Saint Emilion and Champagne have more in common than you might think. The Tourist Office of Chateau Thierry and Festival Committee of Mont Saint Père (in the Champagne department of Aisne) recently met officials of Saint Emilion in the town to revive ties between the two regions. A partnership was signed to promote both wine producing areas and a delegation from Saint Emilion will travel to Mont Saint Père to complete the process.
The Aisne enjoys a long tradition of wine making and has around 2,600 hectares of vineyards that produce 10% of the entire Champagne wine area, hence 10% of world production of Champagne. Most of the vineyards are centred around the Marne Valley and Chateau Thierry.
The Aisne ‘terroir’ is divided into many small plots and has no ‘grand’ Champagne Houses as the 800 champagne producers tend to be small family vineyards.
In this sense its topography is similar to the patchwork of little vineyards of Saint Emilion. However the ties between the two regions run deeper than that.
Chateau Thierry is a small town in the area built around the ruined 9th century chateau that owes its name to Thierry V, the penultimate Merovingian King. It has long been battled over down the centuries but one of the more important battles was the Battle of Chateau Thierry in 1918 during the First World War between US troops and Germany. President Theodore Roosevelt’s son Quentin was shot down there in July 1918 while flying a French SPAD plane during WWI.
Mont Saint Père is the birthplace of Lèon Augustin L’hermitte (1844 – 1925) a famous French painter whose paintings of peasant and rural scenes were much admired by Van Gogh. Mont Saint Père was also severely damaged by the fighting and in the aftermath Saint Emilion financed its reconstruction.
Beginning in 1921 Saint Emilion gave aid to Mont Saint Père, helping to rebuild homes destroyed by bombing and the church for the next 20 years.
There are other ties too – over the years Champagne Houses have owned Saint Emilion Chateaux. Currently Chateaux Cheval Blanc and Quinault l’Enclos spring to mind, both are owned by Bernard Arnault and LVMH whose Champagne brands encompass Moet et Chandon, Dom Perignon, Krug, Veuve Cliquot and Mercier.
Chateau Sansonnet was once owned by the d’Aulan family of Piper Heidsieck Champagne but has since been sold on (in 2009) and the owners of Chateau Gessan also own Champagne Philippe de Langoz. If you know of any others please get in touch!