The World Heritage Committee added Burgundy’s “climats” and terroirs together with Champagne’s Hillsides, Houses and Cellars to the World Heritage List.
A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO as being of special cultural or physical significance. Next to an increase of tourism through international recognition, World Heritage Sites can also receive funds to maintain and preserve the sites. Places like Machu Picchu, The Great Wall of China and Angkor Wat are famous examples. In Thailand both the historic city of Ayuthaya and the historic town of Sukhotai are World Heritage sites.
The “climats” and terroirs of Burgundy are now also on that list. A “climat” is a plot of land given over to vines that has been known under the same name for centuries and has its own identity, both in terms of its culture and in terms of its natural conditions such as the soil, subsoil, aspect and climate. UNESCO branded them as “joint works of man and nature, together with the areas including the archaeological sites which have exceptional universal value from the historic, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological perspective.” It further says that “The site is an outstanding example of grape cultivation and wine production developed since the High Middle Ages.” Next to the vineyards, the historic centre of Dijon and the town of Beaune, which together represent the commercial dimension of the production system are part of the site as well.
For Champagne, it’s Hillsides, Houses and Cellars were recognized. The property encompasses sites where the method of producing sparkling wines was developed on the principle of secondary fermentation in the bottle since the early 17th century. The site consists of the historic vineyards of Hautvilliers Aÿ and Mareauil-sur-Aÿ, Saint Nicaise Hill in Remis and the Avenue de Champagne and Fort Chabrol in Epernay. UNESCO says that “The property bears clear testimony to the development of a specialized artisan activity that has become an agroindustrial enterprise.”
Although Champagne and Burgundy are both well known, being recognized by UNESCO is no small feat. Most people refer to tourism as an important benefit but the fact that an organization such as UNESCO recognizes these places means that they have significant cultural value and that preserving them is key. It gives governments and organisations an incentive to look after their cultural heritage for the next generation.
Preserving the rich vinicultures of Burgundy and Champagne for generations to come is something that we can only celebrate.
[Article by Alexander Eeckhout]