Dear champagne lovers,
Did you ever wonder which is the oldest champagne house? Well, it is actually the house of Ruinart, founded by Nicolas Ruinart, in Épernay, on 1 September 1729. Nowadays, this house is renowned all over the world and has become a true icon. It is the symbol of know-how, expertise and the French art of living. If you don’t know much about the history of champagne yet, please let me invite you to discover more in this article.
In the beginning:
It all started with the intuition of Dom Thierry Ruinart, a Benedictine monk who was born in 1657, to a family of cloth merchants. This man was convinced that the sparkling wine, developed in his native Champagne, was destined for a bright future. Before his death in 1709, he passed on this conviction to his brother and his nephew, Nicolas Ruinart.
A revolutionary decree :
On May 25, 1728, Louis XV authorized the transport of 50 to 100 bottles of sparkling wine in a basket. Before this decree, bottles of sparkling wine were intended for local consumption, as they were considered to be too fragile for transportation. This royal decree was the foundation of the house’s success and it provided Ruinart with a wealth of new opportunities.
The creation of the first champagne house:
In September 1729, 20 years after the death of his uncle, Nicolas Ruinart laid the foundation stone in the history of champagne by establishing the very first Champagne house. The sparkling wine was already well known but had not yet acquired the official name of champagne. This period coincides with the dawn of the Enlightenment philosophy in France and the French art of living.
A dazzling evolution:
Driven by a permanent quest for excellence and authenticity, the house sold 170 bottles in 1730. In 1731, it sold a staggering sum of 3000 bottles! Ruinart’s rise to prominence was meteoric. In 1735, six years after its foundation, Nicolas decided to stop his trade as a cloth merchant to devote himself fully to the production of champagne.
In 1761, a total of 36,000 bottles were sold and on March 14, 1764, the house proceeded with its first export of rosé champagne to Germany – a transaction recorded in the house’s book of accounts.
The acquisition of the chalk pits:
In the middle of the 18th century, the company acquired the chalk pits located under the city of Reims. The pits, over 8 km long, were dug by hand and had all the optimum properties for good wine conservation. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about preservation methods for bottles of champagne wine, you can find out here. The pits are real underground relics, they are in fact, classified as a Unesco heritage site.
A historical coat of arms :
On April 12, 1817, Louis XVIII ennobled François Irénée Ruinart and granted him a coat of arms, which has since appeared on the emblematic bottles of the house.
Change of ownership :
For more than two centuries, the Ruinart family has owned its champagne house. In 1962, it was bought by Moët & Chandon, then in 1987, the LVMH group bought Moêt & Chandon. The house Ruinart thus belongs to the LVMH group.
The king grape variety:
Since its foundation, the house has been careful to ensure the excellence of its vintages. Chardonnay is the soul of Ruinart and is present in all the vintages of the house. The grapes come mainly from the Côte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims regions and have a wonderful aromatic freshness. Delicate and fragile, this grape variety reveals its full flavors through a slow maturation in the coolness of the pits. Non-vintage champagnes take an average of 3 years to mature, while Dom Ruinart takes 9 to 10 years.
The range of Ruinart champagnes :
Cuvée R of Ruinart:
This is the house’s non-vintage brut champagne, with fruity aromas and pastry notes.
The Blanc de blancs:
This is the house’s signature champagne, with a bright white gold color and aromas of flowers and white-fleshed fruits.
This is a lesser-known cuvée than the highly regarded Blanc de Blancs, yet it is a very delicate one, with notes of red fruits.
The cuvée Dom Ruinart :
This is Ruinart’s prestige cuvée, a vintage champagne only produced in exceptional years. This cuvée is also offered in Dom Ruinart Rosé, with aromas of flowers, dried fruit, almonds and pastry notes.
Ruinart changes its skin:
The house wants to take a more environmentally friendly approach, so in February 2020 it announced the launch of “second skin,” an eco-friendly paper gift packaging, molded in the shape of a wine bottle that replaces the current boxes for Ruinart brut, Ruinart rosé, Ruinart Blanc de blancs and Ruinart millésimé cuvées.
Which is the youngest champagne house?
Now that you know that Ruinart is recognized as the oldest champagne house, do you know which is the youngest champagne house?
The youngest house is the Grande Charte! In 2018, the Great Champagne Charter, dating back to 1114, offered its name to Grande Charte. This prestigious house offers organic and biodynamic champagne wines.
You now know a little bit more about the oldest champagne house as well as the youngest. To learn more about champagne, feel free to read my articles: a guide on where to buy bottles, the conservation methods for champagne and champagne vinux and the differences between these two wines and other champagnes.