De Vilmont/Sade (not to be confused)


On the left De Sade, on the right De Vilmont – er… or vice versa?

One of the joys of this job is looking into the background stories of wine. Not, perhaps, as consistently as great a joy as cracking open a bottle of the wine in question and drinking it – particularly when that wine is, for instance, a fine and rare Premier Cru Champagne – but still…

So it was that a little basic research into our De Vilmont Champagne told me that it was named after Francois Alphonse Donatien De Vilmont, Marquis de San Creve. And that he was, obviously, an aristocrat, and, less obviously, a cavalry officer in the Royal Army of Louis XVI before the French Revolution, and, at least briefly, in the Revolutionary Army after it. He became famous for celebrating the decisive victory of the French Revolutionary Army over Prussian and Austrian counter revolutionary forces at the Battle of Valmy, in the heart of Champagne, by decapitating bottles of the local produce with his sabre (just as he had done to the enemy soldiers, or so it was said). Unfortunately for the Marquis, his celebration was short lived:  he was himself to become a victim of the general enthusiasm for decapitation peculiar to those times, losing his own head, as many aristos (and plenty of others) would, to Mme La Guillotine during The Terror.

Further Googling of “Francois Alphonse Donatien De Vilmont, Marquis de San Crev” led me to click on a link to “Donatien Alphonse Francois Marquis de Sa…”, which in turn took me to the Wikipedia entry for another, rather better known, aristo of French revolutionary times:  the notorious Marquis de Sade. Now, obviously, apart from their confusingly similar names, dates and social rank, there is little reason to suppose that these two men had much in common at all – not least in the fact that while De Vilmont was beheaded, De S ade – notwithstanding his aristocracy, his endless capacity for upsetting pretty much everyone, and the fact that he spent most of the period incarcerated either in prison or lunatic asylums – survived The Terror.

Nevertheless, given the serendipitous nature of wine back stories, not to mention Google, it’s easy to get the sadist and the sword wielding chevalier mixed up. So we’d just like to assure all our customers that the De Vilmont Champagne named for the latter offers pleasures that are altogether more wholesome, and distinctly less painful than those associated with the former. Although they do still promise more than just a hint of decadence.

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