Champagne is believed to have enhanced its chances of joining the UNESCO World Heritage list following a cellar tour by members of the voting committee.


France’s ambassador to UNESCO, Franck Lalliot, used the 15th Habits de Lumiere festival in Epernay in the heart of Champagne country as an opportune moment to bring eight of his fellow ambassadors from different countries to the region.

Their opinions will help to determine Champagne’s fortunes when its UNESCO application is put to a vote before the 21-member World Heritage Committee in Bonn next July.

In January 2014, France’s government formally proposed Burgundy’s vineyards and Champagne’s vineyards, houses and cellars for UNESCO heritage status.

‘The Champenois application has all the elements to be successful,’ said Lalliot.

During the visit, the ambassadors toured the Crayeres Cellars at Ruinart and rode a train through the vineyards from Reims to Epernay.

They also had dinner with Jean-Luc Barbier, director of the Comite Champagne, as well as the body’s two co-presidents, Pascal Ferat, who is also head of grower union SGV, and Jean-Marie Barillere, who heads the Champagne house union. Pierre Cheval, president of the Champagne UNESCO campaign, and Franck Leroy, mayor of Epernay, were also present.

Cheval told that UNESCO status requires proof of the ‘unique and exceptional value characteristics of the site’. He added, ‘Up to now, the examination of the unique characteristics is looking rather good’.

For example, ‘the International Council on Monuments and Sites found that the Avenue de Champagne, with its extensive labyrinth of underground cellars, is different from any other industrial landscape. And our Fort Chabrol grafting centre is unique.

‘Of course, it is too early to pop the Champagne corks, but I feel rather confident we will receive good news.’

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Written by Caroline Henry in Epernay