THE WINE OF KINGS, THE KING OF WINES
Since the Roman Empire, Champagne has been a wine region producing prestigious wines. However, these nectars were not previously sparkling wines. Indeed, in the Middle Ages, the region produced still wines. As in the majority of French vineyards, Champagne vines were cultivated by monks in abbeys, priests and other members of the clergy, but also by princely families.The reputation of Champagne wines took on a new dimension when Clovis, King of the Franks, was baptised by Saint-Remi in Reims in 496. The reputation of this wine then continued to grow, notably thanks to the sacrifice of many kings of France within the cathedral of Reims.
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, King Henry IV, a bon vivant, also contributed to the influence of the wines of this region, since it was during his reign that the nectar produced there would be called "Vin de Champagne". In 1654, during the coronation of Louis XIV, Champagne was officially recognised as the wine of the coronations at the French Court.
CHAMPAGNE: DOM PÉRIGNON, INITIATOR OF THE MÉTHODE CHAMPENOISE
The myth of Champagne as a sparkling wine is linked to the story of Dom Pérignon. This Benedictine monk, procurator of the Abbey of Hautvillers, is said to be the originator of what is now known as the "methode champenoise". He is said to have discovered the controlled method of double fermentation of Champagne wine in the bottle, thus managing to master the "devil's wine". Unable to explain at the time the reason for the explosion of the bottles due to the effervescence of the wine, this phenomenon was attributed to the devil.
To overcome this difficulty, Dom Pérignon introduced the use of the cork stopper held to the bottle. It was not until the 19th century and Pasteur's scientific advances on fermentation that this belief about Champagne was demystified.
A FESTIVE WINE WITH WORLDWIDE SUCCESS
The globalisation of Champagne began mainly during the 18th century. During the reign of Louis XV, Versailles was a source of inspiration for the entire West. From that time onwards, champagne, a fine wine that popped the cork, was synonymous with festivity and luxury. Unlike other wines, this nectar cannot be sold in pitchers or barrels. In order to be able to ship it, a royal decree thus authorises it to be marketed in thick bottles.
Inspired by this fashion, other great European courtss (Austria, Germany, Northern Europe) also began to drink Champagne. The influence of this nectar spread to other continents thanks to the settlement of Europeans with a colonialist aim, thus contributing to its worldwide success. Over time, this festive wine became the flagship drink of the aristocratic milieus, eventually becoming democratised for sale in the middle of the 20th century. Unavoidable at festive moments and assimilated to a refined gastronomy, Champagne represents excellence and the art de vivre à la française.
In the 19th century, the reputation of Champagne continued to grow with a fine progression both on the national and international markets. If more than 50% of the production is consumed in France, this nectar is relatively appreciated in the rest of the world. Regarding exports, the long-term trend is for it to travel to the four corners of the world: it is mainly the United States that constitutes the most important market, followed by the United Kingdom, then Japan in third place.
Several factors contribute to the increase in Champagne sales. This starts with the positioning of the product from a brand perspective, constituting a benchmark and a guarantee of quality for consumers. In this sector, the brands of Champagne are put forward, thus taking on a mythical dimension. To maintain the myth of this nectar, the Champagne houses highlight the quality and value of the product through an advanced marketing strategy. Associated with an imagination and making people dream, the brands' communication is based on an emotional and immaterial promise. By buying Champagne, consumers buy the brand image of a house and the promise of a celebration.
To seduce consumers, Champagne brands are constantly creating novelty such as the release of new vintages. Sparking customer interest, the launch of a cuvée is a real event to be made unforgettable, whether it is in terms of the bottle or the packaging.
In addition, consumption habits that change over the years contribute to the influence of Champagne. Such is the case, for example, of the orientation of sales towards consumption at home, and no longer only in hotel bars and restaurants or during weddings and receptions. To indulge themselves and create moments of conviviality and sharing at home, many consumers have adopted champagne in their daily lives without reserving it only for special occasions.
The same applies to the creation of new rituals such as the cocktail trend or nomadic consumption. The latter is notably promoted by the champagne house Veuve Clicquot. This brand offers nomadic collections allowing consumers to drink Champagne anywhere and on any occasion.