History of the Champagne Academy
Written and Edited by Val Simpson
We need to go back a little earlier to April 1941 with the creation of the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), with Comte Robert-Jean de Vogüe at its head to conduct negotiations on behalf of all interests in the Champagne vineyards during the war.
In the early fifties with personal commercial and civil recovery still aspirational, a similar spirt of common enterprise brought together those Houses who had led exports before the war. Comte Robert-Jean de Vogüe, Paul Krug and Jean-Charles Heidsieck looked ahead to better times and in particular the British market – un marché du connoisseurs.
Twelve Houses formulated a project and in 1956, just 15 years after the formation of the CIVC, launched L’Academie du Champagne. The twelve houses were:
Moët & Chandon
Heidsieck & Co Monopole
G H Mumm
Pommery & Greno, and
12 members of the wine trade in the UK and Ireland were invited to champagne to attend a course to educate them in all aspects of the history, production, marketing and appreciation of the finest champagne.
Two years after the initial course, with feelings of great gratitude and essentially led by Peter Lyons, the Champagne Academy Old Boys Association was formed.
In an Editorial of the very first Gazette produced in France in 1959 the following was written:
Our aim can only be achieved if each of us, in the course of our contribution to the functioning of the Academy, sees fit to forget the competitive spirit which, from the point of view of business, necessarily inspires us.
We hope that ‘old boys’ who have attended courses during this period will bear witness to our teamwork which alone can ensure the future of our Association.
Notable alumnae from those first few years included Michael Broadbent, David Peppercorn and Lionel Frumkin. I’m pleased to say that to this day Lionel attends the Annual Dinner every year.
In 1987 four additional houses joined the original twelve. These were:
For many years only male wine trade members were invited on to the Course, until in 1976 I was invited to attend. I and 11 men duly travelled to France but apparently due to Valerie being a man’s name in France, they were not expecting me. We were all billeted in groups of three, but at the last minute my two companions were moved to another room. One of them is still a good friend, who I believe has dined on this story for many years.
Having devoured Patrick Forbes’ book on Champagne I was astounded on our very first day, being a Sunday to find Patrick giving us our first lecture. Every day was the same, with the Head from each House personally instructing us. Every day we had magnificent lunches and dinners. In those days we finished off the Course with a trip to Paris and a very memorable night at The Lido.
In 1982 the CA celebrated its Silver Jubilee with a dinner at The Mansion House in the presence of the Rt Hon, The Lord Mayor, Sir Christopher Leaver G.B.E, an old boy from 1966.
In 2000 the Annual Dinner was held at The Savoy, London and was the first time that members were allowed to bring a guest and ladies, other than members, were permitted to attend. This practice has continued to this day.
In 2006 the Academy celebrated its 50th anniversary with a wonderful weekend in Champagne which coincided with the end of that year’s Course. For the first time girls outnumbered boys on the Course and five of the new members attended the celebrations with their Academician fathers.
I have had the honour of being the Administrator since 2008 and have served under 13 Chairmen.