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Cathedral Of Champagne
Jeff at JSJ Photography
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SOURCE: Eugène Mercier – Champagne man with insane marketing ideas
by Champagne Magazine (Notes) on Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 11:31am
World’s eighth wonder
One of his greatest publicity stunts was a giant, twenty-ton ‘Cathedral of Champagne’ cask – the world’s largest wine barrel. He wanted to build it from old Hungarian oak trees. For this reason, he sent his cooper, fittingly named Jolibois (literally ‘pretty woods’), to Hungary to handpick 150 oak trees, each of which were at least one hundred years old, which would be cut down for the vat’s construction. After fifteen years of hard work, on 7 July 1885 the Mercier’s inventory for that day registers: A 200,000 bottle barrel, estimated by the administration to hold 1,600 hectolitres, weighing 20-tons and comprising 800 working pieces.
Only two years later, the grape harvest produced the needed 1,600 hectolitres of wine to fill the cask. It was the largest vintage ever achieved.
Eugène Mercier reserved his most breathtaking showmanship for the three world exhibitions held in Paris. For the first event in 1878 he had already built an enormous cask with a capacity of 75,000 bottles.
The Exposition Universelle of 1889 was a World's Fair held in Paris, France from 6 May to 31 October 1889.
The ‘Eiffel Tower’ of wines
By the time the second fair was to take place in Paris in 1889, his ‘Cathedral of Champagne’ cask was ready. He announced that his cask would be one of the main attractions at the fair.
First, he had to tear down the walls of the enormous storeroom in which the cask was housed. Twenty-four hours later, on 17 April 1889, the cask was ready for transport to Paris. It took eight days and nights, twenty-four oxen from Morwan and eighteen horses, to transport this world’s largest wine cask with a 200,000-bottle capacity from Epernay to Paris.
On the journey, two bridges collapsed under the weight, and several others required major repairs. A large number of city lights and building facades were damaged. He had to buy five houses for a small fortune, which he then demolished in order to make way, but the publicity achieved made all the tough work worthwhile. Although the 20-ton cask was overshadowed by the main attraction – the Eiffel Tower – it garnered loads of attention. Afterwards, it was returned to Epernay, where it was used for blending until 1947.
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