Reims, 17 March 2020
1955 is an exceptional year in the history of Champagne wines. With the 1928, 1929, 1945, 1990 and 1996 vintages, it forms part of the constellation of the finest vintages of the 20th century. The House is very happy to have found a bottle of Chanoine Frères Brut 1955 champagne.
The Year 1955 in the Champagne
For Chanoine Frères and the other champagne houses, 1955 was a very favorable year. After some anxiety at the time of the spring frost, the harvests in the Champagne were very fine, with grapes of high quality and abundant beyond expectations. The harvest took place in early October, under sunny conditions after the rains in September that had swelled the grapes.
In the Champagne, yields had finally reached pre-war levels and would continue to increase. Thanks to the reconstitution of the vineyards, the planting of new vines, and the beginning of mechanization with the arrival of the straddle tractor in 1952, a period of sustained growth of production and trading in champagnes began.
It was also the start of the era of wine tourism: In 1953, the Champagne trade organization (Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne — CIVC) inaugurated “La Route du Champagne,” which offers three itineraries through the vineyards — from Reims to Épernay via the Montagne de Reims, along the right bank of the Marne Valley to the east and west of Épernay, and the route from Épernay toward the Côte des Blancs.
1955, a year of success
This renewal in the Champagne, of which the wonderful 1955 vintage is a symbol, accompanied a new era of economic prosperity in France.
Since the end of the War, the national wealth had increased by one third. For the first time, France was exporting more than she imported, and the nearly 12 million bottles of champagne shipped around the world were a sparkling contribution to the prosperity.
Two other elegant symbols of France’s newly recovered dynamism came into being in that year of 1955. The Caravelle, the flagship of French aeronautics, had its first flight and went on to become the first twin-engine jet airliner in the world to be produced in series.
And at the Paris Auto Show in the Grand Palais, the launch of the Citroën DS made headlines. The revolutionary sedan, with its aerodynamic lines and multiple technical innovations, immediately became queen of the road and remained so for two decades… the ideal car for chic and comfortable touring along the beautiful Route du Champagne.
The Chanoine Frères Brut 1955 champagne bottle: beautiful and useful
The label on the bottle of Chanoine Frères Brut 1955 champagne is very close to the one on the bottle of 1926 vintage Brut that was recently found — the same sobriety, the same English-style typography and white background. On the neck band we find the comet motif, whose star and tail have been the symbol of exceptional years in the Champagne since the “Year of the Comet” in 1811.
In contrast with the simplicity of the label, the ornate black-and-gold neck band, under the gilded, embossed capsule, attracts the eye. The back of the band reads: “In 1730 Chanoine Frères were granted authorisation by the town of Epernay to excavate the first champagne cellar.” This is a reference to the House’s history, and more precisely to its founder, Pierre Chanoine, a young merchant of 32 who, under the reign of Louis XV, was first to have the idea of digging cellars for assembling the wines of the region.
Isabelle Tellier, Head Wine-Maker of the House of Chanoine Frères, says “This vintage bottle could very well be opened. On the one hand the bubbles have a preservative effect, since the carbon dioxide gas contributes to limiting the oxidation of the wine. And 1955 is not old for a vintage champagne, especially for such an exceptional year.
Given the quality of the year’s harvest, the balance between acidity and sugar may well have been especially favorable to long ageing. But care would need to be taken before opening a bottle of this age; any loss of wine could mean that the cork has been compromised.”