Pierre Cheval, the man who led Champagne's successful UNESCO World Heritage application, has died.

Pierre Cheval is understood to have died suddenly on Thursday 14 January after returning from a ceremony of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne in Reims.

He has risen to prominence in Champagne for his work to secure UNESCO World Heritage status for the region’s cellars and vineyards, achieved in July 2015.

Cheval, born on 17 May 1949, studied law before beginning his career in the French Home Office and Mairie de Paris, where he worked with former French president Jacques Chirac and Alain Juppé, now mayor of Bordeaux.

In 1980, Cheval left the civil service and returned to Champagne to run his wife’s familial property in Aÿ.

In 2008, Yves Bénard and Patrick Le Brun, presidents of the Comité Champagne, asked Cheval to manage Champagne’s application to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

‘The Champagne region paid tribute to Pierre Cheval this morning by a minute of silence at a Champagne body meeting,’ said Jean-Marie Barrillère, new President of Union des Maisons de Champagne. ‘I was with him last evening, he was a great man and Champagne owes him much,’ he added.

Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, told Decanter.com, ‘For all of us, at Climats de Bourgogne, the death of Pierre Cheval give us great sadness. All of the Climats de Bourgogne association joins to me to extend our deepest condoleances to the family.’