Used during the grape harvest, to which they owe their name in French (vendangeoir), press houses were built as close as possible to the vines. This circumvented the need to transport the grapes long distances, which risked damaging them, and enabled them to be pressed on the spot, rapidly and in the best possible conditions. Their design was functional, with the grape press and other harvesting equipment on one side and an accommodation area for grape pickers on the other, as is the case at Sainte-Hélène.
The Sainte-Hélène press house in Hautvillers is a prime example of these practical buildings, which met the needs of Champagne production while symbolising the presence of the Champagne Houses and their links with the terroir (growing region).
This press house was built by Moët & Chandon in the late 19th century, following two fires at the company’s premises in Épernay. The original buildings were developed around a large quadrangle. One wing is occupied by the press house itself (now used to repair winegrowing machinery). The other wing, along with its two buildings, was used to house the workers and provide washing facilities. During the interwar period, another building was constructed to house the grape pickers who, at the time, were miners, primarily from the Nord department of France.
The Sainte-Hélène press house illustrates the historic continuity of the Champagne production process, partly because of its successive extensions, but also because it is still very much in use in the early 21st century.
Vendangeoir Sainte-Hélène – 51160 Hautvillers
Winery - not open to the public.