The Champagne Riots of 1910 and 1911

Definition - What does The Champagne Riots of 1910 and 1911 mean?

The Champagne Riots of 1910 and 1911 were a violent and turbulent time in France between the wine grape growers and wine houses in the Champagne wine growing region. The Champagne Riots of 1910 and 1911 were a culmination of events that had wreaked havoc on the wine grape harvest since the first days of the phylloxera epidemic, known as the Great French Wine Blight, which nearly devastated the French Wine Industry in the 1860’s. Owner and workers alike involved in wine grape growing and production rioted in the streets, destroyed wine and property in protest of low grape prices and imported grapes from outside the region.

The Riots peaked when the French Government had to deploy troops to subdue the unrest, although hard feelings remained until after the end of World War I, when a change in perspective led to the workers and growers attempting to come to an agreement about wine grape prices and led to the development of the regulations for the wines of the Champagne region by the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.

WineFrog explains The Champagne Riots of 1910 and 1911

At the turn of the century, wine grape growers in the Champagne region were still struggling with low yield harvests and trying to rebuild vineyards after the Great French Wine Blight that struck France in the 1860’s. While the vineyards were re-planted, the vines struggled with mold, mildew, excessive rains, flooding and hail as early frosts affected the harvests in the early 1900’s. During this time, the wine houses in the region began importing grapes from other wine regions in France and Europe to continue their wine production thanks to the expansion of the French railway that made transportation of wine grapes fast and reliable. Not only were the wine grape growers concerned that imported grapes could not make wines that adequately represented the Champagne region, they were also concerned with the low prices the wine houses were buying the grapes for.

Although the government imposed a regulation stating that wines from the region had to use a majority of local grapes, illegal imports of less expensive grapes continued. Tensions came to a peak when the wine houses tried to impose the lower prices of imported grapes to the local growers and violence ensued as growers intercepted a truckload of imported grapes. The truck was overturned in the river, people were fighting in the streets, looting and setting fire to wine houses and wine merchant shops. The violence continued until troops were deployed by the French government to enforce the peace.

Although tensions continued until the start of World War I, it wasn’t until after that war that growers and wine houses began working together with the Government to define the Champagne region and the wines produced from the region that could be labelled as "Champagne" under the regulations of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée

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