Only Bordeaux is ahead of Burgundy in terms of wine history, quality, and illustrious producers. Burgundy has a long history of winemaking that extends back to the fifth century, when Christian monks improved the technique through many generations while recording their discoveries. They learned how each final wine was impacted by its own terroir. Based on the work done by those monks centuries ago, today’s grand cru and premier cru parcels were created.
587: During this year, king Guntram donated the first vineyard to the Church in the region, marking the beginning of wine production in Burgundy. Cluny, Citeaux, and Vézelay were three of the most significant cathedrals and monasteries in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The history of Burgundy wine has been greatly influenced by Roman Catholic monks and monasteries. King Guntram donated the first vineyard to the church in 587, but it wasn’t until Charlemagne’s reign that the church’s influence really started to matter.
2 September 909 AD: On this day, the Benedictines founded the Abbey of Cluny, which would later become the first truly significant owner of Burgundy vineyards. Another significant landowner in the Mâcon region and along the Côte Chalonnaise was the Cluniac Order. Additionally, it had vines up north, including the modern Romanée-Saint-Vivant site. The wine required for the celebration of mass was first produced on the monks’ estate. Thhttps://thisdayinwinehistory.com/the-dukes-of-burgundy-and-the-implications-today/ey gradually perfected the technique of wine growing by working hard, increasing both yields and quality. They consequently had success selling some of their wines.
1098: In this year, the Cistercians, whose initial abbey was located in Burgundy and who were founded and called after Cîteaux, were another order that had an impact. The Clos de Vougeot, Burgundy’s greatest wall-enclosed vineyard, was built by the Cistercians in 1336. Between the early 14th century and the middle of the 12th century, the Cistercians either bought or received a donation of the Clos de Vougeot vineyard, which made up vineyard. Donations from 1109 to 111.5 made up the first vineyard. By the year 1336, the vineyard was finished and had a wall built around it. It was used as the Cistercians’ flagship vineyard and has since become a household name. More crucially, the Cistercians, who owned numerous vineyards, were the first to realize that various vineyard plots consistently produced different wines. The nomenclature of the Burgundy crus and the concept of terroir were thus established at their inception.
The Burgundy wine region’s Clos de Vougeot, also known as Clos Vougeot serves as an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) for red wine from this vineyard. It was given the name River Vouge even though there is merely a stream separating Chambolle-Musigny from the hamlet of Vougeot. The greatest grand cru in all of Burgundy is Corton in Côte de Beaune, with Clos de Vougeot being the largest single vineyard in Côte de Nuits at 50.6 hectares (125 acres).
1345: The first documented pinot noir grapes in the Burgundy region. One of the first known grape varietals, Pinot Noir was given its name by the noble Pinot family in honor of the grape bunches’ pinecone-like shape. Burgundy has been growing pinot since the first century AD. According to one account, it entered Burgundy through the Aedui after they invaded Lombardy and Italy. While some stories claim the Romans discovered Pinot already well-established in the region, another history claims it arrived via the Romans. The Catholic church unintentionally became the protector of the magnificent Pinots after the Barbarian invasions drove the Romans out of the area. The wine was approved since the monks used Pinot Noir in their sacraments. By using precise vineyard techniques, they developed the variety, and by the sixth century, vineyards owned by churches were spread across the majority of Burgundy. It takes until 1345 for Pinot Noir to be first mentioned in writing in Burgundy. The grape was introduced by French monks to the Rheingau region, where it has been grown since 1470. Around 1789, during the French Revolution, households in Burgundy were given control over church-owned vineyards, which led to the independent vineyard model that exists today.
1370: In this year, Pinot Noir was first mentioned under the name Noirien. Since no other grape variety connected to Medieval Burgundy is thought to have been able to make red wines of quality able to impress the papal court, it is likely that Pinot Noir was grown earlier than when it was first described under the name Noirien.
August 6, 1395: On this day, to protect the caliber of Burgundy wines, Duke Philip the Bold issued a proclamation. The duke forbade the use of organic fertilizer (manure), which most likely further improved yields at the expense of quality. Gamay was a higher yielding grape than Pinot Noir in the 14th century and is still today. Fromenteau, a premium grape recognized at the time in northeastern France, was likely used to produce high-quality white Burgundy wines at this time. Probably the same variety as modern Pinot Gris is fromenteau.
August 1678: In this month, Burgundy became incorporated in the Kingdom of France.
In 1477, the French throne acquired the Duchy of Burgundy. With the Treaties of Nijmegen, the County of Burgundy was finally merged into France in 1678 after remaining very loosely connected to the Holy Roman Empire (and occasionally being autonomous, hence the name “Franche-Comté”). Some of the most significant Western cathedrals and monasteries, including Cluny, Citeaux, and Vézelay, were located in Burgundy during the Middle Ages.
Many vineyards owned by the church were sold to the bourgeoisie after Burgundy was integrated into the Kingdom of France and the church’s influence diminished.
1717: In this year, Domaine Leflaive was established. It is possibly the best white wine domaine in Burgundy and a benchmark for premium Chardonnay. A family estate established by Joseph Leflaive, Domaine Leflaive was converted to biodynamic practices by the late Anne-Claude Leflaive, a pioneer of biodynamic farming in the area. Brice de la Morandiere is now in charge of running the estate. Leflaive owns 22 hectares of vines, including 10 hectares of premiers crus and five hectares of grand cru vineyards, including Chevalier Montrachet, Bâtard Montrachet, Bienvenues Bâtard Montrachet, and Le Montrachet. Depending on the vintage, the price per bottle of the Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, which is produced from three parcels spanning 1.99 hectares, can start at £350.
1720s and 1730s: During this period, the first negotiator houses in the area were built. Negotiant is the French word for the merchant. Therefore, a wine négociant is a wine broker also referred to as a wine dealer. They purchase fermented wine, grape juice, and grapes from vineyards and producers. They are then packaged, given a label, and put on sale. They have a history of having a bad reputation.
5 May 1789 – 9 November 1799: Within this period, the French Revolution change Burgundy’s wine history. The last of the church’s vineyards were divided up and sold off from 1791 following the French revolution. The most valuable vineyard holdings were then further subdivided as a result of the Napoleonic inheritance regulations, and some producers now only own one or two rows of grapes. Due to this, négociants began to appear, who combined the output of numerous growers to create a single wine. Additionally, it has resulted in an abundance of numerous, diminutive family-run wineries, such as the dozen or so “Gros” family domaines.
18th century: During this century, Aligoté grape variety was first introduced in Burgundy, France. In particular, in the Burgundy region of France, aligoté is a white grape that is used to make dry white wines. This cultivar is frequently grown in Eastern European nations due to its cold tolerance. Aligoté frequently yields more acidic, less expensive wines. The wine that is traditionally incorporated into the Kir cocktail, which also includes black currant liqueur, is aligoté from Burgundy. The Saint Bris appellation also grows sauvignon blanc. White wines from the Côte d’Or, Mâcon, and Chablis regions are generally made from Chardonnay grapes.
1855: Burgundy wines made from various vineyards range in quality and character, with some climates being far more highly regarded than others. This knowledge dates back to the Middle Ages. Dr. Jules Lavalle wrote an influential book in 1855 that featured an unofficial categorization of the vineyards in Burgundy. This was the same year that the renowned Bordeaux Wine Official Classification was introduced. Three classes made up this formal division, which was established in 1861 by the Beaune Committee of Agriculture. Grand Cru appellations d’origine contrôlées were created for the majority of the “first class” vineyards from the 1861 classification.
1861: In this year, the Beaune Committee of Agriculture amended Lavalle’s classification and standardized it, creating three classes. When the national AOC legislation was put into place in 1936, the majority of the “first class” vines of the 1861 classification were converted into Grand Cru appellations d’origine contrôlées.
In France, the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO) issues the appellation d’origine contrôlée, a kind of geographic protectionism that recognizes the authenticity of specific geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural goods. The majority of goods having an AOC designation also have a protected designation of origin (PDO) (appellation d’origine protégée, AOP) under EU and UK law. The only designations that can be used for those items are PDO or AOP. The French AOC designation is still permissible for wines having a PDO/AOP status, nevertheless.
1869: In this year, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was established. It is possibly the most prestigious and well-known estate in Burgundy. The de Villaine and Leroy/Roch families own Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which only produces grand cru wines (although a premier cru is occasionally released). The 1.8 hectare monopole La Romanée Conti is one of the 25 hectares of vineyards in the domaine. The rule that states that no domaine can be named after a vineyard is thus broken by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It also owns stakes in Échezeaux, Grands-Échezeaux, Richebourg, Romanée St Vivant, and Le Montrachet. It acquired its other monopoly, La Tâche, in 1933. It makes one white wine and seven red wines. Romanée-Conti Grand Cru was only made in 5,673 bottles in 2011, and depending on the vintage, the price per bottle might range from £2,000 to £10,000. The domaine is frequently included among the most costly wine producers in the world.
Jan 15th, 1902: It is on this day that Domaine Armand Rousseau was established. The domaine, which is based on the Côte d’Or, owns historic vines, half of which are grand cru, in Gevrey-Chambertin. The estate was founded by Armand Rousseau, a forerunner in the domaine bottling industry. After Armand passed away, his son Charles took over, expanding the company’s assets and giving it a global reputation. Today, the domaine is run by Eric Rousseau, the son of Charles. 15.33 hectares of vineyards make up the domaine’s holdings, of which 8.51 hectares are grand cru, including Le Chambertin and Clos-de-Bèze, while 3.77 hectares are premier cru. 80 percent of the Clos de Bèze’s 1.42 hectares of grapes are used in its production, which sells for about £1,000 per bottle.
1923: In this year, the Domaine Dugat-Py house was established. The Dugat family’s story began when Fernand Dugat wed Jeanne Bolnot in 1923. Since the 17th century, the Bolnot family had been engaged in the wine-making business, and Jeanne had inherited prestigious Gevrey estates like Charmes-Chambertin. After phylloxera forced Burgundy’s vineyards to be rebuilt on American rootstocks, Jeanne accepted a position at Gevrey’s Bernollin nursery and rose to fame as one of the most renowned grafters of her day. She also urged Fernand at the time to buy more acreage. Maurice, Pierre, and Thérèse, the children of Fernand and Jeanne, established their own domaines with the vines left to them by their parents. Under the name, Domaine Pierre Dugat, Pierre and his son Bernard started bottling wine at the domaine in 1989.
30 July 1935: On this day, the Burgundy wine region was legally recognized. Burgundy wine is produced in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône, in the Burgundy area in eastern France. The most well-known wines made here are what are known as “Burgundies,” which are dry red wines made from pinot noir grapes and white wines derived from chardonnay grapes.
1937: In this year, Coteaux Bourguignons AOC was created. A general appellation for red, white, and rosé wines produced in parishes all throughout Burgundy is Coteaux Bourguignons (formerly Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire or Bourgogne Ordinaire). With its name originating from the fact that these were primarily everyday wines, it was first released in 1937. The label Grand Ordinaire was applied to normally regular bottles of wine that were reserved for Sunday consumption. Although the Grand Ordinaire designation may still be used by producers, it has been changed to the rather less modest Coteaux Bourguignons.
July 1937: In this month, Bourgogne Aligoté AOC of Burgundy was created. White wines created from the Aligoté grape variety are referred to as Bourgogne Aligoté within the Burgundy region. The Chardonnay grape, which is more well-known globally and is the source of Bourgogne Blanc wines, has steadily replaced the Aligoté grape, which has been known and widely utilized in Burgundy since the 17th century. Less than 6% of all vineyards in Burgundy have aligoté plants. Even so, the appellation still includes over 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of vines that are dispersed across close to 300 parishes. The grape is also a component of several Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wines.
Nov. 3rd. 1938: On this day, one of the most popular Burgundy AOCs, Aloxe-Corton, was established. Pinot noir and Chardonnay, respectively, are the primary grape varieties allowed for use in the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) Aloxe-Corton, which can be used for both red and white wine. Only over 2% of the production is white wine, with nearly all of it being red wine at roughly 98 percent. The vineyards of the hill’s three Grand Cru AOCs—Corton, Corton-Charlemagne, and Charlemagne—can be found on its southern and eastern sides in the commune of Aloxe-Corton, and its northeastern portion is in the commune of Ladoix-Serrigny. Aloxe-Corton contains the majority of the Corton hill.
Mid-1950s: During this period, the vineyards produced some of the most beautiful wines of the 20th century because the soils were balanced, and yields were manageably low, and yields were low. Naturally, the farmers had no desire to repair what wasn’t broken. So they did as famous viticultural authorities instructed them to do for the following 30 years: continue spraying their vineyards with artificial fertilizers, including potassium. Although the soil naturally contains a specific amount of potassium that is good for healthy growth, too much potassium is bad because it causes low acidity levels, which have a negative impact on the wine’s quality.
January 17th, 1956: On this day, one of Burgundy’s pioneers and important winemakers, Anne-Claude Leflaive was born. After joining the family firm in 1990 and taking over as manager in 1994 following her father Vincent’s death, Anne-Claude was recognized by Decanter magazine as the greatest white winemaker in the world in 2006. In Puligny-Montrachet, she also contributed to the establishment of the Ecole du Vin et des Terroirs.
October 17th, 1975: On this day, the Crémant de Bourgogne, an AOC classification produced in the Yonne, the Côte d’Or, the Saône et Loire, and the Rhone, is a staple of Burgundy. The controlled origin appellation was changed to Crémant de Bourgogne on October 17, 1975. White Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Bourgogne whitest of whites, Crémant de Bourgogne whitest of reds, and rosé Crémant de Bourgogne are the four names used to refer to it. Currently, the appellation sells 19.2 million bottles annually.
1988: In this year another popular wine house in Burgundy, Domaine Leroy was established. It is owned by Lalou Bize-Leroy, a former director and current stakeholder of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. She renamed the farm she had bought in 1988, Domaine Charles No’llat, to Domaine Leroy when she resigned from the DRC board in 1992. The domaine possesses cellars in Vosne-Romanée and adheres to stringent biodynamic standards. It has a vineyard that spans 23 hectares and makes wines from the grand crus of Chambertin, Clos de la Roche, Corton Renardes, Romanée-St-Vivant, Richebourg, Clos Vougeot, Musigny, Clos de la Roche, Latricières-Chambertin, and Le Chambertin.
1985 to 1995: This period marked a turning point in Burgundy’s wine history. Almost all Burgundian domaines increased their efforts in the vineyards at this time and gradually changed their approach to winemaking. The result was wine that was richer and more nuanced. These efforts are now paying off for the Burgundy wine business.
2003: In this year, there were 28,530 hectares of vines in Burgundy, including Chablis but excluding Beaujolais (70,500 acres).  The total area of the Côte d’Or, which includes the Hautes Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Nuits, is 8,000 hectares (20,050 acres), of which the Côte de Nuits heartland is 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) and the Côte de Beaune is 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres).