In 1911 the champagne riots saw the town of Ay burnt to the ground and the military occupation of the region by 40,000 troops. The rioting arose through a succession of poor harvests exacerbated by the aphid blight Phylloxera. With appellation controls in place, the major champagne houses imported foreign grapes to maintain production, driving local growers into destitution. Elsewhere in France, Burgundy wines had appellation controls dating back to the medieval viticulture of Cistercian monasteries, while Bordeaux’s system was established at Emperor Napoleon III’s request in 1855. The riots shocked the government into action. Échelles de Crus (‘ladders of growths’) were devised under the aegis of committees composed of both growers and producers. In 1927, five viticultural districts were delimited, to which the appellation Champagne was confined. The 319 villages within the region were then graded, with (by 1985), a total of 17 awarded the highest appellation Grand Cru.
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