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Why Is there Wine on the UNESCO World Heritage List?

Bordeaux, Champagne wine regions get world heritage designations

(Doug Pearson/JAI/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

When you think of UNESCO world heritage sites, archaeological ruins and lavish temples may come to mind. But this week, reports the AFP, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s newest cultural preservation site spotlights something a little different: wine. Specifically, the vineyards of Champagne and Bordeaux — places wine worshipers cite as the home of the world’s best wines.

The designation covers the places where the sparkling wine now known as Champagne was developed along with vineyards south of Dijon, which are known for their fine red wines. The move is “a double victory for French wine,” reports the AFP, noting that a UNESCO designation can bring tourist and preservation dollars to countries lucky enough to earn the honor. 

France has long been possessive of the unique terroir and characteristics of its famous national wines. According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, France is the world’s biggest wine producer, though it no longer leads the world in grape production (that honor goes to China). Proclaiming “Champagne only comes from Champagne, France,” French champagne growers have fought hard for the right to use the term Champagne, even succeeding in EU regulation of the word.

But though the designation of distinctly French wine country as culturally significant will surely be cause for celebration in a country that drinks the third-most amount of wine in the world, France isn’t the first place to receive UNESCO recognition for its vineyards. In fact, the body has recognized several other regions known for their historic wines, from Pico Island in Portugal to the scenic vineyard terraces of Lavaux, Switzerland.

At the very least, a UNESCO winery tour would be a pretty great trip. You can see some of the stops on that theoretical tour here, but you'll have to bring your own wine.  

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