The Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne traces its history to the 17th century, when a number of young aristocrats, most of whom were landowners in Champagne, formed a group to promote the wines of the region. According to Patrick Forbes in his outstanding book Champagne: The Wine, the Land and the People, the origin of the name dates from shortly after the coronation of Louis XIV in 1666, and can be attributed to the activities of three of the group's most prominent members, all renowned for their loyal devotion to the finest things vinous and gastronomic: the Marquis de Saint-Evremond, the Comte d'Olonne and the Marquis de Bois-Dauphin. Forbes writes:
Soon after the coronation they dined with the Bishop of Le Mans, and so horrified the old man with their fastidiousness in matters of food and wine that he went about Paris afterwards saying: "These gentlemen, in seeking refinement in everything, go to extremes: they can only eat Normandy veal; their partridges must come from Auvergne, and their rabbits from La Roche-sur-Yon; they are no less particular as regards fruit; and, as to wine, they can only drink that of the good coteaux of Aÿ, Hautvillers and Avenay." Their friends, who thought this a huge joke, started calling them the Trois Coteaux, and before long the whole group became known as the Ordre des Coteaux.
The group actually did a great deal to popularize the wines of Champagne at the time, playing an important role in the region's development, and they remained in existence until shortly before the Revolution. In 1956, a group of Champenois led by Roger Gaucher and François Taittinger revived the Ordre, and today it serves as the most visible and prestigious body of ambassadors of champagne worldwide. Prior to Pierre-Emmanuel's election as Commandeur in March of this year, Pierre Cheval of Champagne Gatinois held that office; previous Commandeurs have included such luminaries as Claude Taittinger, Bernard de Nonancourt and Christian de Billy. The Ordre also has a number of officers, including Didier Depond of Salon/Delamotte (pictured with me here), my sponsor in the order.
As a Chevalier, I am sworn to defend the cause of champagne and promote the appreciation of champagne in whatever way I can. I'm probably also expected to drink as much champagne as humanly possible. I think I can do that.