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When Champagne Became French

, 280 pages

18 halftones, 3 line drawings

April 2003



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When Champagne Became French

Wine and the Making of a National Identity

Winner of the 2002 Manuscript Award from Phi Alpha Theta
Winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for English Wine, Best Wine History Book, and Best Book on French Wine
Winner of the Clicquot Wine Book of the Year Competition

Winner of the Outstanding Manuscript Award from Phi Alpha Theta, this work explains how nationhood emerges by viewing countries as cultural artifacts, a product of "invented traditions." In the case of France, scholars sharply disagree, not only over the nature of French national identity but also over the extent to which diverse and sometimes hostile provincial communities became integrated into the nation. In When Champagne Became French: Wine and the Making of a National Identity, Kolleen M. Guy offers a new perspective on this debate by looking at one of the central elements in French national culture—luxury wine—and the rural communities that profited from its production.

Focusing on the development of the champagne industry between 1820 and 1920, Guy explores the role of private interests in the creation of national culture and in the nation-building process. Drawing on concepts from social and cultural history, she shows how champagne helped fuel the revolution in consumption as social groups searched for new ways to develop cohesion and to establish status. By the end of the nineteenth century, Guy concludes, the champagne-producing provinces in the department of Marne had developed a rhetoric of French identity that promoted its own marketing success as national. This ability to mask local interests as national concerns convinced government officials of the need, at both national and international levels, to protect champagne as a French patrimony.

Kolleen M. Guy is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

"Excellent book."

"The denouement of Kolleen Guy's fascinating book is the violent explosion known as the 'revolution of Champagne' in 1911. How the revolt occurred is the heart of this skillful study of a region's economy and society and its relationship to the nation state."

"A strong contribution to our understanding of the processes by which French national identity was constructed."

"[Guy] convincingly describes how the circumstances surrounding the evolution of this regional beverage explain changes within French society... Students writing research papers in the fields of gastronomy would find this an excellent model of how they should approach similar topics."

"Guy's fascinating book... traces in extensive detail the forces at work to transform this formerly regional product into a world-recognized symbol of French patrimony, elitism, and spirit. In lively style, Guy chronicles the history of champagne production in France and, in turn, the history of France itself through eras of industrialization and war. All readers will find this book absorbing: history buffs, novices to the bubbly, and full-fledged experts."

"A fascinating study of champagne in the years before the Great War... Guy makes us consider the current popularity of products which, like champagne, have a strong regional identity and their increasing centrality to contemporary France's sense of identity."

"A fascinating book... [Guy] demonstrates how a region with few environmental advantages for grape and wine production was able not only to succeed but to become synonymous with grace, style, and joyful gatherings."

"The first modern scholarly study of the production, consumption, and representation of champagne. Guy's prose is both inviting and accessible, deftly integrating theories from sociology, anthropology, philosophy, economics, and cultural history in a coherent, persuasive, and analytical narrative. When Champagne Became French is both scholarly and readable."

"Guy's illustrated book is a well-researched look at one of France's proudest achievements."