The original champagne
The Faire La Fête Story begins in 1531 with the birth of champagne.
Before the invention of the modern calendar, in the southern French commune of Limoux, monks were busy making wine. This was not new. Wine had been produced mostly by Christian monks and in abbeys throughout Europe for centuries. But until 1531, sparkling wine, or champagne as we know it, did not exist. Cellar records show that in 1531, the reclusive monks of Limoux, near the giant fortified castle of Carcassonne, started producing champagne1.
Winemaking itself was invented in 6,000 BC. It is a simple process: when yeast consumes sugar in grape juice, it produces alcohol and CO2. Let the CO2 bubbles float off into the air and you have wine. It was the group of 16th Century monks in Limoux who had the idea to ferment wine twice and capture those CO2 bubbles in a bottle. Their ancestral method of bottle refermentation eventually developed into what we now call the traditional, or more commonly “champagne” method for making sparkling wine by capturing bubbles in a bottle2.
At the time, up north in Champagne, regular wines were made in the abbeys solely for church use, and by all accounts they were not commercially successful. In 1584—53 years after the monks in Limoux invented sparkling wine—the first serious commercial winery in the commune of Champagne was registered3. It was called Gosset, and they did not make sparkling wine. Nobody in Champagne did at the time4.
Throughout the 1600’s, the 42 micro-villages within the commune of Limoux expanded their vineyard plantings across the limestone-rich soils of the commune. Situated in the cool foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, the grapes grown in Limoux proved perfect for making sparkling wine. For a century, the farmers and winemakers perfected their invention: the “traditional” method of refermenting wine in its own bottle.
A now famous French tradition also started happening during the mid-16th century in Limoux. They started partying. The Fête—or Carnival/Mardi Gras/Party—started occurring every year in Limoux and ran for months. From January through Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” the residents of the 42 villages in Limoux would wear elaborate costumes, masks with family crests and symbols, and parade through their streets drinking sparkling wine in a joyous bacchanal. The Fête continues each year to this day, culminating in a giant parade that ends in the center of the town of Limoux, its fountain drained of water and instead filled with Limoux champagne.
In 1668, one hundred and thirty-seven years after champagne was invented in Limoux, a young monk named Pierre Pérignon got a job as cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvilliers in Champagne, France5. Legend has it that Dom Pérignon invented sparkling wine. That story, which became legend, was in fact a fabrication by a different monk at the Abbey of Hautvilliers, Dom Grossard, around 18216. Indeed, a man that nobody has heard of, Dom Grossard, created a false origin story that forever changed the world of wine. We now know that Dom Pérignon was a strong denouncer of sparkling wine, which only occurred in the cold commune of Champagne if wines in a bottle or barrel accidentally refermented during spring. Dom Pérignon's successor Frère Pierre published a lengthy treatise on still winemaking and winegrowing based on the writings and record of Dom Pérignon in Champagne, and helped the region make still wines that could finally compete with Burgundy7.
The amazing reality about champagne is that cellar records prove not a single sparkling wine was made in Champagne during Dom Pérignon’s life.
It was finally in 1729 that the Ruinart winery shipped the first sparkling wine from Champagne, France.8. By the late 18th Century, sparkling Champagne wines became famous throughout the world, and by the 20th Century, bottle fermented sparkling wines became synonymous with Champagne, France. Today, most people call all sparkling wines champagne. The growers in Limoux who make Faire la Fête felt as if they had lost their birthright. They were forced in the 1990s, after extensive lobbying to the EU by rich champagne producers, to use the confusing word “Crémant” on the label of the wine they invented. Today, while the Champenois continue to claim patrimony, the growers of Limoux shrug their shoulders and carry on. They could take their history, but they wouldn’t take their spirit. Now the world is finding out: Limoux, and its star Faire La Fête, has come to America.
The Beginning of Faire La Fête
In 2013, American wine industry pro Peter Baedeker and former Mark West winemaker Alex Cose met with the 6th to 8th generation farmers in Limoux. Peter—who went to school and was married in New Orleans—was enamored with the small southern French region’s Fête and fascinated by the true history of champagne. Alex was wide-eyed at the incredible quality of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Limoux and the wonderful combination of a cool mountain climate with ocean influence and plentiful sun. Together with the growers, they created a true champagne, and it only seemed fitting to call it Faire la Fête.
Faire la Fête is made from select, hand-harvested grapes that are grown by the 6th to 8th generation family farmers who partnered with Alex and Peter. Alex works with the growers to make the Faire la Fête base wine, which then goes through secondary fermentation in the cellars in Limoux for 15 months before it is disgorged, or opened up. This time-consuming process imparts the delicate bubbles, flavors and aromas to Faire la Fête that can only be achieved by this traditional Limoux method. Alex prefers to use very little additional sugar—known in France as dosage—to top off the wine, which results in a champagne that has less than one gram of sugar per glass. The quality of this collaborative project has been recognized by Master Sommeliers, The Somm Journal, Forbes Magazine, The Robb Report, and many others and word is spreading through social media.
In 2018, Edward Holl acquired Faire la Fête and formed First Growth Brands with Peter Baedeker. Charlotte Holl entered the business after a career in executive sales in Manhattan, joining our talented Director of Operations, Samantha Altomare, who has been with the company since its inception. Peter, Charlotte and Samantha began selling Faire la Fête nationally. In the fall of 2019, Brandon McManigal, an experienced sales manager with a nationwide distributor, joined FGB as our national Director of Chains. Over the past two years the business has been streamlined with a growing emphasis on social media-based distribution. Up to date, Faire la Fête has reached over 2 million followers through established Social Media influencers.
Since he was so impressed with the project and the quality of Faire la Fête, in 2019, Peter Baedeker’s good friend and one of only 274 Master Sommeliers in the world, Peter Neptune, joined the Faire la Fête family as a partner and advisor. Peter Neptune, MS now teaches the true history of champagne and the story of Faire la Fête globally and collaborates with Alex and Peter on wine quality.
The traditional Fête colors of green and purple-dating themselves to the 16th Century—adorn the bottles of Faire la Fête, which has become the first champagne sold in America to tell the true story of the original champagne.
- Robinson, Jancis "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Second Edition (p. 407) Oxford University Press 1999.
- Jefford, Andrew “The New France: A Complete Guide to Contemporary French Wine” (p. 225), Octopus Publishing Group 2002.
- K. Gargett, P. Forrestal, & C. Fallis The Encyclopedic Atlas of Wine (p. 162) Global Book Publishing 2004.
- Robinson (p. 151).
- Robinson (p. 514).
- Guy, Kolleen M. "When Champagne Became French: Wine and the Making of a National Identity" (p. 28), Johns Hopkins University Press 2003.
- Bonal, Francois “Le Livre d’Or Du Champagne” Grand-Pont 1984.
- Bonal, Francois.