A Minor History

A Minor History

When General de Gaulle famously questioned: “how can you govern a country French cheese that has 246 kinds of cheese,” he was de Gaulle confirming that the historical conflicts amoung France’s many peoples belie the fiction of a cohesive Belle France.

One of the most quarrelsome regions of France has been Champagne, which has since antiquity been the venue of France’s bloodiest battles; and, more recently, the source of perhaps its most iconic wines. It seems that when the Campenois have not been fighting the Romans or the Germans, they have often turned on themselves, perhaps just for practice.

The province and viticole of Champagne have historically been divided into two sectors. The northern Marne, with Reims as its center of gravity, is comprised of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallee de la Marne, and the Cote des Blancs. The portion of the Champagne viticole in the southern sector of the Aube, which revolves around the city of Troyes, is the Cote des Bar. The rivalries and conflict between the Marne and the Aube have deep historical roots that continue into the present. For at least the past 100 years, the casus belli has been economic conflict arising from the highly lucrative Champagne trade. Although both the Marne and Aube grow grapes and make Champagne, the two rivals have competed to dominate, each trying to marginalize the other.

To the extent that the Marne has become more dominant than the Aube since the Middle Ages, and Reims grew ascendant over Troyes, the northerners have been positioned to define the terms of conflict.

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