Champagne history - Printable Version

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- Arrumac - 05-30-2002

i have a question, what was it that was out on the vineyards in Champagne (the place) from 1969 - 1998. was it
a:grape skins
b: wine from the EU wine lake
cConfusedewage from paris or lastly
d:compaosted vine leaves
Obviously this is for a quiz

- winoweenie - 05-30-2002

Hi Arrumac and welcome to the board. You have one of the worlds greatest authorities on the bubbly rite there in the UK. I'm sure Tom Stephenson has a web site. If he's available he can help. WW

- Kcwhippet - 05-30-2002

Pomace (grape skins, seeds and stems) are usually put back out onto vineyard floors to keep down weeds and enrich the soil. So, my guess would be a.

- Innkeeper - 05-30-2002

In multiple choice I always go for: "All the above."

- Thomas - 05-30-2002

Hey guys, I thought we don't do homework and homework quizzes...

- mrdutton - 05-30-2002

The answer is, obviously, "C". [img][/img]

- tomstevenson - 06-06-2002

Mrdutton is right, but Arrumac is not - the 'boues de villes' was refuse, not sewerage; Paris stopped being its source in the late-1970s when Reims was generating enough of its own rubbish; and the practice effectively ceased more than a decade ago, albeit for financial rather than ecological reasons (since the early 1980s the demand by refuse-fuelled energy plants gradually priced the 'boues' out of the vineyard fertilising market).

- tomstevenson - 06-06-2002

I have answered this once, but cannot see it on the board, so here goes again and apologies if the first one pops up from whatever blackhole it has dropped into.

Mrdutton is as always correct, although the question itself is not. Sewage has never been put on Champagne vineyards, but minced-up, decomposing refuse called 'boues de ville' has. Although this practice was officially banned in 1998, it had in fact stopped long before then. The champenois were moving away from the infamous 'boues de ville' as long ago as the mid 1980s. Unfortunately this was not because of any genuine worry about contaminants, but because the 'boues' had become more expensive than mining lignite deposits for 'cendres-noires', Champagne’s traditional fertiliser. By the late 1970s the champenois had no need to pay Paris for its rubbish since the city of Reims was generating enough of its own, but in the early 1980s the demand by refuse-fuelled energy plants began to price the 'boues' out of the vineyard fertilising market. For anyone who has visited Champagne regularly over the past 20-odd years, the disappearance of these huge steaming piles of blue-tinged blots on the landscape can hardly have gone unnoticed.

I mentioned this in Champagne (Sotheby's Publications), which was published in 1986. On page 52 you can see a colour plate of a pile of boues de ville complete with its dominant flecks of blue plastic, cigarette packets and even a piece of Lego on page 52. When the book came out, the sight of 'boues de ville' in full colour came as something of a shock to the CIVC and several large Champagne houses. They had become accustomed to books on Champagne being little more than PR puffs for the world’s greatest sparkling wine and if I was asked once I was asked a dozen times “Why did you put this in your book?” to which my well-rehearsed response had become “Why did you put this on your vineyards?”.

The real concern over 'boues de ville' was not blue plastic, but heavy metal contamination. Before it was priced out of the market, Alain Collery of Champagne Collery had been fighting a one-man battle against 'boues de ville' because he was concerned about the cadmium content in the soil from minced up batteries in the refuse. So they all knew about it more than 15 years ago; the CIVC, their researchers and all the big houses. Although the use of 'boues de ville' quickly became negligible (for all the wrong reasons), it was still legal. That it took until 1998 to ban this practice is reprehensible.