A Biography on the Famous Monastery Winery in Burgundy

“Shadows in the Vineyard” details the biography of a famous monastery winery in Burgundy.

The Historical Profile

Burgundy’s earliest archeological evidence of grape cultivation dates back to the 1st century AD. A Celtic god can be seen on a headstone at a church in the Côte de Nuits region, clutching a vine in his hand.

In 587 AD, a vineyard was given to the Saint Benignus monastery in Dijon which began a long era of study and practice as the monks learned to cultivate their vines and apply their talents to viticulture[1].

Monastery winery

Figure 1. Saint Benignus monastery in Dijon

More vineyards were granted to monks in the year 630 this time, they were given to the monastery “Bèze” which still exists today and forms the foundation for a great cru, sometimes referred to as “Clos de Bèze.[2]“ To date, the Benedictine monks have been acknowledged as the first monastic order to arrange viticulture on a bigger scale.

The Cistercian order was founded in 1098, making it the second oldest of the major monastic organizations. The Cistercians became rich and powerful landowners by cultivating vineyards.

Burgundy was a symbol of wealth and prosperity for much of medieval Europe, and this tendency persisted until the 18th century. Wine merchants established their enterprises and began exporting their products thanks to the development of better infrastructure in this area[3].

Land ownership also shifted dramatically around the end of the 18th century. A vineyard was once exclusive to aristocrats and clergy, but following the Reformation, anybody could grow grapes and begin making wine.

Grape lice plagued Europe’s wine business in the 1870s, decimating a large chunk of the sector. On the other hand, other wine-producing countries have been able to avoid this by exploiting their American roots. When it was unlawful to modify the root structure of a vine prior to the 1890s, this proved devastating to wine businesses in Burgundy[4].

Monastery winery

Figure 2. Grape Lice Plagued Europe’s (1870s).

The Terroir and the Role of Monasteries

Monasteries often created vineyards to provide the church with wine. Winemaking soon became a vital part of the monks’ everyday lives, and Burgundy grew into a well-known winemaking region. The Clos de Vougeot, a walled vineyard, was built by Cistercian monks in 1336. Romanée-Conti wines were made here until production was moved, but it is still in operation today and responsible for several outstanding wines[5].

When it comes to winemaking, there is no greater devotee than Cistercian monks. They were the first to discover that the Cote d’Or’s produced a wide variety of wines. Wines from various grapes may have dramatically diverse flavors, even those grown in the same vineyard. The idea of “terroir” was, therefore, first developed around this time[6].

Instead of diluting down wine, monks saw it as the blood of God, venerating it. The monks performed a series of tests to ascertain whether the wines were suitable for aging. The precise record-keeping of viticulture experiments of the time constitutes one of their most significant contributions to the winemaking industry. There was enough paperwork to let future winemakers fulfill the strict criteria of Burgundy, despite the loss of many documents during the French Revolution[7].

Monastery winery

Figure 3. Intoxification During French Revolution

A regulation requiring that only Pinot Noir grapes be planted to create high-quality wines was subsequently established by the nobility of Burgundy. Burgundy’s Cote d’Or area continues to be home to the world’s greatest Pinot Noir vineyards. There is no denying that the region’s wines owe a lot to the monastery foundations that were built hundreds of years ago.

The Great Connection

Burgundy’s terroir is often recognized as one of the region’s most significant assets[8].

 

More resources: The history of Amphorae in winemaking

ON THIS DAY

October 19, 2014: Celebrations of Burgundy’s organized vineyard walk were canceled by the French government’s administration. Since then, events have taken place every year.

 

References

  1. CHRISTOPHER HØJSTRUP BROE, “Burgundy Wine Region – the Monks Did It – the Good Gourmet,” The Good Gourmet, December 6, 2021.
  2. Maximillian Potter, “Monks and Wine in Burgundy,” in Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine (BookBrowse, 2014), 1–304
  3. Annual Burgundy Tasting, 2002 Vintage,” Journal of Wine Research 16, no. 1 (April 2005): 71–80.
  4. Maximillian Potter, “Monks and Wine in Burgundy,” in Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine (BookBrowse, 2014), 1–304
  5. CHRISTOPHER HØJSTRUP BROE, “Burgundy Wine Region – the Monks Did It – the Good Gourmet,” The Good Gourmet, December 6, 2021
  6. Maximillian Potter, “Monks and Wine in Burgundy,” in Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine (BookBrowse, 2014), 1–304
  7. CHRISTOPHER HØJSTRUP BROE, “Burgundy Wine Region – the Monks Did It – the Good Gourmet,” The Good Gourmet, December 6, 2021
  8. Maximillian Potter, “Monks and Wine in Burgundy,” in Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine (BookBrowse, 2014), 1–304.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!