Champagne and The Great War

Located strategically in vicinity of Paris and also near to the German border, the region of Champagne has suffered many wars throughout its chequered history. None however, has been as devastatating as the First World War often called as “The Great War”. Described as Champagne’s darkest hour, the region lost people, vineyards, buildings and markets during the four years fighting.

Infact, with battlefield trenches just about 1.5 miles away, Champagne was struck at its core. About 40% of vineyards got destroyed due to shelling and production of grapes sank to a historic low. To top it all, the export routes of champagne to international markets got blockaded both by enemy and own govt.

However, the striking feature of the war was that the Champenois survived through it. The vignerons kept on growing grapes despite enemy shelling and wineries kept producing wine against all odds. (French soldiers were even issued two botlles of champagne per day to boost morale). People went on with their lives literally living underground in extensive wine cellars. Cut off from Paris, some wine regions also printed their own temporary currency.

And when the ear ended on 11th Nov 1918, the day called as Armistice Day – the region steadily rebuilt itself. The enterprising houses garnered huge international demand which resulted in mass production and distribution of their bubbly, thereby going on to prove the adage that “champagne knows no borders”

In picture (credit Imgur) – French soldiers passing by a vineyard where the grape harvest is going on. Champagne, 1914.

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