Category: Wine History

Burgundy vs. Champagne: An 18th Century Flame War

Is this the earliest recorded flame war between wine geeks?

A searing debate raged in France from the mid-17th to mid-18th century between the Universities of Reims and Paris.

Guy-Crescent Fagon, Royal Physician, and Louis XIV.
Guy-Crescent Fagon, Royal Physician, and Louis XIV, his patient.

It all started with a change in Louis XIV’s Royal Physician in 1693.  The previous Royal Physician, Antoine d’Aquin, was a fervent promoter of the wines of Champagne.

The new Royal Physician, Guy-Crescent Fagon, made clear there would be no more Champagne, and that it would instead be Burgundy that would be used as a vehicle while administering quinquina infusions to Louis XIV1. You may recognize quinquina, or chicona bark, as a source of quinine — a modern day ingredient of tonic water and a whole host of liqueurs, which has retained its reputation as a treatment for fever and malaria.

Bag for cinchona bark, Peru, 1777-1785 Wellcome L0058857; Drug jar for cinchona bark, Italy, 1701-1730 Wellcome L0057626.
Bag for cinchona bark, Peru, 1777-1785 Wellcome L0058857; Drug jar for cinchona bark, Italy, 1701-1730 Wellcome L0057626.

Fagon was seeking to remedy Louis XIV’s fevers2. And once Monsieur Fagon had pushed Champagne off the royal table, each town’s university medical department became engaged in a century-long battle to prove — trading blows, via graduate theses — whether the wines of Burgundy or the wines of Champagne (which were not yet sparkling) were superior.

And it got really dirty, really quick. (Click to Read more)

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  1. En 1679, Robert Talbor visita la France et l’Espagne. En France, il eut l’opportunité de guérir le Dauphin d’un accès de fièvre et traita avec succès d’autres éminentes personnalités. Ces résultats lui attirèrent les faveurs de Louis XIV qui, moyennant une forte somme d’argent et la garantie d’une pension annuelle, obtint de lui la composition de sa recette. Le secret tenait essentiellement dans l’administration de fortes doses d’écorce de quinquina infusée dans du vin et dans le renouvellement régulier des prises. http://www.biusante.parisdescartes.fr/guibourt/exposition_guibourt_1.htm []
  2. http://cour-de-france.fr/article1531.html?lang=fr []