With the inclusion of the Champagne regions cellars, houses and hillsides being added to the official list of UNESCO World Heritage sites Scottish politicians have begun calling for the same status to be awarded to the Speyside region
World Heritage Site
Now ratified by 191 countries the UNESCO World Heritage Convention is an almost universally accepted framework for the protection of places on earth deemed to posses outstanding value for humanity which should be safeguarded for future generations.
Since it’s origin in 1972 the status of UNESCO World Heritage site has been granted to 1,022 sites including the Great Wall of China and Stonehenge. The inclusion of the Champagne region makes 1,023.
Champagne’s Inclusion as a Heritage Site
The inclusion of the wine producing region is as much a consequence of political pressure as the regions obsession with terroir. This has left many commentators questioning whether the Champagne region is as deserving, or has the same need of, support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as other sites such as the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan or the Palmyra in Syria (currently controlled by Islamic State fighters).
Regardless the region has for better or worse been granted these protections due to the sites status as “an outstanding example of grape cultivation and wine production developed since the high middle ages” in particular the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune.
Speyside Whisky Region
Scotland’s food secretary Richard Lochhead is pushing for the iconic Speyside whisky producing region to recieve “the same level of recognition from UNESCO as Champagne and Burgundy in France” a position supported by a number of MPs.
Of Britain’s 28 sites which include Westminster Palace, Kew Gardens, and Stonehenge, only 6 are currently within Scotland. Consequently were the Speyside region to take the same accolade as sites such as New Lanark, The Forth Bridge, St Kilda, the Antoine Wall and Edinburgh’s Old and New towns this could result in a considerable boost to tourism.
This status may be some ways off however as production of the iconic Single Malt Whiskies of Scotland today often differ considerably from their historic production, many of the names today have spent vast periods of time off the shelves, and the majority of production both then and now is grain whisky distilled using the relatively new continuous method. Throw in the fact that the whisky industry has never embraced the French concept of terroir with the same enthusiasm as French wine producers, and it’s likely to come down in the end, as Champagne’s status did to lobbying.