World Heritage.
In Champagne, it's the hills (coteaux), the houses and the wine cellars and in Burgundy it's the climates "les climats" which have been appointed. It's these climates which contribute to the great diversity of the Burgundy wines despite of the fact that the grape varieties are the same (Pinot Noir for red and Chardonnay for white, as well as some Aligoté and Gamay...) and also despite the very small distance between the villages and their vineyards.
The explanations to the appointments aren't that easy to read, even if those who've been to the places wouldn't question for a second the decisions !
"The wine hills (les coteaux), the houses and the cellars in Champagne are elements which have actively contributed to developing the knowledge about the sparkling wine production through the second fermentation process in the bottle. This has last all since the 1600s, until the early industrialization of the Champagne production in the 1800s."
The appointment is built around 3 different components in Champagne; firstly the historic vineyards of Hautvilliers, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Ay. Then there's the Saint-Nicaise hill in Reims with it's chalk caves (Crayeres), excavated since the 900s until the 1700s in order to extract building stone and active lime which was used in the construction long before the cement was invented. After having been abandoned, these cave monuments were given a new life when used for the production and storage of Champagne. The chalk caves are still used today and represent more than 1000 cave-downs and 1 million cubic meters chalk extraction. Last but not least, L'Avenue de Champagne which passes through Epernay, lined with large wine merchant houses and the laboratory building, Le Fort Chabrol, located in Epernay as well, represent the 3rd element. These three elements are considered to englobe the essence of the whole Champagne wine production.
Avenue de Champagne, Epernay Photo :http://bit.ly/1RqaLJc
In Burgundy, it is the well-defined "climates" or different miniature fields that came on the UNESCO list. It is these small areas, which even though using the same grape varieties (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and grown close together, give very different wines with different styles. This is undoubtly a small punch in the face for those who believe that a wine's character is mainly due to the grape variety, not on the soil and climate in which the grapes are grown (terroir).
The cultural landscape is split into two components; the vineyards, the production units and the villages (mainly the city of Beaune), which together represent the commercial part of the Burgundy wine production. The other component is the historical part of the city of Dijon, representing the political power for the creation of the climate system, all since the Middle Ages. Dijon is located just north of the Côtes-de-Nuits district and has been and still is, the politically most important city in Burgundy.
Volnay - Burgundy Photo : jas gd/Foter/CC BY-NC-SA
Winemaking and wine culture in Champagne and Burgundy have thus entered the UNESCO's World Heritage List and have that way placed themselves at the side of, the Great Wall, Westminster Abbay and the Gran Canyon. There's no doubt that wine is much more than just a glass of red or white. Wine has throw the years contributed to history, culture, to social development and economic growth not only in Champagne and Burgundy. But that's another subject !