Champagne city profile: Châlons-en-Champagne

Key facts

Located in: the eastern part of the Champagne wine region, outside the vineyard areas.
Classification: none, there are no vineyards.
Noted for: regional capital of Champagne-Ardenne, home city of the Joseph Perrier Champagne house.

Map

The map is linked from Wikimedia Commons, and the geographical information originates from OpenStreetMap.

None of the neighbouring communes of Châlons-en-Champagnes are Champagne villages, so there are no profiles of the communes/villages on the map.

The city hall of Châlons-en-Champagne, Hôtel de Ville. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo TitTornade, 2014).

The city

Châlons-en-Champagne is the capital of the Marne department (where e.g. Reims and Épernay are located) and in the Champagne-Ardenne region, which also consists of the Ardenne, Aube, and Haut-Marne departements. It is the fourth largest city of the region behind Reims, Troyes, and Charleville-Mézières. Châlons-en-Champagne is located at the Marne river.

Until 1995 the city was called Châlons-sur-Marne.

The Châlons-en-Champagne commune has a surface of 2605 hectares (26.05 km2) and 45,225 inhabitants (as of 2012), referred to as châlonnais and châlonnaises. Some of the neighbouring communes are suburbs, so the continuous metropolitan area is somewhat larger in population. The population of Châlons-en-Champagne has a somewhat decreasing tendency; in the 1970s, the population of the commune topped above 52,000.

The Marne river runs through Châlons-en-Champagne, which means that the city had a good location for Champagne houses during the time when river transport was practical. Here the canal Le Nau, which is formed by an arm of Marne, in the central part of the city. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Vassil, 2008).

Vineyards

There are no vineyards in the commune since it is located outside the allowed vineyard zone of the Champagne appellation, the zone de production, which consists of 319 communes. The nearest vineyards are located about 18 km away bort, in the southeastern part of the Montagne de Reims.

Champagne producers

Châlons-en-Champagne is located in the zone around the vineyards where grapes and base wines may be treated to produce Champagne, the zone d’élaboration, which is a couple of hundred communes larger than the zone de production.

Châlons-en-Champagne had more producers during the earlier days of the Champagne industry than it does today. A reason was the location at Marne, which facilitated transportation.

Major Champagne houses, members of the Union des Maisons de Champagne

The producer status NM = négociant-manipulant means that purchased grapes can be included in the Champagnes. NM producers can be anything from small producers that supplement their own grapes with some that they buy in, to large Champagne houses that primarily rely on purchased grapes.

  • Joseph Perrier (NM), full name Joseph Perrier Fils & Cie, is a medium-sized Champagne house that today is part of the Groupe Alain Thiénot. Their own vineyards consist of 21 ha on the right bank of the Vallée de la Marne, and which consist of a large proportion of Pinot Noir. The heart of the vineyard holding is the 9 ha that exist in the Cumières area, including Damery and Hautvillers, where they have facilities and a 19th century residence with an impressive park. Red Cumières wines is also used for all rosé Champagnes produced by he house. The largest vineyard holding is 12 ha in Verneuil. Their own vineyards cover about 25% of the annual production of about 800 000 bottles. Grapes are bought in from the Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs, and Vitryat areas. Joseph Perrier is one of the Champagne houses that early had a high proportion of exports and continues to have so, today about 70% of the sales. All non-vintage cuvées (Brut, Demi-Sec, Blanc de blancs, and Rosé) as well as the regular vintage cuvée are called Cuvée Royale, in memory of when the house was the Champagne supplier of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. In connection with the 185th anniversary of the house in 2010, two new vintage Champagnes were introduced,  both with 2002 as their first vintage. They have then been named Esprit de Victoria and has a different bottle form than the previous cuvées. The prestige cuvée is called Joséphine, was named after the daughter of Joseph Perrier’s dotter, and is a vintage Champagne that usually consists of slightly more than half Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Noir.
    History
    The house was founded in 1825, but actually has a background from the 18th century, when François Alexandre Perrier (the father of Joseph) founded the company. 1825 is the year when Joseph took over and put his name on the house. Joseph bought a building that had previously been a post office, where there also was a hill where cellars could be excavated. After five generations of Perrier sons of cousins at the head of the house, it was sold in 1888 to Paul Pithois, a co-worker of Pasteur in his research about the fermentation of wine. After him, the house was managed for some additional Pithois generations, first his sons Pierre and Roger, and in the next generation Georges. In 1994, the house was bought by Laurent-Perrier, and in 1998 by Groupe Alain Thiénot, which also owns the Champagne houses Marie Stuart and Canard-Duchêne. Alain Thiénot is a relative of Paul Pithois, and so is his cousin Jean-Claude Fourmon, who manages the house. The Cumières property was bought in the early 19th century by Alphonse Pithois-Bertin, father of Paul Pithois, and is therefore associated with the Joseph Perrier house since 1888.
  • Also Duval-Leroy (with seat in Vertus) and G.H. Martel (with seat in Reims) have smaller facilities in Châlons-en-Champagne.

Champagne houses that have moved or closed down

  • Beaumet is today a brand used by Château Malakoff in Épernay, which in turn is owned by Laurent-Perrier.
    History
    Beaumet was founded in 1878, and moved from Pierry to Châlons-en-Champagne in the early 20th century. In 1977, the house was bought by  Jacques Trouillard, which laid the foundation to Trouillard’s Champagne house Château Malakoff in Épernay. The activities were moved from Châlons-en-Champagne to Épernay following the purchase.
  • Jacquesson, nowadays located in Dizy, was originally located in Châlons-en-Champagne.
    History
    The house was founded in 1798 by Memmie Jacquesson in Châlons-sur-Marne. From the early years it could be mentioned that Napoleon was fond of their Champagnes, and that Joseph Krug worked for them before founding his own house. Memmie’s son Adolphe Jacquesson took over after him, but Adolphe’s both sons died young and the company was in decline from 1875. Léon de Tassigny, a Champagne broker from Reims, took over from 1925. In 1974, Jacquesson was bought by the Chiquet family and moved to Dizy, where they had vineyards of their own.

Château Jacquesson. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Garitan, 2011).

  • Albert Le Brun, today a brand used by Charles de Cazanove in Reims. The prestige Champagne Vieille France is still produced.
    History
    The house was founded in 1860 in Avize by Leon Le Brun, and was taken over by Albert in the next generation. The house later moved to Châlons-en-Champagne, according to one source as late as 1975. This was the seat of the house when Francois Le Brun sold it to the US investment company Plantagenet Capital Management in late 1998. The annual production was then about 500 000 bottles, and the purchase included 3 km cellars and the rights to use Salvador Dali paintings on labels. In 2000, the house was sold on to Patrick Raulet (with the company SA Finance du Levant), who in 2003 sold to the Lombard & Médot group (which then was still called Charles de Cazanove). The home address of Albert Le Brun then became Pargny-lès-Reims, where the sister house Médot also had facilities. After G.H. Martel bought Charles de Cazanove from Lombard & Médot later in 2003, the brand Albert Le Brun seems to have been part of the purchase.
  • When Henry Vizetelly wrote his A History of Champagne in 1882, the city also was home to at least Freminet et Fils (Charles Freminet is one of the brands used by Château Malakoff and later De Castellane in Épernay, so it could have been part of the purchase of Beaumet, see above), Dagonet et Fils (today another producer with that name exists in Hautvillers), and Jacquard Frères.

Abbaye de Saint-Pierre-aux-Monts

In Châlons-en-Champagne there used to be a Benedictine abbey by the name Abbaye de Saint-Pierre-aux-Monts which was important for the early development of wine production in Champagne, before the sparkling wines had become the regular style. The abbey was founded in 660 or earlier, and their vineyards are mentioned in the early 12th century. Their vineyard ownership included holdings in the Pierry area, and brother Jean Oudart who was active as winemaker there 1679-1742 belonged to this abbey.

Similar to most other church properties all buildings and land of the abbey were confiscated following the French revolution. The vineyards were auctioned off, and the abbey itself became cavalry barracks that were torn down in 1836.

Abbaye de Saint-Pierre-aux-Monts pictured in the 1854 book by Louis Barbat, Histoire de la ville de chalons et de ses monuments, and should show what the abbey looked like in the late 18th century. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons.

Links

© Tomas Eriksson 2015

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