History of the Vigneron, Part 3.2 The impact of 19th century ideological and political battles upon the historical record.

the-thinker-at-the-gates-of-hell

The Thinker in The Gates of Hell at the Musée Rodin, source Wikipedia

By Dean Alexander

The chicken, the egg? A question of influence.

In a 1999 book review of Pierre Nora’s ‘Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past,” historian Sunil Khilnani wrote that the book’s focus was how historical “meanings are created, manipulated, circulated and disputed”. Charges that history has been created and manipulated to fit a particular meaning is a sideshow that, in many ways, has dominated the academic landscape of the French Revolution for the past 40 plus years, and spilled over into the history of the 19th-century as well.  As we will see, this all would begin in the mid-1970’s, when François Furet attacked the traditional approach to French history, contending that it contained paradigms of Marxist theology. Furet’s attack was devastating for Alfred Soboul, who at the time was the world’s leading authority on the French Revolution, and set in motion a conflagration of what had been the traditional understandings of the modern history of France.

Although Furet’s concepts were successful as disruptors, it has become clear that the ideas which he proffered in replacement were not wholly accepted either. Arguments as to the true meaning of the French Revolution have persisted to this day, but having morphed, Khilnani notes in his review of ‘Realms of Memory’, into what may be little more than contrivances and manipulations.

Some historians have spent virtually their entire careers intellectually sparring over what amounts to little more than socio-political maneuvering. Conversely, it may be the case that once history has been written, any future historian will either be forced to successfully repackage that history, or be forced tear it down in to start anew, in order to justify their position existence as researchers rather than mere teachers.

As students of history, rather than researchers or re-constructors of history, the mere existence of these arguments means that we must have at least attain a basic understanding of this intellectual battlefield. Moreover, it was the history itself which has in many ways manipulated the historian, and for all of Furet’s charges of a Marxist history, are in many ways just a continuation of the same rancorous ideological battles that the leftists, liberal-republicans, and conservatives fought, and sometimes died over, throughout the 19th century. This is the purpose of this article, to sort out the history and consider the charges of ‘manipulation’ among the historians. What we take away from it, is up to us.

Reaffirming the long-term goals of the articles which make up Part 3

Eventually, I seek to come to a reasonable understanding of what may have happened to the peasant tenant farmers of the Cote d’Or – who most certainly existed at the time of the revolution. In the case of the Burgundian vigneron, did some of those peasant families make the transition from being tenured peasants to successful landholders, or did families with money from other backgrounds and trades come in and supplant the peasants who had traditionally farm these famous vineyards? Does historian David R. Weir’s 1976 analysis that the peasantry who had been “squeezed out” of the Cote d’Or, reflect socialist or Marxist notions of a French rural exodus, or is this indeed what had happened in the Cote d’Or?

The answer of how this cultural and economic occurred, transition lies within the detailed histories of the peasantry, compiled by “socialist” and “Marxist” historians, and it is that record on which we will largely depend. However, these historians were challenged, by many accounts successfully, in 1970’s and 1980’s first by revisionists, and later others. However, the labels of socialist and Marxist politicize and cloud the issues at hand, and it forces us to look for the root source of these mid-century historian’s analyses, the intellectual and cultural history of France.

 

A Reading in the Salon of Mme Geoffrin, 1755, Source: Wikipedia

A Reading in the Salon of Mme Geoffrin, 1755, Source: Wikipedia

The salons of France

The reverence that the educated elite of France had for philosophers and historians propelled both the thinkers as well as their ideas throughout the 17th, 18th, and the 19th centuries. This is not to say that a philosopher’s work was so celebrated that it did not put them in direct threat of the crown, for many were sought by authorities. However,  their work did have an audience: the salons of the upper class and was attended by nobles and wealthy bourgeoisie alike. The fashion of the time venerated raffinement: the display and embodiment of elegance and social taste, idealizing wit, intelligence, and intellectual thought.  Early on, Antoine Gombaud, Le Chevalier de Méré (1607-1684), a writer know for his treaties on the laws of probability and etiquette writing, advised the well-heeled to be wary of those in court’s circles, and that one should seek out like-minded individuals to join in debate and intellectual conversation (Davetian, undated). No doubt there was an air of danger to these Salons, which were essentially private, somewhat clandestine, haute-société gatherings, where the conversation was likely to swerve to the politically treasonous, as they discussed the most cutting edge ideas of the time. It was here in the salons of Paris that notions monarchical reform took root.

The distinction and gravitas heaped upon the political philosopher during the 18th century can be seen in Edmund Burke’s (1729-1797) suggestion that Kant, Rousseau, and other Enlightenment writers were somewhat responsible for the French Revolution (Cranston 1989). John Locke (1634-1704), and early pioneer was first to write about the ‘natural rights of man’, as well as the need for representative government and the rule of law. His ideas were so radical for the time that Locke never dared put his name to his political pamphlets (Powell 1996). It was from Montesquieu’s L’Esprit des lois, (The Spirit of the Law) published in 1753, that led the members of the États généraux of 1789 to advocate a liberal constitutional monarchy (Cranston 1998).  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who although a fugitive from French justice for many years, was friends with many powerful nobles, including the prince du Sang de Conti, and the comté de Mirabeau both of whom supported and protected him until his death in 1778.  As the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante) meet on a tennis court in defiance of the King in 1789, it was Rousseau’s friend comté de Mirabeau, who famously proclaimed:

It is asked how long the deputies of the people have been a national convention? I answer, from the day when, finding the door of their session-house surrounded by soldiers, they went and assembled where they could, and swore to perish rather than betray or abandon the rights of the nation… Whatever powers we may have exercised, our efforts and labours have rendered them legitimate…

 

Historians as historical actors 

Historia painting by Nikolaos Gyzis (1892)

Historia painting by Nikolaos Gyzis (1892)

Throughout the ensuing century, both theorists and historians directly or indirectly would drive French policy. Historians were so revered among the elite society that two of its most famous, François Guizot, of the Sorbonne, and the journalist/historian Adolphe Thiers* were entrusted with great power at the head of government. Guizot worked first for Louis XVIII as the secretary-general of the ministry of the interior, until Napoleon returned from his exile in Elba in 1815. Fifteen years later Guizot would serve in various high-ranking capacities during the entirety of king Louis-Philippe’s reign; most notably for his role in the establishment of secular education, as minister of education. In 1840 he became minister of foreign affairs, and during the last year of Louis-Philippe’s reign, he served as prime minister.

Adolphe Thiers came to be a noted authority of the French Revolution, not as a scholar, but as a cultural and political journalist and historian/author. Through his writings, he was instrumental in building dissent against King Charles X, which lead to that king’s overthrow in 1830.  He would later serve the populist “king of the French”, Louis-Philippe, as prime minister in 1836 and again in 1840. Later, in a masterful resurrection of his political career, in 1871 he would the direction the French Army in crushing the communard uprising in Paris, and later that same year is elected as the president of the Third Republic from 1871 to 1873.

While Thiers and Guizot left a direct impact on “event history”,* the socialist and communist thinkers to their political left, would end up leaving a greater imprint upon the written history of France. The writings of Karl Marx and other communists of his day came out of an extension of classical German philosophy of Hegel and Kant, and as such, these ideas were not unfamiliar to intellectuals of the day.  Additionally, the extended concepts of a rural exodus, class consciousness and the value of labor were not solely products philosophical imagination, but in many ways were a mirror of the growing pains of industrialization beginning in 1830. More, Marx’s labor theory of value, historical materialism, and his stages of history did find its advocates among historians who sought to give an intellectual structuralism to “event history” which was as William H. Sewell describes, “atheoretical” and “intellectually bankrupt” (Sewell 2005).

In an attempt to lend a scientific legitimacy to the study of history was made by historian Alphonse Aulard (1849–1928) with his adaptions of the philosophical school of positivism. Using Auguste Comte‘s intellectual reliance on theory and observation, the positivists applied a rigid methodology of relying on primary sources, the need to verify collected information, before allowing themselves to arrive at their conclusions. This, however, did not mean that carefully culled information can not be intentionally or unintentionally bent to fit the original hypothesis.

The goal to find order, meaning, and structure within a field of study which in the past century been referred to as the softest of sciences, has been a common thread among modern historians. Whether these attempts were to find greater meaning within history, or to strike for intellectual parity, to achieve a modicum of the prestige that the hard sciences enjoy, probably depends on the viewpoint of the individual.  But you can see this quest for legitimacy very early on, from Karl Marx, whose theories professed to be like the hard sciences, offering a structure that would explain the development man’s economies in a repeatable and predictive fashion, to the positivists, with their rigid methodology, and the Annales scholars who searched for understandable long-term social structures might give greater understanding to the action and events of man.

It has been quite a fall from grace from a time when historians were chosen to be statesmen, given the reigns of one of the world’s greatest powers, to where historians are now, that a newly minted doctorate in history can have trouble finding a $60,000 a year job in teaching, and liberal studies departments, even in the greatest of universities, are sadly anxious because the low enrolments within their disciplines. With employers increasingly wishing to deflect the cost of training new employees back upon the educational system, graduate, and undergraduate programs that do not deliver the perceived needs of the hiring manager, increasingly find it difficult to fill their lecture halls. The rapid demise of classical education is an incredibly sad endemic and a poor commentary on the future of our country.

The historical and philosophical underpinnings of the liberal-républicain tradition.

Despite the many charges since 1970 of a Marxist dialogue, we can view this “socialist” historiography as easily having been a reflection of the events within France. If we are to consider the relationship between the historical and philosophical origins of the major theoretical and political movements of the 19th century, we will see enough commonalities to cause us to question the origin of any particular idea.

Just as mid-century liberal-républicains had grown out of the turbulent 1789 Revolution, and France’s eventual entry into industrialization, so too had the Marxists and Anarchists. In this case, it is useful to consider the mid 20th-century theory of mentalités, which is to attempt to reconstruct the cultural structures and mentalities of a people, so one might understand what drives a society to make the collective political and economic decisions that they make.

In this case, life within in the 19th-century urban centers such as Paris or Lyon dictated the development of the political actors. The liberal-républicain developed and existed homogeneously, within the same cultural mentalités, as those groups which were considered to be farther to the political left. Consequently, these organization shared many of the same experiences and concerns, regardless their philosophical antagonisms. The first and most fundamental question of food security were followed closely by the notions of personal and political freedoms, and the pursuit of equality. These questions were difficult, if not virtually impossible solve, and as this block of people chipped away against the conservative structures which had defined French rule for centuries. The wide striations of opinions of how to proceed forced the creation of the varied French political terrain. The two basic, fundamental philosophical concepts which vied for dominance among the center-left of French citizenry of the 19th century, were republicanism and liberalism.

Republicanism

rousseauRepublicanism, as a philosophical family, with their Platonic and Rousseauian values of popular sovereignty, civic virtue, and the common good, is not so unique that it does not also share these same core attributes with other philosophies, in this case, Marxism. At one time this was considered very advanced, even treasonous thinking to the autocrat or the monarch, as it advocates the civic participation in government, and not only the ability to be ruled but to rule in turn (Leydet 2014). These traits do lead automatically to some degree of equality, which was an essential element of republicanism philosophy. In today’s western society, republicanism is widely accepted, and its arguments and reasoning, which lack the most complex contradictions of liberalism, tends toward establishing authoritarian systems, especially if it is steeped in the democratic concept of majority rule.

For the person who is wired to either work within an obedient, majority rules, society, be they leaders who are ‘getting their way,’ or followers who are willing to accept the rule of others, republicanism works extraordinarily well. For the person who is truly wired as an individualist, that person will continually chaff at the binding restrictions of the republican system. For those intellectuals of the 19th century who were individualists, the philosophy of liberalism called. These individualists were ultimately joined by those, who although they would ultimately seek a republican society, band with individualists to fight the injustice which can be endemic within systems of authoritarian rule.

At its operational core, Marxism relies on many of republican values. The communist belief that men eventually could and would naturally, begin to work together (in factories and other modes of production) without the need for capitalist organization and oversight. Having gained class consciousness, workers would realize, claimed the Marxists and anarchists, that the proletariat could effectively manage themselves (autogestion) in this new communism. In many ways, this was a concept similar to republicanism’s ideal of civil participation within a rotational representative government, but in this case used as an instrument to self-manage labor. With this consciousness “the chains” of the “bourgeoisie” would be broken, either by evolution or by revolution, thus ending the stage of capitalism.

This hypothetical Marxist-socialist society would work and govern itself with communal, civic virtue, working for the greater common good, in a purely communist society. According to Marx, this commune would have attained the highest developmental stage.

Marxist thought would point out, that while the Athenians had developed the notions of civic duty and Republican ideals four centuries before the birth of Christ, they were a slave economy, and thus were far lower on the economic developmental scale, than even the dreaded “capitalist” stage.

Pure examples of communal-republican ideals are sparse but include the British utopian socialists of the Chartist movement 1840’s, and a group of mostly American political philosophers, the communitarians, who in the 1970’s and 1980’s, argued for shared values and consensus building (Etizioni 2015), against encroachments by contemporary liberalism. (Etzioni, Britannica.com). Daniel Guérin wrote that the anarchist political philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, observed workers associations “for production”* springing up in an “expression of social spontaneity”** during the 1848 revolution. To Proudhon, this was more revolutionary than the revolution itself (Guérin 1936). This organic communism inspired Proudhon to advocate autogestion, in which the workers are self-managed, and idea that Marx eagerly gravitated toward, and allowed the nascent idea of the self-governed political ideology of communism to form.  However, virtually every attempt to establish a communist organization, has from its inception, fundamentally betrayed Marxism’s core republican values of civic virtue and the common good, as well as absolving any notion of worker’s self-government. What developed were no more than dictatorships often despotic, behind a thinly veiled communist disguise.

(*) Guérin’s words  (**) Proudhon’s words

Liberalism, and the more extreme Anarchism

Conversely, liberalism with its important individual freedoms has its inherent pitfalls, and however important its application, remains an old philosophical quagmire. However, rudimentary its assertion that man should enjoy personal freedom, it stumbles when simultaneously attempting to establish equality. An infinite loop of contradictions, liberalism as a political philosophy is symmetrical in its yin-yang twin pillars: individual freedom, and its contradictory desire for social and economic equality.  As any state leader charged with the responsibility of maintaining order would contend, unfettered personal freedom is detrimental to the common good, and must be mitigated with republican ideals of the rule of law and the common good too. Liberalism’s inherent decadence’s to some degree, must always be chaperoned by its companion, republicanism.

Portrait of Pierre Joseph Proudhon by Gustave Courbet, 1865, source wikipedia

Portrait of Pierre Joseph Proudhon by Gustave Courbet, 1865, source Wikipedia

The most extreme proponent of liberalist ideals have the various factions of the Anarchist philosophers and economists. Daniel Guérin writes that “the anarchist is above all a man in revolt. He rejects society as a whole along with its guardians.”

Perhaps it is, which suggests a revolt at a personal level, which fractured anarchists even as it was building its ideological foundations, during the mid 19th century.

That Pierre-Joseph Proudhon receives the most ink, is not so surprising, as he was one of the first to suggest new radical changes be made by the peaceful “use of the very institutions which we charge you to abolish” (Proudhon 1851). But this has often been a minority position within the wider anarchist spectrum. Working within the system is antithetical to man in revolt, and suggests a confinement that is likely uncomfortable.

Proudhon showed his innermost feelings of anarchist angst and anxiety when he wrote that he believed that those in power viewed the citizenry as being “a monster to be fought, muzzled, and chained down; which must be led by trickery, like the elephant or the rhinoceros; or cowed by famine; and which is bled by colonization and war.”

 

 

For a brief overview of some of Proudhon’s thoughts (which were removed from this paper so it wouldn’t be so long) CLICK HERE

 

Proudhon and Marx: friends or frenemies: divisions of thought.

Marx’s letter (slightly abridged) to Proudhon in 1846, inviting him to participate in an international socialist literary “committee.” Proudhon would refuse, citing that he had abandoned the concept of revolution and that it should not be put forth “as a means of social reform.” (Proudhon May 1846)

Proudhon was quite well-known by the time Marx arrived in Paris, having already published four books, while Marx, who as German exile that worked as a writer and editor of Rheinische Zeitung, a communist German language journal in Paris, was not.

Most histories state that during the two years Marx would spend in Paris before his expulsion, Marx and Proudhon were friends. This understanding is likely due to Marx’s 1846 letter (to the right), and Proudhon’s warm response that implies a personal friendship. But historian Paul Thomas suggests they may have met only a handful of times, writing that “it is probable that after their initial meetings that Marx and Proudhon saw very little of each other in Paris.” Thomas notes the lack of any further record of the two men meeting, following the handful of times which were documented as occurring 1843. Additionally, the Parisian police surveillance of Marx indicates no subsequent personal contact with Proudhon, who was at that time a well-known political figure (Thomas 2013).

Apparently, by the time that Marx had been expelled from Paris in 1846, Proudhon was not viewing communism in a positive light. It would seem that Marx had not been aware of this, as he had invited Proudhon (in a personal letter), to join them in a “correspondence committee.” Proudhon would graciously refuse Marx’s invitation. Within his response to Marx, he would write his opposition to economic change through a destructive revolution, saying “I would, therefore, prefer to burn property by a slow fire, rather than give it new strength by making a St. Bartholomew’s night of the proprietors” (Proudhon 1846). In this Proudhon is referencing the meaningless slaughter of thousands of Huguenots during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572. Proudhon hoped, writes Robert Graham, that he could win “over the bourgeoisie to the revolutionary cause” and “to avoid further bloodshed” (Graham 2010), opining for a more transformative social change than Marx and other radical socialists advocated.

But it the full truth Proudhon’s feelings toward Marx’s beliefs became far more clear, soon afterward, with the release of Proudhon’s book, The Philosophy of Poverty. Within the pages, Proudhon refers to communism as “the very denial of society in its foundation.” He goes on to write: “The communists, toward whom all socialism tends, do not believe in equality by nature and education; they supply it by sovereign decrees which they cannot carry out, whatever they may do.”

This rebuke by Proudhon had no doubt stung Marx, who in several key areas had been directly inspired by Proudhon. These pivotal concepts included the aforementioned autogestion, as well as the abolition of personal property. It is abundantly clear to me, up until this moment Marx, had viewed Proudhon as a potentially important ally, with his invitation to join the correspondence committee.

Marx quickly penned a sharply critical response, cleverly reordering the title of Proudhon’s work into to the instantly dismissive, “The Poverty of Philosophy.” Moreover, Marx wrote it in French as to strike directly at Proudhon and his followers. But Paul D. Thomas interprets these events differently, writing that Marx, in turn, had been becoming increasingly disenfranchised with Proudhon’s work (Thomas 2013).

Noam Chomsky, wrote the preface the 1970 re-printing of Guerin’s 1936 book, “Anarchism: From Theory to Practice,” that at some point Proudhon had written in a letter to Marx. In that, he suggests, “Let us not become the leaders of a new religion, even were it to be the religion of logic and reason.”  In any case, it appears that Marx had dismissed Proudhon by late 1846, following the Philosophy of Poverty/ Poverty of Philosophy exchange, and from that moment onward that Marx, with Engels in tow, transitioned from political philosophers to become political activists. Two years later Marx and Engels would write the communist manifesto.

Although Marx and Proudhon had at one time found comradeship in their mutual disapproval of the ruling monarchists and their cohort bourgeoisie, ultimately the antithetical philosophies that drove communism and anarchism would reveal the substantial divide between them. The fact that they vied for the political allegiance of the same working class people, has caused many over the last century and a half, to lump these two groups into a single leftist, so-called socialist camp, but this belies a lack of understanding of these organizations, and the significant philosophical differences at their operational cores.

 

The liberal-republican struggle for political solvency throughout the first eighty years of the 19th century.

The same philosophical dilemma that had repeatedly played out throughout the 19th century, continually dividing and splintering the républicains of France. Although most républicains made no debate whether liberalism should be engaged, conflict arose surrounded degree to which it should be applied.

In America, where Thomas Jefferson and  James Madison (et al.) designed a republican organization of the United States, they cleverly inserted liberalist protections neatly within the Constitution through the Bill of Rights and provided that constitutional amendments could later be added. These grand, nation-building tasks were performed in what was effectively a political and intellectual vacuum.  There were no other competing groups within the colonies vying for the acceptance of their vastly differing ideological perspectives. Jefferson and the generally like-minded authors of the U.S. Constitution were both the political and cultural majority and the minority, like theTories, their king having lost the war were not invited to participate in the country’s formation. This was very unlike the situation which existed in France, where dissent within the greater républicain party itself was de rigor.

In a policy context, this contentious yin-yang of liberalism and republicanism existed in every law which grapples with a single fundamental question: does a nation exist to serve its citizens, or conversely do the citizenship exist to serve the nation? Although it had been liberal-republicanism which had been the at the heart of the First Republic, their internal divisions left them weak, and often outnumbered by the more cohesive cohorts of right-wing monarchists and Bonapartists, both of whom shared political alliance with social conservatives who desired the involvement of the Church in the public sphere.

As the pendulum of influence swung against the républicains, such as it did after 1830, during the monarchy of Louis Philippe I, républicain lawmakers found themselves excluded from the government. Républicain private clubs and political publications were shuttered, and even the using term ‘républicain’ was made illegal. In a dodge of that law, républicains took on the English political moniker, ‘radicals,’ so from this time on, the term radicals was used as interchangeable with républicains. This certainly can cause confusion.

Louis Napoleon by Jean Hyppolite Flandrin, 1863. source wikipedia

Louis Napoleon by Jean Hyppolite Flandrin, 1863. Source Wikipedia

The hopes of liberal-républicains made a brief comeback between 1848 and 1852 after the party took a majority of the seat in the national assembly.  But hope was as short-lived as the Second Republic, when its president, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte seized power, with support from Bonapartists and other conservatives, and proclaimed himself emperor in 1852. Once again the républicain party and hopes of personal and political freedoms were subdued, as the emperor’s security apparatus issued thousands of arrests and deportations.These arrests included the former Orleanist prime minister, Adolphe Thiers, who, after a brief internment, was expelled from the country for is vocal political activism. He would be allowed to return to France in 1853, and despite remaining a critic of the Emperor, accusing him of disallowing the French people of political liberty, as well as continually allowing France’s international status to be undermined and diminished (Cohn 1917).

As Louis-Napoléon’s hold on power lessened in the last years of his reign, and Thiers re-entered the chamber of deputies in 1869, at the age of seventy-three.

Although for much of Thiers’ was an Orleanist for much of his life, the political derailment of the Louis-Philippe monarchy, forced Thiers to find new political alliances. With the surrender of Louis-Napoléon to the Prussians in 1870, the political reality shifted dramatically as control of the Third Republic gradually moved into the hands of the républicains. Thiers was experienced and ambitious. He chose to carve out a niche within the ruling républicain party, that was on the upswing, becoming a conservative-républicain, unlike most moncharists who had eventually realized a monarchy was not coming back, formed a minority conservative party. It was a shrewd move on Thiers part, as he was able to grab power.

Almost thirty years earlier, during the brief existence of the Second Republic, Thiers had addressed the 1949 National Assembly. In this speech, Theirs would foreshadow his future, with an expression of his resolute belief that the laws of the nations were paramount, and should be preserved at the expense of individual freedom. Although the context of the speech has been lost, Thiers is presumably responding to liberal assertions individualism was necessary, Thiers declared, “No one person has it in his power to instantly achieve the happiness of nations.” (Castries 1983, as cited in Wikipedia). He stated a basic tenet of republicanism:

“Unlimited liberty leads to a barbaric society, where the strong oppress the others, and only the strongest have unlimited liberty…The liberty of one person stops at the liberty of other. Laws are born from this principle, and a civilized society.” Adophe Thiers 1849 (Castries 1983).

national-assembly-1871

At the time of the newly constructed Third Republic, most of the power still resided with the conservative monarchists. The Bonapartists had little support following Louis-Napoleon’s encirclement and surrender the Prussians at Sedan, the previous year. Yet, despite the majority that monarchist had in numbers, they could not agree on which lineage should resume the throne, and each group would successfully thwart the other for the next two decades. By 1890’s, most monarchists had internally conceded that a king would not again sit on the throne, and accepted the political description of their traditional Catholic, authoritarian values, as “conservative.”

In contrast, liberal-républicains believed in a far greater degree of personal freedom and typically did not choose the hard lines set by Thiers and other conservatives. Historian Philip Nord recounts that even before 1870 the liberal-républicain statesmen, Léon Gambetta and Parisian Mayor Jules Ferry, both professed support for increased civil liberties, particularly concerning free speech, the freedom of the press, freedom of association. Ferry and Gambetta, along with other moderate to left-leaning républicains like Victor Hugo and Louis Blanc, pushed for the secularism within the government and sought to end the church’s involvement in public education. Additionally, they spoke of tearing down Louis-Napoleon’s imperial state, decentralizing governmental “institutions,” and disbanding standing armies (Nord 1995). But the républicains struggled internally with the never-ending quandary of republicanism versus liberalism.  Nord indicates this indecisiveness when he writes that “Gambetta dreamed of remaking a waffling républicain into what he called “a government of public opinion.”

Unlike those liberal-républicains who sought to work within the government for reform, a tactic that Proudhon likely would have supported had he still been alive, the Anarchist Congress of 1870 advocated that fellow anarchists not participate in elections. They opined “cannot have other results than the consolidation of the existing state of affairs, and thus would paralyze socialist revolutionary action of the Proletariat”(Droze 1966 via Przeworski 1985).

As the belligerents of Paris quickly escalated toward revolution in 1871, républicain lawmakers in Paris, including Ferry and Georges Clemenceau, the radical-républicain mayor of Montmartre district of Paris (and future prime minister), found that while there were vital political and philosophical issues at stake, they could not advocate or support the revolution. This was the same choice thousands of Parisians and even national guardsmen had to make as catastrophe drew ever nearer. Clemenceau commented, having failed to mediate between the Theirs government and leftist central committee of the Garde Nationale: “We are caught between two bands of crazy people, those sitting in Versailles and those in Paris” (Fenby 2015). Both Ferry and Clemenceau, as well as thousands of Garde nationale, including half of the trained artillerymen, quit Paris before the fighting would begin in earnest. Although these men were labeled radical-républicains, unlike the communists whom they left behind, they were not revolutionaries.

*Early in his career, Adolphe Thiers made his mark as one of the most read journalists in Paris, with his pieces focusing on politics, art, literature, and history.  He would use the popularity of his work at the Journal, Le Constitutionnel, and later the launching the opposition newspaper, the Nationale, to launch a well-received 10 volume historical series on the 1789 Revolution. As a liberal, and critic of the Bourbon monarchy of Charles X, his Histoire de la Révolution française’, (published between 1823-1827) was instrumental in discrediting the Bourbon king and helped lead to his overthrow in 1930.  Thiers used the money from his writing for property ownership, a necessary requirement for entry into politics. He would be elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1829 (Wikipedia).

Traditional social or “orthodox” modern French history 1900-1930

The ascension of Jean Jaurès

Lawrence Harvard Davis, of the University of Connecticut, writes that the accepted traditional history had assumed their position. The proof, it was given, was that post-revolution they designed, allowed the bourgeoisie to both advanced and protected their position by “enshrining” the ownership of “private property and equality” with legal protections. It was this that allowed the “rise of a capitalist order” (words in quotes are those of Davis, 2001).

How the Marxist concepts entered into the historical record lies in part, perhaps a large part, with an eloquent and brilliant historian and statesman, Jean Jaurès (1859-1914). Although Jaurès was most noted as a historian, he would not write his most influential work Histoire Socialiste (1900–03) until after the political and cultural events of the late 1890’s made a socialist version of history appealing, and acceptable.

Jaurès, who was already well-known for his writing for the newspaper, L’Humanité, moved to the socialist paper La Petite République socialiste in the late  1890’s, as editor and featured writer. The period was marked by ongoing trials surrounding the accused spy Alfred Dreyfus, and Jaurès, a critical cultural opinion maker during that time, would write a series of widely read articles, under the title of The Evidence. Within this writing, he would chronicle the government’s subversion of justice, and the falsification of evidence, and the general betrayal by the conservative elements within the army and civil government, of any reasonable right to a fair trial. The politically and socially divisive trial was a capping off an extended period of discontent and distrust by those on the left, of the conservatives and their institutions to the right.

In addition to being a journalist, Jaurès, he was a lecturer and professor of philosophy at two universities, and since 1885 had been a member of the National Assembly. These public positions gave Jaurès tremendous exposure and influence.  During the 1880’s Jaurès was allied with the moderate republicans (républicain modérés) which in English is typically translated as the “Opportunist Republicans,” was aligned politically at the time with Jules Ferry, who had become the prime minister of the Third Republic. But after the events of the late 1890’s, Jaurès and many others would abandon many of the core values of republicanism, which now seemed corrupt. There was a general rejection of the greater good of the nation as being more consequential, and more vital than that of its people. Indeed there was a reordering of priorities, having observed a self-serving government knowingly and unjustly destroy the life an innocent Dreyfus for no more than its leader’s convenience.

The internal turmoil created by the Dreyfus Affair brought many on the far left into power, and reflects a major shift in French culture, and their rejection of the questionable values presented by traditional conservatives.

The internal turmoil created by the Dreyfus Affair brought many on the far left into power and reflects a significant shift in French culture, and their rejection of the questionable values presented by traditional conservatives.

Through the emotional events of the “Dreyfus Affair,” which spanned the years 1894-1902 (to be conservative), Jaurès had become one of the first social democrats, advocating government intervention, both socially and economically, with the goal of promoting greater economic and social equality. Whereas various types of communists and anarchists had been pursuing similar goals, the most fundamental aspect of Jaurès advocacy was that he proposed this be done within existing capitalist system (Przeworski 1985). Unlike other revolutionary thinkers, he did not outright advocate the outright dismantling of capitalism.

Jean Jaurès, the historian

Following his widely read writings of  Dreyfus in “La Petite République socialiste,” Jean Jaurès, the academic, was well positioned to become the foremost authority on the history of the French Revolution. The general shift of intellectuals, and indeed much of the French to the socialist point of view, following the de facto incitement of the government by “the Affair,” had created fertile ground for a socialist interpretation of the history of the French Revolution.  So when Jaurès released his book, Histoire Socialiste de la Révolution Française, it instantly set what was to become a seemingly unquestioned version and meaning of those events. Just as people for centuries had understood that world was or flat, the historians would henceforth believe that the Revolution was an event of social class conflict. This interpretation would not be questioned for decades.

Jaurès claimed the Revolution was the consequence of “the political advent of the bourgeois class” (Jaurès 1901), meaning the political desires of the bourgeoisie had brought revolution as it strove for a political input. As such, the socialist mantra that the revolution was, in fact, a bourgeois revolution, ushering capitalism, of which the bourgeoisie would be the sole benefactor. The rural exodus, which was more easily identifiable as having occurred in Germany and England, was in France claimed to be the result of an “uneasiness of the farmers crushed by competition”(Jaurès 1901).  ‘Class consciousness,’ sprang from “the advent of the proletariat” wrote Jaurès in Histoire Socialiste.

All of these events, claimed the Marxist-socialist, was all part of a predestined historical industrial-capitalist stage, which was itself an incubator for “social crisis.” It would spawn “a new and more profound revolution, one through which the proletariat would seize power in order to transform property and morality” (Jaurès 1901).  While Jean Jaurès was only one of many who had subscribed to Marx’s political-philosophical memes, Jaurès was more responsible than most the normalization and acceptance of socialism into mainstream French culture, politics, and the reconstruction of French historiography.

That democracy was burgeoning, made no difference to the self-proclaimed social democrat. He claimed that these were the “essential conditions for socialism” (Jaurès 1901), and Jaurès, who had become a political leader during the early years of the 20th century, would push his followers to work within the democratic French Republic, to build a social democratic state.

Revolution, not evolution had been a tenant of socialists, particularly the idealistically pure Anarchists, who were unwilling to work within the political, democratic process of “bourgeoisie governments.” Jaurès’ eloquence and influence within the socialist community, allowed him along with former rival, Jules Guesde‘s, to bring together in 1905, many divergent, socialist groups into a single, unified French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO). This was an important step, which today allows us to understand how Marxist and socialist ideas had become so mainstream in greater French society, politics, and would ultimately dictate the telling of French history.

As a historian, the title of Jean Jaurès 1903 book, Histoire Socialiste de la Révolution Française, announces its socialist predisposition with a frankness that would be considered unprofessional by today’s academic standards. In the opening sentence, Jaurès writes “We want to recount to the people, to the workers, to the farmers, the events that occurred between 1789 and the end of the nineteenth century from the socialist point of view.” (Jaurès 1901)

The ever more complicated name changes within the républicain party were all used to establish a differentiation between groups which were splintering as political disputes erupted from within the party. This happened so often over the 19th century that it seemed they might run out of plausible names. In 1901 the main faction of the former républicain modérés began to use the amalgamated name of Parti républicain, radical et radical-socialiste. Although many républicains were socialists, the defection of the more radical socialists such as Jaurès, forced the more centrist “radical républicain, radical-socialiste, as well as the more conservative républicain modérés” who remained in the party, to take more conservative positions, in reaction to those on their left.


Sources for Parts 1 and 2

The Creation of Identity and the Invention of Tradition, Sunil Khilnan, The Los Angeles Times, 1999

John Locke: Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property, John Powell, Foundation for Economic Education, 1996

The History and Meaning of Salons, Benet Davetian, bdavetian.com/salonhistory.html, undated

Capitalism and Social Democracy: Studies in Marxism and Social Theory, Adam Przeworski, Cambridge University Press, 1985

The Republican Moment: Struggles for Democracy in Nineteenth-century France, Philip G. Nord, Harvard University Press, 1995

Communitarianism, Amitai Etzioni, The Encyclopedia of Political Thought, First Edition. Edited by Michael T. Gibbons, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2015

Anarchism: From Theory to Practice, Daniel Guérin, 1936, Translated by Mary Klopper, NYU press, 1970

The General Idea of Proudhon’s Revolution, Robert Graham, Black Rose Books, 2005

Karl Marx and the Anarchists Library Editions: Political Science, Volume 60, Paul Thomas, Routledge, 2013

The General Idea of Proudhon’s Revolution, Robert Graham, Black Rose Books, 2005

For Anarchism (RLE Anarchy) David Goodway, Routledge, Jun 26, 2013

Crypo-Anarchy, Issak Crofton, Lulu.com 2015
Anarcho-Communism, Alain Pengam 1987, Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth CenturiesMaximilien Rubel, John Crump, Springer, 1987
Manifesto of a 21st Century AnarchistNickk ÐropKick, Lulu.com, 2014

Voluntary Socialism A Sketch, Francis Dashwood Tandy, 1896

We Do Not Fear Anarchy—We Invoke It: The First International and the Origins of the Anarchist Movement, Robert Graham, AK Press, 2015

The Bastiat-Proudhon Debate on Interest (1849-1850), Benjamin Long, Molinari Institute, 2008

Citizenship, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , Leydet, Dominique, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Spring 2014 Edition

Social History and Archival Practice, Fredric M Miller, The American Archivist / Vol. 44, No. 2 / Spring 1981

What’s after Political Culture? Recent French Revolutionary Historiography, Suzanne Desan, French Historical Studies 23.1 (2000)

The French Revolution: Recent Debates and New Controversies, Gary Kates, Routledge – Taylor & Francis Group, 2006

French Intellectuals Against the Left: The Antitotalitarian Moment of the 1970’s, Michael Scott Christofferson, Berghahn Books, 2004

The Columbia History of Twentieth-century French Thought, Lawrence D. Kritzman, Brian J. Reilly, M. B. DeBevoise, Columbia University Press, 2007

The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the War on Terror, Jonathan Fenby, Simon and Schuster, 2015

Reviewed Work: Penser la Révolution Française. by Francois Furet, Hunt, Lynn. History and Theory 20.3 (1981): 313-23. Web.

The French Revolution: Ideas and Ideologies, Maurice Cranston,  History TodaVolume 39 Issue 5, 1989

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History of the Vigneron: Languages Part I: Patois de bourguignon

View of Paris by Pieter Casteels II (fl. 1673–1700)

View of Paris by Pieter Casteels II (fl. 1673–1700)

A thousand years of patois

by Dean Alexander

It is ironic that history speaks so little about language, because other than extreme weather, the issues of communication, miscommunication, and the lack of communication, have likely shaped history more any other single factor. Indeed, these issues of communication are often difficult to pinpoint, and their consequences are often lost to history. However, this does not excuse histories which take slight note that on the eve of 1789’s French Revolution, eighty-eight percent of the population of France could not hold a conversation in French, or did not know any French at all (slmc.uottawa.ca). Nor is it sufficiently impressed that there were dozens of different patois spoken across France.

Tower of BabelMany histories gloss over the issue of language with no more than an occasional reference to ‘terms’ which were “in the patois of the region“. This leaves the impression that patois was no more that a colorful piece of slang, rather than itself being a distinct language or dialect. Such casual references do not convey any difficulty of communication within a population which had spoken an estimated six to seven hundred dialects (10th century), derived from three distinct mother tongues (slmc.uottawa.ca). Another (rather poor) estimate, was provided in a 1794 report by the revolutionary bishop of Blois, Henri Grégoire. He wrote that  with “thirty different patois, we are still, as far as language goes, at the Tower of Babel“.  That the bishop underestimated the number of dialects so grievously, suggests how little he really knew about these languages and the people who spoke them. Some modern scholars estimate there were as many as fourteen patois in Burgundy alone.

Whatever the number of patois, it is staggering that percentage of the population which did not speak French, and it invites a number of questions when considering the history of the vigneron. What was the history of language within Burgundy, and why was the French language so slow to be adopted there (and across the country)? How did the monarchy effectively overcome linguist differences? When did the français language arrive in the Côte d’Or, and what was its societal impact? What do we know about the regional Burgundian language; and lastly, does the Burgundian patois survive today? 

Note: for the remainder of this article, I will refer to the language of French by its French name, français. The primary reason for this is français was simply just one of many languages spoken in France.  A secondary reason for this spelling is all of the other language names have no English equivalent, it seems natural that the French language should be represented in the same format. I reserve the right to use the word ‘French’ to represent the language, when refers to its current day usage, or it allows me to avoid an awkward sentence construction. Also challenging was the decision whether or not to capitalize all of the languages and titles. In English we capitalize everything, but not-so-much in French. I opted for the later if the term was in français, but I did capitalize if it was an English usage. I’m sure I did plenty wrong on this account. Editing is not a strength of mine.

Part three of this article will deal with the development and history of français – it is integral to the French story, but secondary to the story of Burgundy. 

 

Language and the Côte d’Or during the ancien régime and beyond

The patois of Burgundy has traditionally been referred to by French writers as“bourguignon-morvandiau”.  That bourguignon comes from the same mother tongue as français, the langue d’oïl, does not mean that communication was easy between those who were purely bourguignophones, and those who were purely Francophones.  How difficult was this communication? An indication may lie in the fact that someone who spoke both français and a patois was said to be bi-lingual.

Along with hundreds of words which were decidedly different from français, some of which can be viewed here, the pronunciation of the words common to both français and bourguignon-morvandiau could itself cause one to have to listen carefully. Speakers of bourguignon  rolled their “r“s liberally when compared to that of the French speaker, and the “a”, “eu”, and “to” sounds are very marked, or exaggerated, in their pronunciation. The patios spoken from the Burgundy border north of Dijon, down through Nuits, and Beaune to the southern most vineyard area of the Côte d’Or was a bourguignon dialect called chalonnaise (Léonard and Barot 2012).

 

 

Morvan

The Morvan

Patois bourguignon-morvandiau

The name “bourguignon-morvandiau” suggests that the language originated in the hills Morvan Massif, lies roughly 40 kilometers west of the Côte d’Or. This implications can be quite misleading, but the Morvan is really not a such a bad place to begin this story.

It is a rugged region of wooded peaks and high valleys. With the quasi-isolation the terrain presented in terms of accessibility, both communication and trade, in and out of the Morvan has always suffered. This has meant that the population, in addition to being quite poor, has been correspondingly under-educated. These factors have made this one of the last places where the ancient patois of Burgundy is still being spoken.

The Dorsale boisée is in brown, with Chateau Chinon pop. in 1876 was 2668, today pop. 2086.

The Dorsale boisée is in brown, with Chateau Chinon pop. in 1876 was 2668, today pop. 2086.

The Morvan’s quaint villages and small farms dot the region’s meadows, or were cut from its forests in an era of uneven logging regulation. As logging intensified to meet the nations demands for lumber, the population of various villages swelled by as much as forty percent between the years of 1840 and 1900.* The region’s resources, which included cheap, unskilled labor, were, as vividly described by Jean-Léo Léonard & Gilles Barot, absorbed “ruthlessly by the belly of Paris”.

It was from this poor and bloated population, which identified itself by its humble patois, that the daughters of the Morvan were sent to Paris to work as nannies and nursemaids. And over the decades, as thousands of young Morvan girls had worked in the capital’s wealthiest homes, awareness of the patois bourguignon-morvandiau grew outside of the region. It was only a matter of time before bourguignon-morvandiau would become synonymous with the patois of burgundy.

Over the centuries, it has been abundantly clear that the peasants of the Morvan have clung to their language as an integral part of the their identity. And although morvandiau has been a long-established written language, only a minority of its speakers ever learned to read or write it. That français has finally supplanted the regional patois as the primary language spoken is significant, but it is representative of the regression of patois all across France.

The biggest threat to morvandiau, is the Morvan’s increasingly diminishing population. In some of its larger villages, the population is a third or less in number than its 19th century levels. Because of this, it is impossible for “morvandiau” to retain the dynamic vibrancy which it displayed in the past.

(*) from levels established by the census of 1793

(**) 1793 was the first census by the new revolutionary government

(***) The population change shows the boom and bust economy during this period. Moux-en-Morvan in 1793 population was 1089, in 1872 the population swelled to 1688, and today (2013) Moux-en-Morvan has 564 people who live there.  Montreuillon lies along a feeder canal to the Canal du Niverais, allowed good transport for logging operations.  In 1793 had a population of 855, and it grew to a peak population of 1272 in 1976, whil today it has shrunk to only 286 inhabitants in 2013.

 

ijon skyline, source planetware.com

The Dijon skyline. photo: planetware.com

Dijon and the wine villages of the Côte d’Or

Approximately 40 kilometers east of the Morvan, lies the Burgundian provincial capital of Dijon. As the provincial seat of government, and as a major ecclesiastical and intellectual center, it was necessary to speak français by anyone of social position during the ancien régime. This was also true for commoners who aspired to gain wealth, or rise to a position of prominence.* As such, by the early 18th century (if not before), the bourgeoisie of Gevrey, Vosne, Nuits, and Beaune, would have all spoken français. This was a nécessité in order to conduct business with the right people in Dijon, Paris, or to meet with merchants of the great trading cities along the Atlantic coast.

The arrival of the français along the route des grand cru indicated that a new stratification was occurring at a societal level. There had always been a class difference between the nobility and the common man, but now, the knowledge of français created a new and important social demarcation between members within the third estate (Forrest 1991). There were now two major classes of commoner, a group which includes peasants, laborers, and artisans on one side, and the educated bourgeoisie on the other. One could easily tell them apart, if not by the clothes that they wore, but by the language they spoke.

 (*) This timing would coincide with the drive by Versailles to subdue the nobility and attain an absolute monarchy.

 

Across the Saône River: the Gallo-Romance language of Franco-Provençal 

Franco-Provençal or Arpitan. Difficult intelligibility among dialects was noted in the early 18th century. Wikpedia

Franco-Provençal or Arpitan. Difficult intelligibility among dialects was noted in the early 18th century. Wikpedia

For centuries, the Côte d’Or sat at a crossroads of two mother languages of patois: Langue d’oïl and Franco-Provençal (also known as Arpitan). In much of the three Burgundian departments of Yonne, Nièvre, and the Côte d’Or, patois in which the langue d’oïl was primarily dominant. But as one moved south and within Nièvre, and east within the Côte d’Or, the words and pronunciation typical of franco-provençaux became increasingly strong.  This was particularly true along the banks of the Saône River, which bordered the department of FrancheComté.

In the department of SaôneetLoire, which is home to the vineyards of Rully, Bouzeron, Mâcon, and Pouilly-Fuissé, the patois there are said to be transitional, conveying varying degrees of both the Langue d’oïl and Franco-Provençal. Nearby, just across the Saône River, in the Franche-Comté, Franco-Provençal  was the primary tongue.   In 1807, one French linguist, Jean-Louis Grillet, wrote that communication between various Franco-Provençal dialects was “difficult” (wikipedia). This comment instructs us on other linguistic challenges that at one time certainly existed within Burgundy, and across the realm.

Dissecting the ‘langues des bourguignons’

To study the dialects of a century ago requires that patois were literate, meaning there was a written version of them. As  James R. Lehning writes that the patois of the Loire had “apparently deteriorated in the course of the nineteenth century.” And in the arrondissement of Roanne,” patois existed in only an “attenuated” form (Lehning 1995). This is to be expected, as the use of français extended its reach into rural communities. But if this was already happening in the 1800’s, it is relatively impossible for us to know the extent of the changes which had already been made to patios by this period, and how much communication had already improved.

References to the patois of Burgundy is typically viewed as a single dialect. An example of this is found on the website of a group self-titled as Défense et promotion des langues d’oïl, – which interprets Burgundian patois as being bourguignon-borvandiau.

The English language pages of Wikipedia names the Burgundian patois bifurcates Burgundian patois into two dialects. The first is morvandiau which they define as a base of the d’oïl of central France, but with a stronger Germanic influences than standard français, and is peppered with hollandaise terms. These were no doubt picked up in trading wine with the Dutch. The second regional patois identified by the French language wikipedia is a hybrid oïl-franco-provençaux language, which it terms charolais-brionnais. This is the patois the SaôneetLoire, which lies on the southern border of Chassagne-Montrachet. While this is a more complete explanation, the reality is yet more complicated.

However, the French language version of Wikipedia (fr.wikipedia.com) breaks down the languages of the Morvan Massif itself as four dialects.*  Dialect breaks between areas of the Morvan show in pronunciations such as “ç’ost” vs. “y’ost” to say “there is”.  Other differences, in the northern part of the Morvan to take water is said as “gaujer” north, while in the south it it becomes “gauyer”.  For a speaker of français, who would say“prendre l’eau”, either pronunciation would be unintelligible.

This is not the only explanation however, as linguists often do not necessarily agree. Some regional sociolinguists have replaced the overarching morvandiau designation with 13 distinct regional dialects, that stretch across the four departments of Burgundy (Léonard, Barot 2012). The northern and western patois are primarily oïl with varying amounts of franco-provençaux influences, but as one moves southward, particularly into the department of SaôneetLoire, the langue franco-provençaux becomes increasingly dominate.

A less obvious, due to its distance from Burgundy, are the influences of the Occitan languages, once called lenga d’òc (or langue d’oc in French). Occitan, along with the langues d’oïl and franco-provençaux, are France’s holy trinity of Gallo-Romance languages. This Gallic-Roman mother tongue, forms the basis of many patois stretching from Spain’s Pyrenean Val d’Aran in the west, across the Languedoc, to Calabria Italy in the east. Although its area of use is separated from Burgundy by the Central Massif and the Limousin forest, there are numerous occitan words and inflections present in several of the southern bourguignon patois.

 

(*) There is no additional information regarding these divisions however.

 

map adapted from: Jean Léo Léonard & Gilles Barot (Langues de Bourgogne)

map adapted from: Jean Léo Léonard & Gilles Barot (Langues de Bourgogne)

The following are the fourteen patois of Burgundy

  • Morvan-Autunois was the dialect spoken in north-western Morvan.
  • DB is the label given to long diagonal swath through the length of the province, running through the heart of the Morvan, and extending down into the department of Allier. This swath seems to run right through what is referred to as La Dorsale Boisée, the ‘Wooded Dorsal’ of the Morvan massif. This is a line of heavily wooded peaks (500m-900m) which makes up the spine of the mountain range (fr.wikipedia). To this day, there are very few roads through this region, and it is likely to be very sparsely populated. Léonard  & Barot give no other reference is given to DB in the text. Is DB an abbreviation for something, possibly “base de dispersion“? Basic dispersion, refers to is the measurement of the variability in the data. Or “base de données” meaning database? I can find no answer to this.
  • Bresse, BL and RV: Sitting along the banks of the Saône, these patois are primarily francoprovençal in nature. Each are patois sits with very tight areas of use suggesting a rural, immobile peasant population, with little trade into or out of these regions. Like DB, there is no explanation for these apparently abbreviated BL and RV languages.  The nearby region of Savoy in the Franche-Comté, has significantly influenced the coloring the Bressan character. These were patois which were retained longer than in other areas, probably due to an immobile peasantry. Despite the long history of these dialects, these patois have been strictly oral in use, with no written bresse language ever having been developed.  A phonetic version was sketched out in 2006 to attempt to record and retain the dialect. Bressian speakers today are accused to overemphasizing the uniqueness of their patois, in regards to others. Pronunciation shifts when moving from savoyard bresse in the north, to bresse louhannaise in the south, although the variance is not considered to be enough to “hinder mutual comprehension” (fr.wikipedia).
  • Bresse-chalonnaise was spoken east of Dijon. The name and regional position suggests this is a hybrid of Bresse patois, and that of the chalonnaise.
  • Chalonnaise was spoken from the northern department of Haut Marnes, south through Dijon, and all through the Côte de Nuits into the Côte de Beaune. Perhaps somewhere near Chassagne,* the dialect was morphing to clunisois. 
  • Clunisois takes its name from the ancient Roman city, which lies on the southern-most portion of this patois‘ linguistic reach. The Patois is significantly francoprovençal in nature, the language which is spoken just across the Saône River. 
  • Mâconnais is the dialect that picks up south of Cluny, and to some extenis still being spoken within homes, in and around the city of Mâcon. Mâconnaise, like the Bressan areas which lie directly above it, is heavily influenced by the neighboring franco-provençaux. Mâcon, a city of 35,000, straddles both sides of the Saône River sits half in Saône-et-Loire, and half in Franche-Comté. Like chalonnaise, this is a patois with a long north-south area of use.  This is likely because a number good roads that ran parallel to the river, coupled with with river traffic, would have created continuity in the patois, over this elongated area. The shape of the area affected, is determined by the direction of the movement of people and goods along these thoroughfares. 
  • Charolais dialect sits in a wide swath along south-eastern Burgundy east of the wine regions of the southern Côte Chalonnaise, and the dialects adjacent to the Mâconnais spoken there.  Charolais, according to charolais-brionnais.fr, is language with a structure similar to the Oïl language yet laced with hints of Occitan (langue d’oc also lenga d’òc) and Latin. For example, the «a» sound replaces «e», while the «ts» is used instead of «ch». This region is noted for its massive coal mining operations in Montceau-les-Mines which pulled 2,000,000 tons from the ground per year, as well as its large iron, and steel industries based in the commune of Creusot. This industry was made possible by the opening of the Canal du Charollais (now known as Canal du Centre) in 1792.)
  • Brionnaise is typically associated with Charolais, but is separated in the listing by Léonard and Barot.  The regional marketing efforts by charolais-brionnais.fr say that “efforts to promote the dialect are championed by local celebrities like Professor Mario Rossi, who in 2004 published an Etymological and Ethnological Dictionary of Brionnais dialects.” Note, that it is titled “Brionnais dialects“; plural.
  • Matour is named for a village which is in the hills south and a little west of Cluny. Termed as being in ‘Upper Cluny‘, Matour sits at crossroads between Charolais, Beaujolais, Cluny and Macon. Like the other patois of nearby regions, this langue is transitional, part Oïl and part franco-provençaux.
  • Bourbonnaise: To the west and south of the Morvan, bourbonnaise was once spoken around the city of Nièvre (with a population today of 35,000). This area although technically part of Burgundy, it is separated from the Côte and Dijon by the Morvan. It a region which is influenced by nearby Allier, and patois of Langue d’oïl than the more Germanic franco-provençaux.
  • Roannais sit in the gap between the Morvan and the Central Massif, north of Lyon, along the southern Burgundian border with the departments of the Loire and the Rhone. Named for the department Roanne department of the Loire.
The roads across Burgundy in 1771. The map, which is labeled as "Carte itinéraire du duché de Bourgogne" is held by the National Library of France

The roads across Burgundy in 1771. The map, which is labeled as “Carte itinéraire du duché de Bourgogne” is held by the National Library of France

That there were multiple dialects, some of which were used within a very tight area, suggests that peasantry in these areas were relatively immobile. Intriguingly, a couple of patois had very long, vertical, north-south area of use, such as that of chalonnaise, which covered much of the department of the Côte d’Or. It is not a coincidence that this area of use should follow the path of the Burgundian wine trade, as it moves from Chassagne, up the path of the ancient the Via Agrippapast Dijon. The use of chalonnaise continued to the departments northern border, but is not clear if the dialect extended very far into the neighboring department of Haut Marnes.

MaconnaisThe economic situation of the chalonnaise speaking peasantry of the Côte d’Or, was not at all uniform. The very poor were likely to be immobile, while those with one or more holdings, particularly if one was in a renown cru, were likely wealthy enough to own a horse, and were able to travel to neighboring towns, perhaps to do business with their négociant, or their tonnelier (barrel maker), or to seek any other service or product that was not available in their own village. Those peasants who were able to travel, spread their sub-regional terms and pronunciations to other villages, while bringing new ones back home. This process would have developed a uniform patois, that over time spread over a larger area of use.

The patois spoken within the SaôneetLoire are much more confined in their areas of use. The fact that patois of chalonnaise stops near the SaôneetLoire border, likely means that there was limited trade between these regions, both of which lay immediately south of Chassagne. Patois with such small regional footprint such as the industrial Charlolais and rural matour, suggests there was little trade done with the peasantry there. Again, any lack of trade suggests two things: that the region was quite poor, and that they lacked mobility. Despite the Canal du Centre (then known as the Canal du Charollais) having been built through these regions, the local paysans had little use for a commercial waterway. Even collectively, theses small farmers had little or nothing to trade.  We also know that much of these areas south of the Côte d’Or was dominated by large farm properties, either capitalized, or private, which were controlled by less than one percent of the population, and this too created a population that was compartmentalized, as the small communities were separated from one another by very large farming estates.

(*) Unfortunately as is common with drawn maps, the two maps used are not of the same origin, and not accurate in configuration, lacking cities and other clearly identifiable markers. This makes precise identification of where these languages impossible. This imperfection of maps may be somewhat intentional, since the authors of them might not want to be pinned down to a precise statement that ‘X’ language is spoken in ‘X’ location.

 

Up next: Part II, The war on Patois

 

 


References for  Français and patois Bourguignon, Parts I, II, & III

 

History of the French Language, https://slmc.uottawa.ca/?q=french_history

The Original Grand Crus of Burgundy, Charles Curtis, MW, Wine Alpha, 2014

Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France 1870-1914. Eugen Weber, Stanford Univ. Press. 1976.

Schooling in Western Europe: A Social History, Mary Jo Maynes, Suny Press 1985

Regional Dynamics Burgundian Landscapes in Historical Perspectiveedited by Carole Crumle

Languages and the Military: Alliances, Occupation and Peace Building, edited by H. Footitt, M. Kelly, Springer, 2016

Collective Action in Winegrowing Regions: A Comparison of Burgundy and the Midi – David R. Weir July 1976

Language or Dialect Shift? Shifting, Fading and Revival of Burgundian Gallo-Romance Varieties, Jean Léo Léonard  & Gilles Barot, 2012

End or invention of Terroirs? Regionalism  in the marketing of French luxury goods: the example of Burgundy wines in the inter‐war years, working paper Gilles Laferté Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique

Negotiating Territoriality: Spatial Dialogues Between State and Tradition, Allan Charles Dawson, Laura Zanotti, Ismael Vaccaro, Routledge 2014

‘Insofar as the ruby wine seduces them’: Cultural Strategies for Selling Wines in Interwar Burgundy,” Philip Whalen, 2009

The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution: The Making of Modern Universalism, Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, University of California Press, 2005

From Savage to Citizen: The Invention of the Peasant in the French Enlightenment, Amy S. Wyngaard, University of Delaware Press, 2004

Reshaping France: Town, Country, and Region During the French Revolution, Alan I. Forrest, Manchester University Press, 1991

Le patois bourguignon, patrimoine en danger, Arnaud Racapé, France Bleu Bourgogne, 2015

Peasant and French: Cultural Contact in Rural France During the Nineteenth Century, James R. Lehning, Cambridge University Press, 1995


 

Burgundy: The History of the Vigneron, Part 3: Roads and the opening of the Burgundy trade

photo:ansoniawines.com

photo:ansoniawines.com

1715: new roads open Burgundy trade  

In the early years of the 18th century, France would commence building a system of a national highway system, which when finished over a half a century later, would be the finest in Europe. The province of Burgundy had been at the vanguard of these road building efforts and quickly found reward for its efforts, in the vastly improved connectivity with other economies across northern Europe. It was not long before commissioned agents, known as “voyageurs”,  were canvassing Europe for willing markets for Burgundy’s finest product, wine. Then, with contracts in hand, caravans of wagons were dispatched on road from Dijon, heavily loaded with casks of wine from negotiants cellars.  Some of these caravans went westward to Paris, but many made their way north, either to trading ports along the Atlantic, or turning eastward toward the hungry German markets.  On their return trip to Burgundy, the wagons came back loaded with all manner of goods, notably “fabrics, canvas, and cash” (Bazin 2002).  As the reputation of Burgundian wine grew, so did both the wine’s value and almost overnight, fortunes were made.

paysanThere was a darker backdrop to this story, however. Despite the tremendous benefit these roads provided to the region, their construction had come at a heavy cost the peasantry. These farmers, both men, and women were pulled from their fields and vineyards, often during the critical times of planting and harvest, and forced build these roads without recompense. This duty, which was employed through much of the 18th century, was known as corvée royale; and it’s implementation caused tremendous hardship and widespread resentment within the peasantry. For some Burgundian peasantry, this resentment may have been short-lived, as the increased trade made the wine they produced far more valuable. This was especially true if their plot happened to in a famed vineyard or village. With such luck, their fortune, and future of their families may have changed completely. Others, however, were not so positively affected. If they did not farm grapes, or their plots were in lesser areas, their lives continued to be difficult. Most critically, with the coming revolution, it was these peasants whose future in Burgundy would become less secure. This begins the modern era of the Burgundian winemaker.

Nation-building 1715-1743

Once the nobles had finally submitted to the absolutist rule of the king, the stage was at long last set for the first major road building effort since the Romans had subjugated Gaul. But unlike the road constructed by the Romans, these roads would be designed for the connectivity of France, not to link a conquered province to the conqueror’s empire.  The development of this highway system was such a key step in the nation building of France, that historian Julian Swann would write that its completion was to be King Louis XV’s greatest achievement (Swann 2003). While Louis XV was certainly was on board in completing this project, by 1757 he was spending 7 million livres (7 million pounds of silver) on road and bridge construction (Sée 1927),  it could be argued that Swann may have mislaid credit for the highway system at the feet of young Louis.

The passing of the torch: the regency and the minority of Louis XV

Louis XIV in 1701by Hyacinthe Rigaud in the Louvre Museum

Louis XIV in 1701by Hyacinthe Rigaud in the Louvre Museum

Kingship had passed from the 77-year-old Louis XIV (who had outlived both his son, as well as his grandson), to his 5-year-old great-grandson. Having inherited the throne himself while a young child, Louis was keen to the challenges his great-grandson would face.

Nearing his death, Louis XIV would name his nephew, Philippe II, who was the duc d’Orléans, to be regent. The regency was a position with king-like powers, charged with the duty of administering and safeguarding the kingdom until the young monarch would be old enough to reign himself. This was slated to occur in seven years time, in February of 1723, when Louis would turn 13.

Around this same period, the aging king would also choose André-Hercule de Fleury, the 67-year-old the bishop of Fréjus, to be his great-grandson’s tutor. Although the word tutor today would seem to be beneath the position of a nobleman and bishop, this was a very important position. His job would be to mentor and prepare the young prince to rule a powerful European power, and this could only be done by someone who knew something about leadership, law, and the politics of the royal court.

These two men, both handpicked by Louis XVI, would in their turn, administer the French State for the next twenty-five years. During this quarter century, France would become an even greater power on the world stage.

Phillipe II duc d'Orleans

Philippe II, duc d’Orleans

Initially, the duc d’Orléans betrayed the trust that King Louis XIV had placed in naming him, by attempting to temper the absolutist state. Philippe II reversed several edicts such as noble’s the right of remonstrance which allowed the nobility to challenge and delay decrees of the crown. But more importantly, he replaced state ministers with councils made up of nobles, in a system referred to as Polysynody.  By 1718, however, it had become clear that the Polysynody was mired by the conflicting interests between the various powerful ducs and comtés on the council, not to mention clashes of their egos. It also became apparent that the noble’s deep-seated self-interest, often, if not typically, overrode the interests of the nation. And as a final coup de grace, rampant absenteeism by nobles on the council, stymied its ability to function. After three years, Philippe II had come to accept that the councils consisting of noblemen, had been a failure, and in 1718 he restored the ministerial system which he had inherited.

Cardinal André Hercule de Fleury

Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury

In 1723, when Louis XV had gained his “legal majority” at age 13 and was now officially the reigning king, and unsurprisingly, he had little interest in politics. He desired that the duc to remain as regent, and although the duc did remain in the position, he would die that December, at the age of 49. With the position of first minister vacant, Louis would appoint Louis-Henri, duc de Bourbon-Condé to this role, but after three years he would replace him with his trusted tutor, André Hercule de Fleury, the bishop of Fréjus, to act essentially as his regent. Although a nobleman, and in a high position in the clergy, Hercule’s borne position was not equal to the others in the royal council. To balance this inequality, Louis XV, would make Hercule a cardinal 1726. Additionally, Louis appointed him as first minister, a title that Hercule would not use. Much like the strong hands of the cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, before him, Andre-Hercule provided stable, authoritarian rule over France until his death in 1743 at age 90. It would not be until 1743 that Louis XV would truly assume the role of king.

Forced labor of the peasantry and road building

The influential French political writer, Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (1805-1859), wrote at length about the corvée in his book L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution.*  He wrote that before the death of Louis XIV, the roads were either maintained by the state, or by the nobles whose estates the roads passed through. This meant, by any true measure, that the roads were virtually not maintained at all. “Around this time,” de Tocqueville penned, the roads “began to be repaired with the aid of the corvée alone, that is, at the sole expense of the peasantry.” De Tocqueville lays this application of the corvée, utilizing the forced labor of the peasantry, in order to build the roads, at the feet of Controller-General Philibert Orry. In 1737, claimed de Tocqueville, Orry applied the corvée “to all of France”.** To better frame this statement, however, it is well documented that it was  Jean-Baptiste Colbert who first enlisted the peasantry for the corvée royale in the mid-1600’s.

Les Jeune Roi, Louis XV

Les Jeune Roi, Louis XV

It must be assumed, however, that the plans to expand the road system had already been laid out Louis XIV ministers, since it was in 1715, the year that the king died, that the élus of Burgundy*** had already commenced their road construction in Burgundy (Swann 2003). The budget at that time was 60,000 livres per year, but these funds would prove to be enough since it would only need to cover the cost of the construction materials because by utilizing the corvée royale, labor would be essentially free. This construction apparently continued despite the ministerial shake-ups in Versailles, that occurred during the first years of Philippe II’s regency. The Burgundians must have been particularly motivated, as they appear to have led road building efforts in France by perhaps as much as two decades. Indeed, Voltaire wrote in 1751 before the construction, that “the high roads were almost impassable.” For the landlocked economy of Burgundy, it was realized that prosperity could only come to the region if far better roads could be built.

An increase in trade commenced almost immediately, if the establishment of the first wine trading firms in 1720 (M. Marey and Champy) were any indication. Encouraged by this success, the élus had continued to increase investments into provincial roads and bridge construction until it had reached 100,000 livres per year in 1757 (Swann 2003). Whether they had been pressured to make the road improvements by Versailles, as Swann writes, or they self-motivated, as I believe, the élus had thrown the weight of the provincial government into the project.

(*) It is important to note that de Tocqueville’s writings about the ancien régime were neatly colored by the intellectual thought and politics of his time, as well as by his own innovative thoughts and perceptions.  As indicated by his noble title, (de Tocqueville is his title, not his name) he was of an old Norman family of noblesse d’épée, which escaped the guillotine by escaping to England. The family returned to France with the reign of Napoléon and was restored to their nobility under the Bourbon restoration. That said, he despised the return of France to a monarchy, in which a Bourbon king was restored to the throne for 18 years, between 1830 and 1848.

(**) Jean-Baptiste Colbert, King Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance, was actually the first minister to institute the corvée royal in the mid-1600’s, although it was only implemented to build roads within central France and did not extend to any of the provinces.

(***) the élus were the full-time council which governed the province (pays d’état) of Burgundy, following guidance outlined by sessions of the états généraux. The états généraux was the convening of representatives of the three ‘estates’: the nobility, the clergy, and the commoners  (commoner representatives were most likely comprised of the bourgeoisie).

Subverting the intention of the corvée

This painting depicts Macadamized road construction which would not come until later in the early to mid 1800's.

This painting depicts macadamized road construction which would not come until later in the early to mid-1800’s.

The corvée had begun as part of the feudal seigneurial tenure agreement, which required the peasant to perform a certain number of hours of corvée per year. While many are quick to say this work was given without receiving pay, in actuality, it was a payment by the peasant, to the seigneur, for the ongoing possession of the plot that they farmed. The corvée was initiated to maintain the lord’s communal properties, however large. These included roads, bridges, churches, ditches for water runoff, all which might be wiped away by a storm or had simply been degraded by the passing of years.

In earlier times, security was a very important aspect of the seigneurial agreement and the through the corvée, the peasants maintained the stronghold (castles/chateau or other fortifications) while it was the lord, and his nobles, whose profession was soldiering, did the actual fighting.

In times of danger, be it from mercenaries or other invaders, the local population could retreat within the walls of the chateau, where the lord would protect them. There, a store of wheat would be kept, and the lord’s ovens would produce bread for those that he protected. As such, the seigneur held rights to possess ovens (often referred to as four banal ovens), and the lord charged banalités for their use.  The same held true for wine presses and grist mills, which only the lord had a right to own; there were banalités for their use as well. The lords often provided the horses, or oxen, as well as plows which made farming more efficient, for it was in the interest of both parties that production is as high as possible. Without the seigneur’s investment in these items, most peasants could never have afforded them.* There was a mutual dependence of noble and peasant, for one could not exist without the other, and as such, the ancient compact between noble and peasant continued for centuries. The peasants would farm the land with the materials provided by the seigneur, and it was the noble’s responsibility would protect and secure his realm, and his people. As such, the use of corvée in France was generally rare and light, when compared to corvées elsewhere in the world, such as Germany. (de Tocqueville 1851)

As the security of France was slowly assured by the end of the 1600’s,  it is easy to see how, slowly over time, the corvée morphed into more of a civic duty, as an obligation of the village had as a whole. Although in name these were the lord’s lands, they were in actuality became the village commons. At some point, the villages became what is termed as having “corporate” identities, owned communal lands, and could be sued in judicial courts.  There was a real sense that the villagers were “in it together”(Sée 1927).

(*) There is an indication in de Tocqueville’s writings in “The Old Régime and the Revolution”, that wealthier commoners, who did not fall into one of the many exemptions, may have been allowed to send their horses and oxen to work in their place. Exact details of this are not clear.

The birth of the corvée royale

Ancien Régime- the three estates. Political cartoon 1789

Ancient Regime- the three estates. Political cartoon 1789

So, when Jean-Baptiste Colbert, King Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance, initially confiscated the corvée for national projects in the mid-1600’s, it was a true perversion of seigneurial dues.  It is ironic, that by this time, the seigneurial corvée was now rarely exploited by the nobility in the 18th century (de Tocqueville 1851).  It wasn’t long into the 18th century that Controller-General Philibert Orry, whose position as bâtiments du roi (“the king’s buildings”) expanded the corvée from exclusively road building to a wide array of government projects. After 1737, it was used for many military and state constructions, as well as the most hated duty of providing the transport of military goods and supplies particularly in wartime (de Tocqueville 1851). This duty required the use of personal oxen and horses, no doubt many of which were maimed or died on the road. This work was paid for but at impossibly inadequate rates. (Carlyle 1902) 

The greatest resentment came from the timing of this backbreaking and often dangerous work, which was typically conducted in the spring and fall, avoiding the heavier summer rains, coinciding precisely with the times necessary to plant and harvest (Swann 2002).

The consequence of refusing to work the royal corvée was arrest. And, according to de Tocqueville, the peasantry was constantly being arrested for various reasons: “due to the corvée, the militia, begging, crime, a thousand other circumstances.” “Armed with the right to imprison recalcitrants at will, or send marshals to fetch them.” (de Tocqueville 1851 p.186) authorities implemented a harsh rule over the people. That said, the governmental infrastructure was limited in size, so controlling the populace was a bit like “whac-a-mole”, and insurrections and riots were rampant.

Note: It is important to understand when reading de Tocqueville however that he had a particular liberal ax to grind when writing about society. Regardless whether what he says is true or not, his bias can be seen in the following two sentences: De Tocqueville wrote that the ‘intendants’* found it “useful to refuse to employ peasants in repairing the roads of their own villages, in order that they be reserved for only the great highways…” and then de Tocqueville comments that was a “strange idea that it was suitable to have the poorest, and those who were least likely to travel, pay for the roads, this idea, even though novel, entrenched itself so naturally in the minds of those who benefited from it, that soon they could no longer be done any differently.” 

The economic impact of corvée, and the food riots 1693-1853

Food Riots 18th Century France

Food Riots 18th Century France

France, being an agricultural economy, must have acutely felt the burden of this demand upon its peasantry. There is some corollary evidence of this. It is written that the corvée left peasants unable to plant or harvest crops, which may have regionally affected the food supply, and the price of food. There is little doubt this affected the future ability of individual farmers to buy seed, pay the tithe, pay tailles (taxes), to buy wood for heating over the winter, and to feed their families. It is not clear that the corvée was widespread enough to impact the price of grain and other foods to rise, but all through this period there were widespread “food riots”.

The economic numbers do not support a correlation between the food riots and high food prices at a national level (Rotberg 2000), so we might also assume there was not a correlation between the corvée and high food prices.  However, there may well have been regional price fluctuations that were behind the riots, and there may have been a correlation between the regional application of the corvée and the food riots. While this is unknowable given the incomplete information available now, over 250 years later, we do know there was tremendous resentment surrounding the corvée, and there were riots relating to food scarcity during the same period.

These riots were short in duration, but they did involve large numbers of people (Rotberg 2000). Each event was unique, and not organized, or part of a collective conscience. Each riot, depending on the region, seems to have consisted of a homogeneous segment of France’s most impoverished societies, the agricultural peasantry in some riots, and urban poor, or the industrial workers, in others. One such instance occurred along the Saône and in Macon in 1709, when peasants forced grain shipments to be halted.** In Troyes in 1740, (in the Champagne region just north of the Burgundy border), 600-700 industrial workers protesting the bailli of the bailiff (a bailiff was essentially a sheriff) for the lack of bread. After protesting, the workers invaded houses suspected of containing grain (Bouton 1993). Roteberg lists that food riots occurred in the following years: 1693/94, 1698, 1709/10, 1725, 1739/40, 1749, 1752, 1768, 1770, 1775 (the year of the Flour War), 1788/89, 1793, 1799, and these continued on through half of the 19th century until the last occurred in 1853/54.  

Historian Daniel Roche wrote that the intendant of Dauphine remarked at the time, most disorders began with “the people’s misery” (Roche 1998). In earlier times, these riots were flamed by the nobility to attempt to shake the authority of the king. But after the death of Louis the XIV, the nobles were no longer involved in such subversion. Now the “diffuse, sporadic, and scattered protest movements erupted in the rural areas, less often, in the cites” (Roche 1998). You may notice this observation is slightly at odds with Bouton, who wrote of various segments of the poor participated in each individual riot, but it is clear that unlike the rebellions fermented by the nobility against the crown (usually about taxes – Roche 1998), uprisings would now comprise solely the poor, that as Roche notes, are best explained by social class distinctions.

This might be interpreted as that the feudal relationship between the noble and the peasant had broken down. Previously, the noble provided security, land and equipment for a peasantry who provided labor. As the nobles contribution lessened, because the security element had been eliminated, there was now an inequity within this relationship. The nobility was now living off of the peasantry, yet contributing virtually nothing to the peasantry in return.

(**) It is notable that the food riots of winter of 1709/10, was the year following “The Great Winter” of 1708/1709 where the average temperature rested at 9 degrees below zero for weeks, and there were tremendous crop failures across Europe. These food riots occurred after a more normal harvest.

Protecting the taille and addressing the burden of the corvée

Riots and unrest, as well as the constant application of the corvée, all diminished constant flow of tailles (taxes) into the king’s treasury. It is easy to see that there was a constant balancing act that the intendants must have had to address, as the application of the corvée directly lessened the amount of taxes that could be collected. From de Tocqueville: “In 1751 a receiver was apprehensive lest “the expense to which the peasantry was put for the repairs of the roads, would incapacitate them from paying the taille.” Throughout this time period, the intendants will be seen, repeatedly, standing against nobility for the rights of the commoner, referring cases to judicial courts (known as during the ancien régime as parlements) (Root 1992).

Political Cartoon, France Late 18th Century

Political Cartoon, France Late 18th Century

Behind the scenes, the motivation began with preserving the revenue stream to the king, but one senses that the intendants, truly felt an obligation of fairness and good governance. An example of this comes from intendant Monsieur Ducluzel, of Tours (240 km southwest of Paris). In defending his decade-long disregard of the Minister of Marine’s demands for peasant labor, Ducluzel wrote in December of 1775, that he defied the requests based on the abuses of the corvée, to both men and animals. The conditions of the work that such corvée involved can be garnered from this snippet of his letter: “the cattle are often lamed by drawing heavy logs over roads as bad as the weather in which this service is usually required of them.” (de Tocqueville 1851)

There were those in Burgundy’s provincial assembly (the États-Généraux) who were not unaware, or unsympathetic to the abuses of the corvée.  In 1739, after many years of heavy corvée implementation, there were finally calls in by assembly members to limit the number of days worked and exemptions during periods where planting and harvest were taking place (Swann 2002).  Swann writes that one alcade, (a mayor with judicial powers),  advanced the need to “lighten a yolk that the peoples…find extremely difficult to support.”  The weight of the alcade’s statement, was biblical, referring to Kings 12.4 “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now, therefore, lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” * Given the deeply devout culture of the French at that time, and that a third of the États-Généraux was made up of the clergy, there is no doubt that these words resonated with many members of the assembly.  What is not clear to what effect these efforts to reform the estates corvée requirements were successful. In either case, the need for the heavy use of forced labor subsided after the roadways had been completed (Swann 2003).

But despite these efforts by some to reform the corvée, it is notable that the corvée still was in place in Burgundy in 1769. This 54 year period represents two full generations of the peasantry who had been conscripted to labor upon the province’s roads. It is clear that there was a real division of opinions regarding the use of the corvée, with impassioned critics referring to it as “a real evil in itself.” Some suggested that a system of payment should be instituted, as it had been in other provinces such as Limoges,**  Swann writes that “the reaction was at best lukewarm”.

(*) here from the King James bible, although the French during that period were likely using the Port Royal bible)

(**) It is important to note that some regions never adopted the corvée, but used contractors to perform the labor.  Languedoc (where there was already a history of agrarian revolt) and Limoges are two such examples.

Attempted reforms to the corvée under Louis XVI 1774-1789 

There were those who fought to end the corvée system, such as the intendant of Limoges, Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot. Turgot held the powerful position of contrôleur général under the newly crowned king, Louis XVI, from 1774 to 1776. Among his more innovative, even revolutionary programs, he had attempted to end the corvée, as well as suggesting the abolition of privilege. Needless to say, both of which were vehemently opposed by the majority of the nobility. The radical nature Turgot’s proposals are attested to by the brevity of his tenure. However, Turgot’s ideas would persist and flourish among the intelligentsia in this Age of Enlightenment and spread among the bourgeoisie. Toward the end of the decade, these ideas would be addressed again by the King and his ministers.

Antoine-François Callet - Louis XVI, roi de France et de Navarre (1754-1793), revêtu du grand costume royal en 1779: source Wikipedia

Antoine-François Callet – Louis XVI, roi de France et de Navarre (1754-1793), revêtu du grand costume royal en 1779: Source Wikipedia

In 1779, king Louis XVI would, in response to calls from the bourgeoisie “capitalists, merchants, manufacturers, and other businessmen or financiers” who were “…resolutely bent on reform” (de Tocqueville 1851), make a grand suggestion that he would lessen the load of the royal corvée on the peasantry. This was le Siècle des Lumières, and repression was to be scorned; thus Louis XVI, the final Bourbon to sit on the throne, would seemingly loosen the yoke of the peasantry. The king would make this speech announcing the end of the corvée.

“With the exception of a few provinces (pays d’états), nearly all the roads of the kingdom have been made gratuitously by the poorest portion of our subjects. The whole burden has fallen upon those who have no property but their labor, and whose interest in the roads is very slender; the landowners, who are really interested in the matter—for their property increases in value in proportion to the improvement in the roads—are privileged exempts. By compelling the poor to keep the roads in repair, to give their time and their labor for nothing, we have deprived them of their only safeguard against poverty and hunger, in order to make them toil for the benefit of the rich.”  King Louis XVI, 1779

This great pronouncement amounted to little more than lip service, however. A few months later, writes de Tocqueville, the corvée was resumed. The nobility and the monarchy had work that needed to be done, and they couldn’t imagine another way to achieve it (de Tocqueville 1851). As such, in most of the country, the corvée labored on until the revolution began in 1789.

Conclusion

using pruning knife, (à la serpette) for Guyot VinesFor some peasants who were fortunate enough to have tenant plots in top crus in Burgundy, the trade expansion that these new roads provided had brought an unforeseen prosperity. This money allowed them to take on plots from other peasants who were struggling, and to hire day laborers. In this way, the peasant could manage far more acreage than they could farm alone. As their wealth and position increased, these peasants were known as fermiers (farmers), which had a strong affinity to the traditional French gentleman’s position which had long been the sole position of the seigneur, the lord. This was an unheard of time of economic mobility in Burgundy, with this rudimentary capitalization occurring in the fields. Additionally, new faces were appearing on the Cote, as exceptionally wealthy bourgeoisie from Dijon and Paris were beginning to purchase valuable vineyard plots in the Côte-d’Or. These two groups, along with the nobility which would either survive the revolution or gain nobility after the revolution, would form the basis of the families who farm the vineyards of Burgundy today.

But for other peasants, whose backbreaking work built the “highways” of France, received little, if any benefit from the highways. They did not travel, and their Gamay, or wines from lesser known appellations, did not fetch the kind of money as those that farmed a plot of Chambertin, or Volnay, which was gaining in popularity and value as their fame spread across Europe. These peasants would find that neither their fortunes, nor their future would improve, and most would eventually lose their small holdings once the security of the seigneurial tenure was broken by the coming revolution.

(*) The états généraux was the provincial convention of representatives from the three estates, the nobility, the clergy, and the commoners (who were typically bourgeoisie) which every three years convened to debate the direction of Burgundy for the following three years. The élus was appointed council tasked to fulfill the administration of those goals. There were two other important positions to be cognoscente of, the Governor of the province who was always a great lord, and as well there was the intendant, who was a royal civil servant. Both of which were royally appointed. The governor lived at Versailles, always courting the favor of the king for personal and provincial business, while the intendant lived in the province, in this case, Dijon, and ensured the province was run in the interest of the king, reviewing court cases, tax collection, as well as regional and municipal issues.


References for this article

Evolution du métayage en France, L. Durousseau-Dugontier, Impr. Crauffon, 1905

Provincial Power and Absolute Monarchy: The Estates General of Burgundy 1661–1790 Julian Swann, Cambridge University Press  2003

Economic and Social Conditions in France During the Eighteenth Century, Henri Sée Professor, University of Rennes 1927

Histoire du Vin de Bourgogne, Jean-François Bazin, Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot, 2002

The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume I: Alexis de Tocqueville, François Furet, Francoise Melonio 1851, reprinted University of Chicago Press, 1998

The Old Regime and the Revolution, Alexis de Tocqueville, trans John Bonner (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1856) Modern Translator: George Gerald Reisman

The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV) Voltaire, (1751)

Social Mobility and Modernization: A Journal of Interdisciplinary History Reader, Robert I. Rotberg MIT Press, 2000

The Flour War: Gender, Class, and Community in Late Ancien Régime French Society, Cynthia Bouton, Penn State Press, 1993

Peasants and King in Burgundy: Agrarian Foundations of French Absolutism, Hilton Root, University of California Press, 1992

The French Revolution: A History in Three Parts I. The Bastille; II. The Constitution; III. The Guillotine, Volume 1Thomas Carlyle G.P. Putnam, 1902

France in the Enlightenment Daniel Roche Harvard University Press, 1998

Burgundy: The History of the Vignerons: The Villages part I

The wine villages of the Côte d’Or in the 18th Century

By Dean Alexander

PommardReflecting on it, I find it amazing that the descendants of so many old Burgundian families still farm the vineyards, and live in the same tiny villages of the gold coast as their ancestors. Many of these families have lived there for more than two centuries. The Roty’s of Gevrey-Chambertin arrived there in 1710, and have now lived in Gevrey for more than three centuries, and the Mongeard family arrived in Vosne in 1620, just shy of four centuries.

Consider further, for many generations, all but the most wealthy, rarely traveled much farther than the fields that they worked, none of which were very far away. They often did not know the families from two or three villages distant, because to get there, many of them would have had to walk. They lived and died in the houses in which they were raised, and that was often the same house that their mother or father was raised.(1) For most urbanites, this is kind of stationary life is unfathomable. But this long history of a family being precisely in a single place, for so many generations, can only be explained by these people having developed exceptionally strong emotional ties to their village, their family, and to their land.

While to outsiders, the daily life of the farmer can only describe as repetitious and mundane, in the long view, the changes that have occurred on the Côte can be fascinating. Over the span of the past two to three hundred years, these fermier families have had, along with a certain amount of luck, the ability to adjust and adapt at crucial times.

First and foremost, they were lucky. To have had built up enough assets to handle disasters as they came can be a matter of luck. Any ship can sink in the perfect storm. But beyond that, they tenacious, yet flexible enough to endure nature’s worst. Examples of adversity the families of the Côte would face included: multiple, several near-total harvest failures, and more than a couple vineyard losses due to vine killing winters, hail, and flooding. Then there were the major diseases such as mildew (oidium in 1854 and downy in 1887) not to mention phylloxera.

The image of a peasant girl resting, is from the Paris Salon circa 1893.

The image of a peasant girl resting is from the Paris Salon circa 1893.

The political and economic challenges were relentless, included the lengthy French Revolution, multiple governmental changes, and economic and the catastrophes of wars and occupation. Had these families not been lucky, not had assets when they needed them, and not made the right decisions at the right time, they would have left been forced to leave, as many did. (Garnot 2008) Most importantly, they had the ability to make the jump from being simple paysans, meaning the peasant-farmers, who only just subsisted on small plots land, to fermiers who not only owned the land they worked, and more importantly, owned enough land they needed to hire people to help work the land they owned.

Gone from the Gold Coast now are those paysans.  Their small plots absorbed by larger landholders and their labor replaced in the fields professional vineyard managers and workers and supplemented day laborers.

Throughout the late 19th and most of the 20th century, it was an idealized version of these very peasants, who had been economically pushed out of the Gold Coast, by which the French viewed their own national identity.  The French viewed itself as the peasant: a stout, strong, determined, rural proletariat, who farmed the land, feed the nation and were called to war. (Lehning 1995) It was generally felt that the peasants were the backbone of the country. As such, it was with a certainly irony, that much later, during the 1920 and 1930’s, the fermiers of the Côte would begin to market Burgundy and themselves as synonymous with the already existent folklore of the ‘peasant farmer’. (Whalen 2009) This would be their guarantee of quality, their simple honesty, steadfastness, and hard work.

 

print of Gevrey Chambertin from Dr Jules Lavalle's 1855 Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne de Grands Vins de la Côte-d'Or

print of Gevrey-Chambertin from Dr. Jules Lavalle’s 1855 Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne de Grands Vins de la Côte-d’Or

The growth of a village

In an isolated locale, like the wine villages of the Côte d’Or, a census is a very good barometer of the health of its economy. As the economy heats up, as financial folks like to say, the population increases. Conversely, as the economy slows, populations tend to contract accordingly. In 1793, toward the end of the Revolutionary period, the first census of the new republic was taken.  At this time, the population of Gevrey was only 1,193. Over the next two decades, Gevrey’s population would grow only incrementally until 1831, when it would begin to expand over the next 50 years.

Phylloxera, in its steady march across France, would finally reach the vineyards of the Côte d’Or in 1880. However, rather than the loss of production forcing the population to contract, -as those “in the margins” were indeed displaced by a lack of field work, new inhabitants were arriving, largely replacing their numbers. A whole new industry had sprung up surrounding the fighting of phylloxera. As that battle was gradually lost, these jobs would eventually be replaced by those who would plant the vineyards again. These were people who had trained in the new skills of grafting vinifera Pinot and Chardonnay vines to the hybrid American rootstock. This carousel of workers kept the number of people living in the village fairly constant, but generally, the fermiers, the landholding farmers, many whose family names we recognize today, remained.

The census of 1881 revealed a population of 1,868. Shortly after the turn of the century, economic instability, and low wine prices, and falling vineyard values, would cause the lowest number of inhabitants since the census had begun, with a mere 1,543.  Gevrey’s population would fall even further during the interwar years, for in 1936 Gevrey had a population only 1,486, the lowest it had been after one hundred years of growth. These were grim times, and the fermiers and concerned politicians sought new ways to produce and market wine independent of the negociants that had controlled the industry since the 1750’s. These efforts, coupled with the Europe’s general economic recovery after the Second World War, has sent the population dramatically upward, with new industries which supported the now profitable wine growers and bringing with them hundreds of new jobs. The censuses of 1962 and 1975 marked how dynamic the recovery had been. (census figures: fr.wikipedia.org)

Population of GevreyThe population of the larger town of Nuits-St-Georges, a center for negociant trade in the mid-1700‘s, has been more stable than Gevrey. Nuits expanded through pre-phylloxera times but then remaining fairly steady for almost a century between 1866 and 1954. The town’s population saw minor fluctuations of alternately adding and losing 100 to 400 people, through the end of the Second World War, but these changes were a much smaller percentage of the population than the swings seen in Gevrey-Chambertin. This is likely that because of the town’s size, there was far more business operating in Nuits-St-Georges beyond the direct cultivation of the vines. As an overview: in 1793 Nuits had 2,541 inhabitants. It peaked just before phylloxera 1881 at 3,727 people. Today, after steady growth since the end World War II, (3,285 in 1946), the population now sits at 5,516 in 2008. (fr.wikipedia.org)

Stepping farther back in time

The old villages, tranquil wine smaller villages of the Côte d’Or, with their narrow streets and quaint houses, are quite easy to envision two hundred fifty years ago, during the time of King Louis the XVI, for these are remain small, sleepy, villages. Vosne even today has a population of a mere 427 people, and only 307 people live in the nearby village of Chambolle. Even with the tourists that mill around and support the restaurants and inns of the old, more touristy section of Gevrey-Chambertin, this section of town could not be described as bustling. It would seem as though place must be quite unchanged over hundreds of years. In your mind’s eye, just exchange the slow trod of oxen pulling a cart along the graveled highway for the cars that now ply the paved RN74.  Upon the once cobbled streets of the better sections of the village, add in horses and the staccato of their hooves. Wood-smoke, billowing from the chimneys of a few dozen open hearths; the day crisp, with fall in the air, and the vision should be complete.

But things have changed in these villages. Perhaps the biggest paradigm shift took place when the vines of Pinot Noir won out over Gamay.

(*) larger is relative, but considering the value of the land, and the wine made from it, these are not poor men. (**)The increase of population in the larger towns and villages is best explained by more wealth is created by both vignerons and by the tourist industry, the there are more jobs available to service their needs today. 

 

French peasants depicted in "Fin du Travail" by Jules Breton (1887)

French peasants depicted in “Fin du Travail” by Jules Breton (1887)

Economic battle between of Pinot Noir and Gamay

Winter 1709For many centuries, there was an economic and ideological battle going on between those who were planting the vines that produced the more consistently ripening Gamay grape, and those who would have all vines in Burgundy planted only to Pinot Noir.

For some, the battle was societal. While certainly it was recognized that Gamay could produce a high-tonnage of fruit, while still maintaining acceptable quality (for the masses), the noblesse d’épée (noble of the sword), the noblesse de robe (magistrates and parliamentarians of Dijon), clergy officials, and most acutely, the invested haut bourgeoisie, felt the Gamay wines were coarse and undeserving vineyards of the Côte d’Or. Most importantly, they rightly felt Gamay pulled down the reputation of the Côte in general. Gamay certainly did not add to the noble reputation that the upper strata of society believed the region should be allowed to attain.  Social standing and reputation in the 18th century was hugely important to those in a position to affect it, and cannot be underestimated in the context of where some Gamay should and should not be planted in Burgundy.

For centuries there was a vocal pressure to eliminate Gamay, and although it was banished by Philip the Bold in 1395, peasants continued to grow on the slopes through the end of the 19th century. In Morey“Of the 160 hectares under vine,” Auguste Luchet wrote in 1858, “90 are planted to Gamay.” Later in the text, he would write: “Gevrey has about four hundred hectares of vineyards, half in Gamay and one in Pinol (Noirien) mixed with a little white.”

According to Marion Fourcade, an associate professor at UC Berkeley, there were “periodic local ordinances” eradicate Gamay in vineyards of the Côte d’Or. In her paper,“The Vile and the Noble” (2012), Fourcade briefly mentions that those who pushed to expunge Gamay alleged its cultivation promoted various unspecified “health dangers”. As an economic problem, Gamay’s critics charged that its cultivation contributed to an increase in the fraudulent bottling of Gamay as Pinot Noir, or alternately, it was accused that Gamay was illegitimately blended with Pinot Noir. This no doubt occurred. But, as previously believe in the preceding centuries, Gamay was, in general, unworthy of the region.

LavalleDr Jules Lavalle, in his 1855 book, “Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne de Grands Vins de la Côte-d’Or, which was revered by many, calls Gamay “common,” and “ordinary,” claiming Gamay had “invaded hilltops and flatlands all around”. (Forcade 2012)   “God knows how awfully active the vulgar plant has been in driving away the fine plant, and what progress it makes every day! Our ancestors would have been appalled!” As translated by Fourcade.  In Charles Curtis’s translation of Lavalle (in which I did not find the aforementioned quote) in his book the “Original Grand Crus of Burgundy”, Lavalle writes “The vines planted in Gamay cover more than 23,000 hectares,(1) which one meets under the name of plante Mâlain,  plante d’Arcenant plant de Bévy” Additionally Lavalle condemns that “The yield can often extend to 50 and even 60 hectoliters per hectare.”

The choice to plant Gamay was surely decided, however, not by the ideological mindset, or by social consciousness, but rather by the wealth of the vigneron. The poor farmer could simply not afford the high-stakes gamble of Pinot Noir presented, with its pitifully small production of 18 hectoliters per hectare (Lavalle 1855), and its inability to consistently ripen its fruit completely  The peasant could not afford a single failed vintage, that the high-risk Pinot Noir grapes delivered this result on a fairly consistent basis.*

Moreover, Pinot, with its thin skin was particularly prone to rot and disease, it was far more difficult to make into a competent wine. In some years, Pinot vines would produce a completely unsalable crop. The wealthy landowning farmer (a fermier – as opposed to a vigneron) could take such a gamble with virtual impunity, because when it the Pinot crop paid off, the dividends of producing a great wine, far outstripped the losses incurred by poor to very poor vintages. The incredible demand (and payday) for wines from great vineyards, in these great years, continues to this day.

(*) It is not without note that the little ice-age, (which dates are contested) is generally thought to have begun in the 1300’s, and ended around 1850. Additional weather variations occurred, with extremely low temperatures materializing with disastrous effect in 1660 1709, 1740 and 1794/1795 and the last in the year 1850.

Grains are still a major crop in the Cote d'Or

Grains are still a major crop in the Côte d’Or. Here, adjacent to vineyards that produce Bourgogne Rouge on the outskirts of Gevrey, wheat, rye, corn and barley are regularly planted and harvested. photo googlemaps.com

The paysan of the Côte, a poly-cultiveur

While we think of only vines on the slopes of the Côte d’Or, the vineyards of the early to mid 18th century, were typically a polyculture. It was common for the vines to share the slopes with animals, fruit trees, and vegetable plots, depending on the site. (Swann 2003) However, as the 18th century progressed, economics would begin to crowd out polyculture off of the slopes.

Below the vines of the great vineyard slopes, upon low-lying fields, grew all manner of foods, particularly grains. Rye which grew well on the poor soils of northern France, corn, wheat and barley were widely grown; and in personal gardens next to their houses, the peasants often grew vegetables. It is well documented that the lower third of Clos St-Jacques was planted to alfalfa until 1954, but it is likely that it had been home to many different crops over the centuries.

Very few ‘vignerons’ during the 18th century actually worked solely with the vine, and those that did, according to historian Benoit Garnot, were in decline in the 18th century. He laments bleakly that “the tired qualification ‘winemaker’ seems to be socially rewarding.” (Garnot 2008)

Busby wrote, in 1840, that in vignerons in Chambertin would rip out dying provignage vines (which only survived ten years or so), and let the land fallow while being planted to sainfoin, a cover crop that flourishes on calcareous (limestone) soils. Planting sainfoin had dual benefits: it not only would the crop rejuvenated the topsoil with an infusion of nitrogen but it also the sainfoin was a good feed for their grazing animals. Those vignerons that had a cow or two, had them tended by a communal herder who took them to field for the day and returned them to the owner at night.

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), Vineyard laborer resting, 1869

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), Vineyard laborer resting, 1869

The fall harvest season was unrelenting and well-reported as being extreme in the exhaustion it created.  By the end of August, all of the rye, which was an important crop in the poor soils of north-eastern France, and the summer wheat, had already been harvested. Also already harvested were the other major crops, which included barley, colza, which is also known as rape, or rapeseed, was grown for lubricants, and hemp  (not to be confused with its relative cannabis), was also grown for seed, oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper and, in this north-eastern region. (U.S.Gov. Printing Office 1888) This would give the paysan a month for the grape harvest, before the planting of winter wheat, which would begin straight away in October, after pressing and barreling of the new wine.

Centuries of stagnant agricultural practices

It is widely accepted that during the ancien regime, few improvement in farming had come to France. The tasks of the cultiveur were done in the least expensive manner; just as their fathers and grandfathers, and as well their great-great grandfathers had farmed the same land.

To the English agronomist Arthur Young, who visited Burgundy and elsewhere in France on the eve of the revolution, the inefficiencies of French agriculture was “quite contemptible’. He was so critical of French farming methods as to say that even the large capitalist farms were “villainous cultivated’. As far as investing in capitalization farming given the French methods, he declared “If I had a large tract of this country, I think I should not be long in making a fortune’.(Swan 2003)

Change was painfully slow, despite attempts by Dijon to push the people to adopt them. The problem really came down to money, and the peasants had none to invest in the changes necessary. A Burgundian representative to the National Constituent Assembly, during the first stages of the Revolution, explained the failure of previous attempts at agricultural reform:

“Oh you who complain of the intractability of the peasant when he refuses to adopt your new ploughs, your new seed drills…your deep furrows, your doses of fertilizer that are four times greater than what he can afford, before tripling his expenses in the uncertain hope of a tripled harvest, begin by putting him in a state of being able to buy clogs for his children.”

 

wheat fields Van Gough

 Up Next: The Villagers of the 18th Century

 


Additional Notes:

(1) Life was short and death rates of children under the age of ten were high. Because of this, and the general lack of excess money homes traditionally multi-generational. There will be much more about life and death on the Gold Coast in upcoming chapters.

(2) Charles Curtis, in his book “The Original Grand Crus of Burgundy”, takes these hectare figures, printed in Lavalle, at face value, and proceeds to discuss how they might be accurate. However, I feel, that they are as just as likely, a misprint,  so far off from the hectares, as they exist today, even taking into consideration the loss of so much vineyard land, post-phylloxera, that was never replanted around Dijon. One might also view these figures to be considered a fabrication, as a call to action against the Gamay scourge. Words are weapons. Because there appears to be no other at the ready figures of Gamay and Pinot Noir acreage planted in the Cote d’Or to compare Lavalle’s figures with, I choose to bypass the issue altogether. It isn’t all that germane enough to the already too wide of a scope of these writings, to deal with something I can’t bring to an adequate conclusion about. There are other fish to fry.

 

 


 

Reference Sources for Burgundy: History of the Vignerons: The Villages parts I – IV 

La Côte-d’Or à vol d’oiseau: lettres écrites à M.L. Havin, après la récolte, Auguste Luchet 1858

Gevrey-Chambertin: notice historique, topographique et statistique, suivie de promenade à Fixin, by Henri Vienne 1850

Journal of a Tour through some of the vineyards of Spain and France, James Busby, Sydney 1833

Peasant Proprietors and other selected essays,  Lady Frances Parthenope Verney Longmans, Green, 1885 –

L’état de la recherche sur la vigne, le vin et les vignerons en Bourgogne au XVIIIe siècle, Benoit Garnot,  2008

The Peasants and the King in Burgundy, Hilton Root, University of California Press, 1992

Evolution du Métayage en France, L. Durousseau-Dugontie, Impr. Crauffon, 1905

Centre d’Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin, Charlotte Glain-Fromont,  Bulletin de liaison Bulletin 30 janv-fev 2012.pdf

 LES Climats du vignoble de Bourgogne Dossier de candidature à L’INSCRIPTION SUR LA LISTE DU PATRIMOINE MONDIAL DE L’UNESCO Janvier 2012

Communities of Grain: Rural Rebellion in Comparative Perspective Victor V. Magagna Cornell University Press 1991

Infant and Child Mortality in Eighteenth Century France: A Function of Income? Hajime Hadeishi,  Bureau of Economics Federal Trade Commission, cliometrics.org 2010

Harvest Failures, Jennifer Llewellyn and Steve Thompson, 2015 Alphahistory.com

Cattle and Dairy Farming Part 1 United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1888 –

The Peasantry in the French Revolution P. M. Jones, Cambridge University Press, 1988

Peasant and French: Cultural Contact in Rural France During the Nineteenth CenturyJames R. Lehning Cambridge University Press, 1995

Insofar as the ruby wine seduces them’: Cultural Strategies for Selling Wines in Interwar Burgundy,” Contemporary European History 18.1 Philip Whalen (2009)

The Vile and the Noble: On the Relation between Natural and Social Classifications in the French Wine World, Marion Fourcade,  Sociological Quarterly 2012

Aristocracy, Antiquity, and History: An Essay on Classicism in Political ThoughtA. A. M. Kinneging Transaction Publishers, 1997

Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment By Michel Delon, Routledge 2013

Provincial Power and Absolute Monarchy: The Estates General of Burgundy 1661–1790 Julian Swann, Cambridge University Press  2003

History and Climate: Memories of the Future? Phil D. Jones, A.E.J. Ogilvie, T.D. Davies, K.R. Briffa Springer Science & Business Media, Apr 17, 2013

The Decline of Childhood Mortality Kenneth Hill. Department of Population Dynamics School of Hygiene and Public Health Johns Hopkins University 1990

The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography Graham Robb W. W. Norton & Company2008

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy Part 4.5, Soil retention – the farming of Burgundy in the 1800s

Ancien Régime

A historical explanation for Les Damaudes’ retention of clay

 

Click to enlarge. Many thanks to Steen Ohman, of Winehog.org for supplying the Cadastre map of 1827

Click to enlarge. Many thanks to Steen Ohman, of Winehog.org for supplying me with the Cadastre Map of 1827

Changes in parcel division and parcel orientation

While there is no specific information regarding the history of Les Damaudes prior to 1952, the cadastre map of 1827* indicates that the vineyard was planted to vine at that time and that it’s division and orientation was very different in 1827 than it is today. This map indicates that at some point between 1927 and 1952, there was a total reorganization of both parcels and ownership. This reorganization also suggests that the owners of the parcels had abandoned this land. Had there been a continuity of ownership, there would be at least some continuity of plot divisions. Instead, the study plot cleaves through multiple plots shown in the 1927 cadastre.

The Ouvrée, the balk, and soil preservation

Many of the plots indicated by the map, were very small. The size itself is indicative of ownership by peasant farmers.  These small parcels were the remnants of the ancien régime; the open field system that created and dictated the agricultural fabric of France for over seven centuries. At the time of the revolution, a full third of Burgundian agricultural land was farmed under the manorial system and was converted to peasant ownership. (Loutchisky 1911)

Additionally, some of the larger parcels of Les Damaudes were oriented horizontally to the slope, so the rows followed the hillside.  These parcels were large enough and long enough to suggest they may have been plowed. These larger plots were traditionally sized by the amount land a man could work in a day with a pair of plow animals, were measured in ouvrées.(1) These larger plots, with their long, narrow horizontal orientation would not have allowed nearly the high rate of erosion as similarly sized vertical plantings of today do. Secondly, because these horizontal plots were relatively narrow, erosion was again curtailed, as storm water runoff would have been slowed by these closely spaced divisions.

 

paysan

All across Europe, serfs and villeins (freeman tenants) (2)  tended their plots, known as selions, just as they had for over seven centuries. Selions were traditionally divided by a raised, strip of fallow land called a balk indicating the end or beginning of one man’s plot and the beginning of another. The word balk (to pause or not proceed) originated from this practice of plot division.

Any break in vineyard planting, like plot divisions, roads, and walls, all have been shown to slow runoff by diminishing its velocity, thus easing the pressures of erosion.  So the small size of these parcels alone would have deterred erosion, but if these plots were additionally bordered by any kind of balk, these would obstacles would have minimized the velocity of the runoff. There is evidence that balks did exist in Burgundian vineyards, as Jim Busby Esquiredescribes walking along “grassy footpaths” while visiting the vineyard of Chambertin in 1840.  It is reasonable to conclude the small parcel divisions of Damodes, each likely separated by a balks or footpaths, were huge contributors to the fact that such a high percentage of clay was retained in this steep vineyard.

One foot in feudalism

At the time of the Revolution, feudalism, although waning, still existed in various forms. So on the heels of the French Revolution in 1789, when the National Assembly released all of the demesne (domaines) of King Louis XVI, the serfs and freemen tenants who farmed these lands were given the title of the plots they had farmed before the Revolution. This action would affect a quarter of the farmland in France, although in Burgundy this figure was higher. The royal demesne constituted 35% of the agricultural land in Burgundy at the time of the revolution, while it is estimated that church held the title of an additional 11% to 15% (Loutchisky 1911). This acts also released France’s 150,000 serfs, almost all of which had belonged to the Church. (Sée 1927)

Initially, the peasants were to pay for the release of seigneurial dues, but as the peasants could not pay with money they did not have, these release fees were withdrawn by the National Assembly in 1793. With a mere 38 years separating the revolution and the production of the 1827 cadastre map, it is likely that some of the owners of these plots had been former villien (freeman tenants) and were still working plots they had gained because of the revolution.(3)  

*For additional explanation of feudalism see Part 4: The history of erosion and man.

After the dissolution of traditional "demesne," or domaines of the Marquis and the church, peasants were given the rights to the land that they had always farmed as serfs. These parcels were called selions. After the phylloxera destroyed their vineyards, many of these peasant owners could not afford to replant their vineyards. A number of these lesser vineyards were not replanted for almost a century. Here an Image of a peasant girl resting, is from the Paris Salon circa 1893.

After the dissolution of traditional “demesne,” or domaines of the Marquis and the church, peasants were given the rights to the land that they had always farmed as serfs. These parcels were called selions. After the phylloxera destroyed their vineyards, many of these peasant owners could not afford to replant their vineyards. A number of these lesser vineyards were not replanted for almost a century. Here an Image of a peasant girl resting is from the Paris Salon circa 1893.

Although they were now landowners, rather than landholders, the peasant’s lot had not significantly changed. The wealthiest of them could earn a living off of the land as farmers, either on their own or in co-op with others as métayers. Many continued to struggle for sustenance, working also as day laborers, or worked a side trade (Henri Sée 1927).

In some ways, many of farmers were to be worse off for it for the dissolution of the feudal system, which through its evolution, had allowed significant freedom, and did not generally entail servitude. Additionally, the dues owed by the tenant farmers were far less burdensome than they had been in the middle ages, consisting of rent and a few days of compulsory labor on the nobles demesne (Sée 1927). Within this feudal framework, the Seigneur provided communally shared horses and plows, which all laborers used to make the work their fields.

With the removal of the feudal system, the peasant needed to provide his own tools, and that included the use of any plow animal.

A pair of oxen cost 300 to 400 francs at the time Busby visited France in 1840, and for all but the wealthiest peasants, this was an unfathomable price to pay for an animal.  Plows were also an expensive piece of equipment. Since a man with a pair of plow animals could work roughly six to eight times the area, than a man without one, the loss of access to a horse and plow predictably would have significant implications for the peasant farmer.  They now must attempt to use a shovel and hoe to try to farm the same area of land they had as a villein using the seigneur’s horse and plow. This loss of productivity (in terms of area) would require the peasants to either hire workers to help work their fields or sell (or lease) land they were not physically able to work by hand. If there was a positive side to this, having to hand-work these small plots was an additional factor in the preservation clay in the vineyard of Les Damaudes.

24,000 or more vines per hectare

It was either the small size of plots or the inability to buy plow animals (or both), that encouraged Burgundy’s farmers to literally fill every empty space of a vineyard with vines. It was common at the time, for Burgundian vineyards to achieve planting densities of 24,000 to 30,000 vines per hectare.

When visiting the great vineyard of Chambertin, James Busby recorded that in the half-hectare plots there,  a mere 15 inches of spacing existed between each vine. This was true not only between plants within a single row but between rows as well. Busby wrote that “The plants were literally crowded to such a degree, that it was almost impossible to set down the foot without treading upon some of them.” It would be seemingly impossible to plow a vineyard with such spacing, which meant all vineyard work would have to be accomplished with a hoe.

provignage illustrationThe peasant would achieve this enormous number of vines, essentially for free, by a technique called layering or provignage. This was the poor man’s answer to using cuttings, which were by then, being bred in nurseries from clones scientist had discovered to be resistant to various diseases. The cuttings were however very expensive and often used sparingly even by more wealthy land owners, only one cutting used for every three vines established. The other vines would be grown via provignage from the purchased cutting.

To perform layering or provignage, a trench was dug from a healthy plant to the location where the farmer wanted to establish a new plant.  He would then bury a cane or shoot of the vine into the furrow he had dug, with a layer of manure and then cover this with soil. Over the course of the next year, the buried cane (shoot) would develop roots of its own, and the vigneron would separate the two vines by cutting off the cane that started the new plant. Alternately, the two vines could be left adjoined, and in many places, there could be several of these Siamese vines connected to one another. The vineyardist would attempt to regulate the rows to be as straight as possible, but layering created such irregularity that Busby recalled that “it would have been very difficult to point out which way the alignment lay. For this purpose, the stocks and roots were twisted, and the different plants laid across each other in every possible direction.”

for a poor man, the game, or, as it was generally called, the large plant, was undoubtedly the best kind of vine, the quantity it yielded was so much greater than the other; and, to a poor man, the quality was not so much an object, for the large proprietors and merchants would never acknowledge his wine to be a fine one, and it was very difficult to sell it for a high price, however good.”
Journal of a Recent Visit to the Vineyards of Spain and France, James Busby Esq. 1840

According to Busby, a plant grown by provignage would produce grapes in its first year. However, the vines would become weak in 10 to 15 years time and would need to be replaced. This meant the 19th-century vineyard was in constant state tearing out and replanting.  In vineyards such as Chambertin, which produced exponentially more expensive wine, the vineyard owner could often afford lay fallow sections in which vines were removed. These fallow areas were then planted to sainfoin,  a cover crop that could be used to feeding horses, while simultaneously rejuvenating the soil with nitrogen that had been depleted by overcrowding the field (domaine in French) with vines. This alternate use would last for four years, and represented a significant cost, and could only be sustained by a vineyard that produced a wine that fetched high prices in the marketplace. This would not have been true of a vineyard such as Les Damaudes.

It is clear, that as of 1860, there were many vineyards in which the soils were still in relatively good shape, because of the farming methods of the time. There has been some historical record of vineyards, as early as the 1600’s, that required their soils to be replaced, (presumably due to rill and gully erosion) to cover exposed base rock. The tremendous expense of bringing in soils indicates that this erosion occurred in larger vineyards owned by a wealthy marquis or another nobleman, the church, or later, a member of the growing bourgeoisie, who would dominate the

sulpher treatmentsThis set the stage for the introduction of phylloxera to France and Burgundy. It would be too simple of a story to phylloxera wiped out the vineyards of France and eventually the vineyards were replanted with root-stock from American hybrids. While most accounts of the phylloxera blight in terms of total dollars lost and businesses going under; as in all economic downturns, there are those who lose everything, and those losses create opportunities for others. And that is the story of Les Damaudes. We know there was a wholesale change of plot ownership and re-organization parcel disbursement in the vineyard, that occurred sometime between 1827 and 1952. While precisely when and how remains a mystery, but there is no doubt that phylloxera played a large role in this story.

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), Vineyard laborer resting, 1869

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), Vineyard laborer resting, 1869

When phylloxera arrived on the doorstep of the Côte d’Or in 1775, it was clear that a peasant would not be able to withstand the loss of their vines. The peasant, who depended on every Franc for their day-to-day survival, could not afford the chemicals to treat the vines. They could in no way spend a year’s labor tearing our their vineyard. This was an impossibility. And they certainly could not afford the 3000 Francs per hectare it cost in 1880 to replant the vineyard. It almost seems silly at this point to mention they would not be able to afford to labor in the vineyards for the four years that the young vines would produce no fruit.  If they were lucky they would own other plots of land that produced produce or wheat that could sustain them. Otherwise, these peasants were likely many of the 1 million Frenchmen who would emigrate to Algeria or America in the 1870’s through 1900.

Ironically, as the grape growing peasantry was forced to leave their land in phylloxera affected areas, economically, in France, things were improving. For the unskilled worker, wages increased  2/3’s between 1850 and 1910. During the same period, GDP doubled, despite France’s involvement in the Crimean war and the disastrous Franco-Prussian war of 1870 which saw the fall of the Napoleon III and the second Republic. Likely, it was France’s continued imperial pursuits of colonizing parts of Africa and Asia artificially buoyed they French economy, but whatever the reason, the economic up-turn caused a growth in demand for wine and rising prices, and this promise of demand would justify replanting the most profitable of vineyards immediately.

Hopefully, this long, historical explanation of why the soils of Les Damaudes (and likely those in Cros Parantoux) retained their natural levels of clay, may seem reasonable. In my view, the retention of clay was two-fold.  Number one: the vineyard was farmed in small divided sections, and farmed by hand. Additionally, the larger parcels were oriented horizontally, limiting the distance between plots on the vertical axis. These larger plots or may not have been plowed in the 1800’s; but if they were, because of the plot shape, could only have been done across the slope, following the curve of the hillside. This would have limited erosion. Secondly, like Cros Parantoux, this vineyard likely lay abandoned for a lengthy enough period that ownership of the vineyard was reapportioned. The most obvious period for this to have happened was from the early 1880s when phylloxera struck to 1952 when this parcel was planted.

 

 

I defer to Steen Öhman author of winehog.org, who has carefully researched the available history – primarily ownership – of Cros Parantoux . Read his article here.

 


 

(1) The Burgundy Report has a breakdown of land that is significantly different than found in the book, Measures and Men Witold Kula  Princeton University Press (1986). Bill Nasson reports that an “Ouvrée is 4.285 ares; the area one man could work in one day” and a “Journal  equals 8 ouvrées, or 860 perches, or 81.900 ares and was the area one man could work in one day with a horse and plough.” This is very different than Kula’s writing that an ouvrée was a vineyard specific measurement that Burgundian used for the area that a man could work with a pair of plow animals, and a journeaux in Burgundy referred specifically to the size of a cornfield a man could work with a pair of plow animals. I was unable to find further supporting evidence for either account.

(2) Serfs of France had largely been “enfranchised” over the course of the middle ages. But this varied on where and when since control of France was spread over various Duchies. To give a general time frame when enfranchisement was occurring, Charles the Fair emancipated the serfs of Languedoc in two letters from 1298 and 1304. Upon gaining freeman status, serfs became villeins (this is where the word villain came from, meaning: scoundrel or criminal). They may have been enfranchised but in many ways, their situation had not changed all that significantly. As tenant farmers, they were still legally bound to the manor where they were tenants. They paid ‘rent’ either in the form of money or produce, and owed the noble of the manor a certain number of days of unfree labor each year, referred to as Corvée. This was simply a form of barter between the tenant and the nobleman. A similar arrangement is the sharecropping agreements referred to as métayage, meaning half.  This is another form of barter agreement, where the lease payment is in the form of a percentage of the product of the vineyard, in either grapes or wine.

(3) The life expectancy in France in 1828 was 37 years, thanks in part to the smallpox vaccinations that began in 1810. Earlier, in the 18th century half of all children died before the age of 10 years old, lowering the average life expectancy in the 1700’s to only 25 years. The period of the Napoleonic Wars, 1803 to 1815, saw a drop in average age to below 30 years. This happened again in 1870 following the disastrous (for France) Franco-Prussian, when the Napoleon III was captured, and Paris would later fall Germans January of 1871, in Bismark’s successful bid for German unification.

 

Additional reading

A History of French Public Law, Volume 9,  Jean Brissaud p. 317-318 Ulan Press (1923)

Economic and Social Conditions in France During the Eighteenth Century Henri Sée Professor at the University of Rennes 1927

http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9479.pdf     European Wine on the Eve of the Railways, James Simpson

 

Jerome Hasenpflug Serves Up Serious Burgundy Writing

 

writing problems

burkinsandyaris.com

My next article is taking a significant amount of time to figure out how all the pieces fit together, and is now requiring a bit of research as well.

In the meantime, here is an excellent write up of what we can expect from well regarded 2014 vintage in Burgundy.  Recent years have provided us with a true bounty of remarkable Burgundy!

Jerome Hasenpflug has posted some really terrific Burgundy reportage over the past years.  This ‘walk through’ Burgundy in this piece that he wrote last year really gives an idea of what the terroir and vineyard conditions are like in each famous local.

Below is a sizable section of his good work, or better yet, click on the link to his page.

http://amitiesjerome.com/2014/08/

CHASING THE SUN: CHENOVE TO CHOREY IN VINTAGE 2014

While the television coverage of President Francois Hollande’s dismissal of the French government and Prime Minister Valls scrambling to form another was non-stop speculation and spin, the main thing on people’s minds here in Burgundy is the weather.  The outgoing Economic Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, denounced austerity and conservatism, claimed modern Europe has been in economic crisis since 1929, quoted St. Augustine, and the French markets responded with the Bourse up nearly 3% in a couple days.  The French government may look to the left for a solution to stagnation and unemployment, but the farmers and growers of France’s most important agricultural export look to the skies.  Too bad all the hot air generated by the politicians, spin doctors, and talking heads can’t change the jet stream and bring us some true summer weather!

After a wonderfully sunny week, showers returned on Saturday evening August 23rd.  Sunday was a superb late summer day, with brilliant sunshine and magnificently warm but not too hot temperatures.  It was perfect for the international baseball tournament and country-western line dancing at the Journees Americain in Fenay, just east of Dijon, which I attended.  Unfortunately, by late evening thick clouds had moved in from the west, and the night brought rain.  Monday morning brought drear and drizzle, with weather more appropriate to late October than late August.  It is cool, damp, and grey here in the Cote d’Or.  Monday evening brought rain and Tuesday morning the fog and clouds covered the upper slopes of the Cote d’Or and and a steady rain drenched the region.  As I write the sky is clearing a bit, and the wind is picking up out of the west.  The forecast is for continued unsettled weather.

After writing about the prospects for the harvest in the southern part of the Cote d’Or, with another post devoted to the illustriousGrands Crus, it is time to consider the northern part of the region, the regional, village, and 1ers Crus north of the A6 motorway, from the suburbs of Dijon to the outskirts of Beaune.

 

 

BROCHON and GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN

I was having a quiet Saturday afternoon at my Domaine Henri Richard gite in Gevrey on June 28th, when the skies suddenly darkened, the wind began to howl, and the rain began to pour in sheets.  What really got my attention was that a bit of this downpour was bouncing.  It was hailing.  Gevrey-Chambertin did not get too much hail that day, but curiosity forced me into my car and onto theRoute de Grands Crus, where I then encountered another few waves of the storms that were moving in from the south.

There is some damage to the vineyards and fruit in Gevrey, but nothing compared to the devastation further south, which I have already reported in previous posts.  Gevrey growers tell me that 5 to 10% of their crop was lost to the hail, but at the moment, most expect a fairly normal, average-sized crop, because the vines were carrying a fairly copious fruit set, and the recent rains have swollen the grapes significantly.  The key to 2014 will be the weather between now and September 15th, when many growers forecast the harvest will begin.  A rigorous selection at harvest and again in the winery will be required to keep quality at the levels that recent prices command.

Brochon
Beautiful fruit in Brochon, whose southern parcels are classified AOP Gevrey-Chambertin
Brochon Water Windmill
Brochon also has a wonderful engineering curiosity, a 19th century wind-powered water pump
As in many areas that were hit quickly, hail damage in Gevrey was predominantly on the southern sides of vines
As in many areas that were hit quickly, hail damage in Gevrey was mostly on the southern sides of vines
Gev Just
Excellent results in the Gevrey village lieu-dit of Les Justices
Gev Tamisot
Pierre Damoy’s Gevrey village Monopole Clos Tamisot with a fine set of fruit
Gev Cherb Pretty
Getting there, but a little behind the ripening curve in this Gevrey village plot
Gev North
Beautiful ripening at veraison mid-August in Gevrey village Aux Corvees
Gev Champ
Variations in ripening at Gevrey 1er Cru Champeaux
Gev StJ Damage
This will need sorting and a strict selection in 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques
Gev StJ Ripe
Lovely fruit, also in Gevrey 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques
Gev StJ Muddy
But a bit wet in Clos St. Jacques at the bottom of the slope with fewer stones
Gev Clos Pr
Lovely fruit in 1er Cru Clos des Varoilles
Gev Cherb damage
A bit of damage in 1er Cru Cherbaudes

 

Gev Perr Probs
Problems here in Gevrey 1er Cru Les Perriere, quite a bit of millerandage, but the adjacent vine at the top right of the photo looks fine.

Gevrey-Chambertin should deliver a fine quantity and quality of fruit in 2014 if the weather improves.  The next few weeks will determine the quality of the vintage, but there is plenty of fruit for producers to work with here.

MOREY ST. DENIS

I have always liked the wines of Morey.  To me they show an accentuated minerality, a flavor almost like the iron accents in blood, or the smell of mecurochrome that my mother would put on an abrasion when I skinned my knees or elbows.  I have been told that Morey has an inordinate amount of manganese in its soils, which might account for the high-toned, tart dark fruit flavors that I associate with Morey St. Denis.  Damage here was minimal, and the growers here should be happy if the clouds lift and the sun shines.

Morey Clos des Ormes (2)
Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Clos des Ormes
Morey PV 1
An amazing vine with some lovely fruit: Morey villages lieu-dit Pierre Vivant
Morey Luisants Chard (2)
Chardonnay in the heights of Morey: 1er Cru Monts Luisants
Morey Luisants PN
Some lovely Pinot Noir in 1er Cru Monts Luisants as well
Morey Ruch (2)
A good set here in Morey 1er Cru Les Ruchots
Morey Rue de Vergy
Morey villages lieu-dit en la Rue de Vergy above Clos de Tart: secondary crop above, culled fruit below. Experienced pickers only required!

CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY

As mentioned in a previous post, Musigny, at the knoll  of the hill just above Clos de Vougeot, was significantly impacted by hail.  Damage north of the village was quite limited except in the upper slopes nearBonnes Mares, but moving south towards 1ers Crus Les Amoureusesand Les Charmes more sustained damage appears.  I would estimate losses of 35% in some Chambolle vineyards.

CM Sentiers
A few millerandes, but a fine spread in Chambolle 1er Cru Les Sentiers
CM Cras
Lovely spacing in Chambolle 1er Cru Les Cras
CM Plantes (3)
A splendid vine in Chambolle 1er Cru Les Plantes
CM New Amour
Domaine Bertagna’s new plantation at top right of photo, newly built terraces of Chambolle 1er Cru Les Amoureuses above Monopole Clos de La Perriere
CM Amour
A bit of hail damage, and not much fruit on this Chambolle 1er Cru Les Amoureuses vine

Chambolle-Musigny has always been a favorite village for me.  Its elegance and suave flavors remind me of a darker style of Volnay, more sultry, like Lauren Bacall compared to Catherine Denueve.  Good results can be expected here if the weather will cooperate, though hail damage in the southern parcels was significant, reducing the crop by 25 to 35%.

VOUGEOT and FLAGEY_ECHEZEAUX

Outside of their distinguished Grands Crus, there are not many parcels of vines in Vougeot or Flagey to talk about.  Vougeot has 3 hectares of vines classified as villages, and almost 12 hectares of 1ers Crus parcels to complement the 50 hectares of Clos de Vougeot.  The only non-Grand Cru property in Flagey-Echezeax is classified asAppellation Vosne-Romanee Protegee.  These parcels sustained some heavy damage from the hail, especially parcels higher on the slope, including the two Monopoles, Clos de La Perriere (Domaine Bertagna) and Clos Blanc de Vougeot (Boisset’s Domaine de la Vougeraie), where I estimate 40% of the crop was lost.  The Vougeot 1ers Crus Les Petits Vougeot and Les Cras were less affected, as were the smallvillages parcels.

20140817_170419
Vougeot 1er Cru Monopole Clos de La Perriere showing damage & millerandage

VOSNE-ROMANEE

Unfortunately, Vosne-Romanee, the village where, according to Thomas Jefferson, “there are no ordinary wines”, was substantially impacted by the hail, and I have written of the damage to the Grands Crus in a previous post.  Yet other vines in Vosne-Romanee were also badly damaged, particularly northern, upper parcels of the 1ers Crus Les Suchots and Les Beaux Monts.  Again, fruit on the southern side of the vines was more damaged, but a fair bit of fine fruit clusters remain to be harvested.

VR Such
Damaged clusters were removed in this parcel of Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Suchots
VR BM South
Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts south side of vine
VR BM
Same parcel from the opposite, northern side with less damage

Further south, and down the slope adjacent to and below La Tache,things appear fairly good, with an abundant crop ripening nicely.

VR Mal
Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Malconsorts in fine form
VR CdReas (3)
A very fine result in Vosne 1er Cru Monopole Clos des Reas (Domaine Michel Gros)
VR CdReas
Uneven ripening, millerandes, but no hail damage in Clos des Reas

Moving further south into Vosne-Romanee villages appellations, at the Nuits St. Georges border about 10 to 15% losses in vines seems to have been the average.  Again, the fruit clusters on the south sides of the rows of vines were most affected by the hail.

VR aReas South
South side hail damage in Vosne-Romanee village parcel, here at Aux Reas
VR a Reas
Much more attractive (and riper) fruit on the north side, again Aux Reas

Occasionally in the Cote d’Or one still comes across vineyards like the one pictured below, showing the effects of using herbicide treatments on several rows of vines.  While I recognize that Les Bourguignons are fiercely proud, independent people, with huge, compassionate hearts, I simply do not understand how one’s neighbors can tolerate the continued use of poison in these treasured vines.  This is an abominable cruelty to agriculture.

VR Desherbes
Herbicide poisons in use to kill grass, weeds, and who knows what (or who) else in these vines

NUITS ST. GEORGES and PREMEAUX-PRISSEY

The town of Nuits St. Georges and the village of Premeaux-Prissey, which is entitled to the appellation of Nuits St. Georges, constitute one of the largest vineyard appellations in the entire Cote d’Or, with over 178 hectares of villages and 147 hectares of 1ers Crus shared between them.  There are no Grands Crus in Nuits St. Georges, but there are a lot of excellent wines produced here.  As throughout most of the Cote, the finest terroirs are mid-slope, where they enjoy excellent exposure to the sun, great drainage, and a superb mixture of calcaire stones and rich, nutrient and mineral-laden soils.

Hail was not an insignificant factor in the Nuits St. Georges appellations, but I would estimate only spotty losses of 5 to 10%.  Where there was damage, it was again on the south side of vines, with the northern sides showing abundant and fine fruit clusters. Millerandage seems to have been fairly significant, with quite a few older vines showing substantial shot berries in their bunches.

NSG Vill
Uneven ripening and a few millerandes, here in Nuits villages Au Bas de Combe
NSG Boud (2)
Nuits 1er Cru Boudots, two vines with differing ripening schedules
NSG Dam (3)
A lovely vine with superb fruit in Nuits 1er Cru Les Damodes
NSG Murg
A very fine crop in Nuits 1er Cru Les Murgers
NSG Pruliers
Abundance in Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers
NSG Roncieres (2)
Lovely old vines fruit in Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Ronciere
NSG Porets
Quite a bit of damage in 1er Cru Clos du Porrets St. Georges just south of Ronciere

 

NSG LSG (2)
Two closely intertwined vines showing millerandes, a bit of hail damage, and secondary growth (at the top right side of photo) in 1er Cru Les St. Georges
NSG LSG
A much better set in this part of 1er Cru Les St. Georges, nearly uniform ripening
NSG Chard CDFST Prem TB
Some lovely white grapes in the upper parcel of Nuits Monopole 1er Cru Clos des Forets St. Georges (Domaine de L’Arlot).  Are these Chardonnay or their delightful Pinot Beurrot?
NSG Arg North
A fine result on the north side of 1er Cru Clos des Argillieres, a ways to go to ripen
NSG Arguil
Not so fine, with some damage, on this southern side of Clos des Argillieres

 

NSG Clos Arlot
The marvelously tilted, roller coaster ride of Nuits 1er Cru Monopole Clos Arlot (Domaine de L’Arlot)
NSG Marech
Nuits 1er Cru Monopole Clos de la Marechale (Domaine J-F Mugnier), beneath the rock piles from the quarry above

I could not get inside to view the vineyards in two of my favorite Nuits St Georges (Premeaux) 1ers Crus Monopoles, the Clos Arlot of Domaine de L’Arlot, and the Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Clos de la Marechale, which I have enjoyed since Faiveley controlled its production.  These adjacent sites in Premeaux-Prissey  express two different sides of Pinot Noir.  I always enjoy the rich dark red fruits and smooth, satisfyingly silky style of Clos de la Marechale, while the more brooding, mineral,  sauvage black fruits of Clos Arlot are fantastic with lamb or game.

COMBLANCHIEN and CORGOLOIN

Today the villages of Comblanchien and Corgoloin may be more well known for their marble stone, quarried from some of the Cote d’Or’s hardest limestone rock, but I predict that there will soon be some newly popular producers, lieux dits, and wines from these attractive vineyards around the major rock industry of Burgundy.

With prices for all Burgundy escalating, it may soon be impossible to offer a Cote de Nuits village wine by the glass in many top restaurants.  However, the Appellation Cote de Nuits-Villages Protegeewines from Comblanchien and Corgoloin can fill that void for high quality Pinot Noir at a reasonable tariff.  I, for one, am excited to see the appearance of a few lieux-dits names on the labels of some of these villages’ better producers.  Jean-Marc Millot’s Aux Fauques, from Comblanchien, and the Domaine d’Ardhuy’s CorgoloinMonopole Clos des Langres, are two examples of Cote de Nuits-Villages at its best.

Comblanchien (2)
An excellent crop in the Comblanchien Cote de Nuits-Villages site Aux Fauques
Corgo Ardhuy
Old vines with fine fruit in Corgoloin Monopole Clos des Langres
Comblanchien Monument
A sad memorial at the church of Comblanchien: the war was nearly finished here when retreating Germans shot eight suspected collaborators and burned 52 houses in the village.

Last Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of one of many atrocities committed by German SS troops as they retreated from the Allies’ advance and inevitable liberation of France.  The memorial at Comblanchien marks that sad night.

Comblanchien and Corgoloin have a long history of viticulture as well.  The Clos des Langres of Corgoloin was planted in the 9th century by monks from the Abbey of Cluny, and remained the property of the Diocese and Bishops of Langres until appropriated by Revolutionary forces at the end of the 18th century.

While the Cotes de Nuits-Villages wines from these villages (as well as those from Fixin and Brochon with the same appellation) may be headed up in price with all the rest of Burgundy’s wines, they still represent an excellent value for the world’s most distinctive Pinot Noir.

ALOXE-CORTON

While this village’s wine production is dominated by its Grands Crus Corton and Corton Charlemagne, there are still nearly 90 hectares ofvillages appellation vines in Aloxe and 37 hectares of 1ers Crusspread between Aloxe and Ladoix.  Hail damage was minimal here, especially as many of the vines are in the lower slope areas of the Corton hill.

Aloxe
Aloxe Corton 1er Cru Les Fournieres
Aloxe Mills
Millerandage in Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru

 

If the sun returns to Burgundy, Aloxe-Corton will be a good source of quality wines in 2014.  There are top producers such as Domaine Antonin Guyon, Domaine Tollot-Beaut, and Domaine Chandon de Briailles bringing very fine wines to market at reasonable prices compared to other villages across the Cote d’Or.  While some wines from the village have a reputation for lightness, these producers’ wines show medium depth of soft cherry fruit, bright acidity, tightly wound minerality, and smoky, bacon-fat aromas that I thoroughly enjoy.

PERNAND-VERGELESSES

For years this village has literally lived in the shadows of the hill of Corton’s illustrious Grands Crus, yet judging by the presence of white and red offerings in the wine bars of Beaune and the surrounding region, Pernand-Vergelesses is in for a time of renewed appreciation.  With one 1er Cru, Sous Fretille, virtually identical in geography and geology to Corton Charlemagne, and other vineyards being the first and the last to grab sun from the sky just adjacent to Savigny, I believe that Pernand-Vergelesses will soon be a brighter star in the Burgundy firmament.

Pernand Sous Fret
Looking down from atop Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Sous Fretilles with the village below
Pernand (2)
Not without some damage in Pernand
Pernand
Some lovely Pernand Chardonnay
Pernand Ile Verg Red
Fine Pinot Noir in Pernand 1er Cru Ile de Vergelesses

As a salesperson I used to refer to Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc as “baby Corton-Chuck”.  The reds can also be delightful bargains, though it seems most of the Pernand offered today is white.  Look for the 1ers Crus of Ile de Vergelesses or Vergelesses, as well as the Sous Fretille.

SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE

It was only last year that Savigny was devasted by hail in July 2013, and the results are empty cellars for some producers from this lovely village.  One producer of Savigny-les-Beaune that I have known for over 25 years told me that they made no 1ers Crus in 2013.  If she is lucky, there will be a fine crop in 2014 to harvest.

Savigny sits in the mouth of a broad valley cut by the River Rhoin.  After the village, the valley opens to the east with some superb vineyards on both the northern and southern sides of the Rhoin.  The broad, open valley is perfectly exposed, and its 1ers Crus are the first and the last to receive the day’s sunshine.  The soils vary from quite stony to a mixture of clay and soil, argilo-calcaire, the essentialterroir of great Burgundy wines.  Aux Guettes, Clous, Serpentieres, Gravains, Les Lavieres, Fournaux, Champs Chevrey, Narbantonsand others all present excellent rapport prix-qualite.

Savigny Goudelettes
Wonderful Savigny fruit from village lieu-dit Les Goudelettes
Savigny Verg
Savigny 1er Cru Vergelesses, above the Pernand 1er Cru Ile de Vergelesses
Savigny Lav
Lovely fruit set in Savigny 1er Cru Les Lavieres
Savigny Guettes (2)
Should be a very fine result in Savigny 1er Cru Clos des Guettes
Savigny Briailles
The beautiful Chateau of Chandon de Briailles, with gardens by Lenotre, who also designed the gardens of Versailles
Savigny Washing & River
Adjacent to the Chateau, Savigny’s lavoir, or communal wash house, with the Rhoin River flowing through.

 

 

 

 

 

Hail damage and millerandage were fairly slight in 2014 in Savigny-les-Beaune.  Yet still, the average for winemakers there is to have made approximately two normal vintages in quantity over the last four years.  Understandably prices will rise, as the lack of wine throughout Burgundy is exerting enormous pressures on price.  But those growers who exercise restraint will find themselves with increasing market share.  The wines of Savigny-les-Beaune still represent value for this buyer’s money.

CHOREY-LES-BEAUNE

This village on the outskirts of Beaune has always been an excellent source for Cote de Beaune-Villages and the village appellation ofChorey-les-Beaune.  Most growers there are producing quality wines at very moderate prices, often not much more than Bourgogne Rouge.  Most of its 154 hectares sit on the eastern side of the former Route Nationale 74, which has been the traditional separation of wheat from chaff in Burgundy.  However, these wines are generally charming: full of Burgundy Pinot Noir flavors and delightfully easy to drink.  My current house quaffing wine is Chorey-les-Beaune from the friendly cousins at Domaine Tollot Beaut.  Delicious!

Chorey (2)
Fine stuff in Chorey-les-Beaune lieu dit Les Beaumonts
Chorey
This photo was taken at 8:22pm on August 18th, 2014. Chorey-les-Beaune is still bathed in sunlight just before sunset. Looking closely, one can see the hot air balloon to the south above the village: a magnificent way to survey the vineyards if the wind is from the south.

This post and previous missives have covered the prospects for the 2014 harvest in the Cote d’Or in some detail, village by village, lieu-dit to Grands Crus from Santenay to the suburbs of Dijon.  If the sun continues to shine, the Cote d’Or should enjoy a fine harvest in 2014.  Some villages, notably northern Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and Beaune, have been devastated by the hailstorms of June 28th, and will suffer greatly from a lack of wine at a period of worldwide increases in demand for wines of authenticity and terroir.  And there is no vineyard area on earth that more fully embodies the concept of terroir than the Cote d’Or.

I still believe that Matt Kramer said it best: ” Memorable wine is as much a map as a taste. It is why wine lovers in general, and Burgundy lovers more than anyone else, spend so much pleasurable effort exploring the distinctions between one vineyard and another. This is why a thirty-one mile strip of land, the Cote d’Or, has captivated wine drinkers for a millenium. Through its wines, one has the sensation of having found a terrestial crossroads, a place where man and plant and planet meet“.  (Emphasis mine, Matt Kramer, Making Sense of Burgundy, 1990).

What the weather brings in the next couple of weeks will only add to the complexity of understanding this incredible place.  I am happy if you enjoy my humble contributions, while I live my dreams in France.

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy: Part 4.2 Erosion: fundamentally changing terroir

Erosion banner

 

 

Erosion is constantly changing the terroir of Burgundy, and in turn, it is altering the weight and character of the wines from virtually every vineyard on the Côte. How significant is erosion in Burgundy today? As mentioned in Part 4.1, a study during the late 1990’s measured the soil loss in unspecified vineyards of Vosne-Romanée to be 1 mm per year, and the same erosional levels were measured off of the vineyards of Aloxe-Corton.  Ath that alarming rate, losses over the next century would have averaged 10 centimeters or almost 4 inches of topsoil if corrections were not taken. On the even steeper slopes of Monthelie, a study measured almost twice the erosion at 1.7 mm (± 0.5 mm year), with sections of the vineyard which measured a shocking eroded up to 8.2 mm (± 0.5 mm) erosional rate. Luckily, many growers have improved their farming practices, particularly since 2010, and these figures should be lower today. Only future studies can tell us what improvement has been made.

The grape harvest Annonymous 16th century, Southern Holland

“The grape harvest” Anonymous 16th century, Southern Holland

For centuries the solution for this problem was to bring in soil from outside areas to replace what was lost on the slopes of the Côte d’Or. However, in the name of terroir, this is no longer allowed. Current law allows growers to redistribute only the alluvium that comes to rest within appellation boundaries. One can imagine that the laborious process of shoveling out the alluvium from the toe of the plot and redistributing higher in the vineyard is a yearly chore. What earth escapes the appellation lines however, is gone to that appellation forever.

The intention of preserving the purity Burgundy’s unique terroir by forbidding introduction of exogenous soils is somewhat paradoxical, since it is only attempting to preserve the terroir à la minute. While in reality it is ultimately is failing at that – due to erosion. 

A positive, unintended consequence of this inability to replace soil is that growers have finally realized that soil conservation is now more critical than any time in Burgundies’ 1500+ year-old viticultural history. They now know that they must fully understand the factors of soil structure and erosion, while at a municipal level, their villages must invest in effective storm water management; both of which are in various states of development or improvement. 

The long uninterrupted run of vertically oriented rows presents unrelenting erosional pressures on this section of Les Folatieres.

The long uninterrupted run of vertically oriented rows presents unrelenting erosional pressures on this section of Les Folatières. photo googlemaps

While the best modern practices are stemming the tide of erosion, vineyards still can be threatened. Even great vineyards on the mid-slope, like Les Folatières in Puligny-Montrachet, which have long, open stretches of vines without significant breaks in planting, are prone to extensive erosion. While soils are depleted not only in terms of depth, they are changing in terms of particle size and makeup. Erosion most easily targets fine earth fractions, detaching them from their aggregate groupings, and sending them into vineyards farther down slope. Light to medium runoff acts like a sieve, carrying away only the smallest particles, leaving behind material with of larger particles sizes. This in a very real way changes the vineyard’s terroir, and in turn, the wines that are grown there. Wines from vineyards that retain only course soils of large particle size (1) tend to produce wines with less fruit the and less weight, and by consequence revealing a more structured, minerally character.

Even more critical is that soil loss can threaten the vitality and health of the vines, as the soil is literally carried away from beneath them. A vine’s main framework roots is said to require a minimum 11-13 inches to anchor itself to the earth and survive. The problem arises when a section of vineyard does not have extensive fracturing, and the soil level begins to drop below that one foot level. To address this, various growers have responded by “reconditioning” their land. By using a back hoe to break up the limestone below, this can give new vines planted there the living space so the vineyard can continue. Does this change the terroir and the future wine more than inputs of exogenous soil? I should think the answer is yes, significantly. 

 

Rainfall and rain strike: the first stage of erosion

rainstrike. photo: agronomy.lsu.edu/

rainstrike. photo: agronomy.lsu.edu/

Rainfall is measured by its size and velocity. A raindrop from a drizzle is typically .5 mm in size, and has a terminal velocity (the maximum speed the drop can reach) of 2 meters per second, or 4.5 miles per hour, in still air. The speed it falls, with no assistance from the wind is determined by its ratio of mass to drag. Large raindrops of 5 mm, have more mass in relationship to its drag and accelerate to 9 meters per second, or 20 mph.

Rainfall, meaning the actual physical strike of each drop, can break down soil aggregates (fine sand,  silt clay, and organic materials) and disperse them. Splash erosion has been recorded to drive particles of earth up to 60 cm into the air, and 1.5 m from its point of origin.

Once their limited bonds are broken, the ensuing runoff can carry these materials downslope. Runoff, the most obvious form of erosion, occurs when rainwater cannot infiltrate the soil quickly enough, and exacerbated by the lack of cover crop, lack of organic material, lack of soil structure and negative effects of soil compaction. Of course, this process is most noticeable during high-intensity rainstorms, the amount of soil lost during longer but low-intensity rainfall can be significant. This slower erosion can go largely unnoticed until most of the productive topsoil has been removed by what is referred to as sheet erosion.

Seasonal protection from rainstrike

Compared to most growing regions, the Côte d’Or has a very wet growing season. Storms during this period can bring irregular and unpredictable rain events that can be heavy and long in duration. The winds during harvest tend to be westerly, with warm humid winds bringing rain first over the Hautes Côtes, then to the Côte d’Or, then out across the Saône Valley. The wet warm humid conditions often encourage powdery mildew in the wake of the storms, so there is a tendency to want to prune to open up the canopy for ventilation to prevent mildew. However, the vine canopy can provide significant protection against rainfall strike, depending of course, on the orientation the rows and the of the wind direction. So good canopy coverage for the period that half of the precipitation occurs (April – September)(2) is beneficial in terms of protection from erosion.

As winter arrives, the vines will have lost their foliage, exposing the soil directly for the entire winter and spring to whatever nature has in store.

Rain Rate

storm.1

Summer storms. Bottom right Photograph: Louise Flanagan theGuardian.com, Bottom left photo Caroline Parent-Gros of A.F. Gros, Top photo Decanter.com

Rainfall is typically measured in millimeters per hour, with a light rainfall slightly tipping the scales at up to 2.5 mm per hour or less than a tenth of an inch per hour. Moderate rainfall is considered to be from 2.5 mm per hour to 10 mm per hour. A heavy rainfall falls between the range of 10 to 50 mm, and a violent rainfall is above 50 mm per hour.

 

Light rain – drizzle 2.5 mm per hour with a terminal velocity of 2 meters per second

Moderate rain 2.5 mm per hour to 10 mm per hour

Heavy Rain  10 mm per hour to 50 mm per hour

Violent rain, above 50 mm per hour

 

Good soil structure resists damage from rainstrike and runoff

Good soil structure is the result of the binding of soil into clumps of both small and larger aggregates, meaning sections of soil will bind more strongly together, than those next to them. This allows the soil to maintain the necessary small and large pore spacing, which allows water, air and nutrient infiltration and movement through the soil. Larger amounts of older, more stable organic matter tend to strengthen soil aggregates so any farming practice that increases organic matter, and the subsequent microbiological activity will result in healthier soils.  Stable soil aggregates allow the soil to resist disintegration due rain strike and thusly helps deter erosion.  It also encourages root penetration by creating weak spots between aggregate masses.

Conversely, unstable soil aggregates are more easily dispersed by rainstrike, and the ensuing erosion clogs larger pore spaces of the surface soil. This clogging forming hard crusts on the surface which both restricts both air and water absorption and increases runoff.

The fix apparently is simple. According to soilquality.org, soil forms aggregates readily with the addition of organic manure, as well as allowing cover crops to grow, which has the additional benefit of protecting the soil from rain strike and the ensuing erosion.

Infiltration rate

Erosion Runoff Ardeche

Rill Runoff running fast in Ardeche. Photo http://www.geo.uu.nl/

The speed at which rain can be absorbed into the soil is referred to as infiltration rate. An infiltration rate of 50 mm per hour is considered ideal for farming, because even in heavy rainfall, a well-structured loam will not allow puddling. While the farmers of Burgundy do have some loam in their soils, the geological and topographical factors they face are far more and varied and thus more complex than that of the typical farming situation. I could find no studies done specific to infiltration rates of Burgundian soils, but below are the general rain infiltration rates of general soil types, starting with clay.

The infiltration rate of clay soils, with good to average soil structure, unsurprisingly, do not drain all particularly well, due to their very small-sized particles. Clays typically have an IR of 10mm-20mm per hour. And as we know, transported clay, with its aligned particles, and plasticy quality greatly restricts water flow, and while it will absorb water, it will not allow water to pass through until the entire structure is saturated, greatly slowing drainage. Worse, due to poor farming practices, clay soils can have a decayed structure, which can slow absorption to less than 10 mm per hour. Water tends to puddle on clays with poor structure, causing them deteriorate to the point of deflocculation.

The study of water and how it drains is researched acutely in areas where water is scare, whereas little study of drainage is done in France where rain and water are plentiful. Hence, my investigation of water infiltration in calcium-rich soils lead me to agricultural water policy studies conducted in Palestine and Spain. One such study found that Clayey Marl, with a plasticy character, had an infiltration rate of only 4-8 mm per hour. This low rate of infiltration suggests the soil structure had already been degraded through poor farming practices. Often the villain of low infiltration rates is a combination of frequent deep tillage, herbicide and pesticide use and compaction by walking on or working wet soils, which collapses weaken soil aggregates.  In deeper soils, like at the base of the slope, collapsed soil aggregates can result in hardpan development below ground, while on sloped vineyards, disrupted soil aggregates are very susceptible to erosion.

Clay-loam and clayey-marls, like those found on many lower-slope vineyards, that retain good soil structure, have IR rates beginning at 20 mm per hour. As the percentage of loam increases (equal parts sand, silt, and clay) the IR rate increases up to 50 mm per hour as long as it retains good aggregate stability and there is no compaction.

Loam to sandy soils, which some Bourgogne-level and Village-level vineyards possess, can have very good infiltration rates, again as long as soil structures are good.  Ideally, they can absorb 50 mm of rain per hour, which is the amount that a heavy rainstorm will produce. These vineyards, however, receive all the runoff from the slopes above, and their “well-drained” soils can be overwhelmed.

Sandy soils and Calcareous (limestone) soils can have infiltration rates well in excess 150mm per hour to 200+mm per hour. The problem is these soils drain excessively well, and tend to not retain water well, and are prone to high evaporation rates.  Off point, but quite interesting, are two studies in south-eastern Australia Bennetts et al. (2006) and Edwards & Webb (2006) found that rainwater remained relatively unchanged as it moved though these porous soils that lacked significant amounts of fine earth fractions and organic material. However, water changed its chemical signature quite significantly as it passed much more slowly through clay-rich soils. This finding certainly challenges the long-held assumption that it is the limestone lends many Burgundies their mineral character.

Infiltration Rate, Slope, and Runoff.

Vogue's parcel of Musigny. Source Googlemaps

Vogue’s parcel of Musigny. Grass growth does not seem to be encouraged here. Given Cerdà’s study regarding the erosion of bare soils, one can only wonder how much greater this vineyard could be? The mitigating factor is the vineyard runs horizontally along the top of the hill, and is not deep or highly sloped. Runoff has little opportunity to gain significant suspension velocity. Photo Source googlemaps.com

A study in Spain by A. Cerdà (Univ. de València) examined infiltration rates, runoff, and erosion, on clay, marl, limestone and sandstone. Additionally, he ran these trials with three levels of vegetation covering the soil material: bare, intermediate and vegetated.  The amount of water delivered was 55 mm per hour (which some soils easily absorbed). The study showed slower rates of infiltration on the bare soils, while more highly vegetated soils reduced and almost eliminated runoff and erosion.  Interestingly, marl soils fare the worst for both runoff and erosion rates on bare soils. Yet on vegetated soils, runoff and erosion of the marl were minimal.

They observed, of bare soils, an infiltration rate of  3 to 55 mm per hour, the runoff from 0 to 83%, and the erosion rates from 0 to 3720 grams per hour.

The easily erodible marl soils had up to 83% runoff and a maximum erosion of 3720 grams per hour. So it turns out that marl soils are particularly vulnerable to erosion which sets up an interesting dichotomy: Burgundian’s penchant for discouraging ground cover between the vines, actually encourages erosion – something they seek to, and direly need to avoid.

Clay (soil) and limestone (soil) both had what Cerdà considered to be intermediate levels of runoff and erosion; with a maximum of 46% runoff, and a maximum of 131 grams of soil material eroded per hour.

When we talk about erosion, we are implying there is a slope.

Nearly level: Level, 0% Nearly level <3%
Gently sloping: Very gently sloping >1%, Gently sloping <8%
Strongly sloping: Sloping >4%, Moderately sloping <8%, Strongly Sloping <16%

Source: nrcs.usda.gov

On the rockier terrain of upper slopes, the uneven the soil surface can slow the momentum of water coming down the hillside, despite the steeper grade. However, as the runoff moves downslope, and the soil becomes smoother, the water grows in volume as in joins other rainfall which has not yet infiltrated the topsoil. This increase in volume causes the runoff to increase in its speed and its velocity. Speed and velocity increases are exponential, as its mass allows it overcomes the friction of moving over the soil below. 

Despite the fact that these moderate slopes can attain fairly significant soil depth with normal, moderate rainfall, they are also prone to erosion when exposed to heavier storm-induced runoff. Any long, uninterrupted stretch across these moderate slopes encourages a fast, and often damaging, runoff. As the speed of the water increases, it achieves a volume sufficient to carry larger and larger particles. Cerdà’s study suggests that the marl that has developed on these slopes are particularly vulnerable to heavy runoff if no vegetative cover is allowed to grow among the rows. 

Suspension velocity

water suspension velocity

water suspension velocity source: water.me.vccs.edu/

The ratio of surface area to weight determines a soil particle or rock’s suspension velocity. This is the amount of water velocity needed to carry the object in its flow. As the flow decreases, rocks with higher suspension velocity, meaning they require fast-moving water to carry them, settle out quickly, and are said to have a low settling velocity. As the water slows, it is these, the densest objects, that fall out of suspension first.

Silt and Clay particles have a very low suspension velocity due to their extremely small size, regardless of their density. These particles are easily picked up and washed away by water movement. Unless the clay particles in suspension are adsorbed as it slowly passes a homogeneous clay body (ie. a kaolinite clay body attracts kaolinite clay particles and illite particles will flocculate with an illite body), clay particles will not settle out of solution until the water becomes still and ponds. The same is true with silt, with its slightly larger particle size.

Sand and gravel are larger, with enough density to resist slow-moving water. They are considered to have a higher suspension velocity than silt or clay. But neither sand, gravel, nor even rocks the size of the palm of your hand, are immune from alluvial transport.

Up next: Erosion 4.3 In the water’s path: Studies of Erosion in Vosne

 


(1) It could be argued that because of Burgundy’s monoculture and high erosion rates will only allow calcisol, and because of that soil development (pedogenesis) is not possible due to the filtering out of fine particles, both mineral, and organic, by erosional processes. Conservation tilling or zero till could greatly change that dynamic, and it is possible with these and other techniques, that growers could expose the truer terroir of Burgundy.

(2) The Wines of Champagne, Burgundy, Eastern and Southern France,  by John J. Baxevanis Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 28, 1987)

(3) Could this chemical signature change the flavor of wine? This certainly raises a whole host of questions regarding the impact of fast draining limestone on the flavor or minerality of in wine. This study would suggest the long-held belief by many that limestone gives wines a minerally characteristic is false.

 

 

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy: Part 4.1 the history of erosion, defense, and restoration

Erosion and man

 

Historical vineyard defense and restoration

 

During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, soil measurements in both Vosne-Romanée and Corton determined that the erosion rate for both areas were approximately 1 mm per year. Considering that the entire Vosne hillside, as well as all of the hill of Corton are either premier or grand cru sites of enormous value, one would have assumed that every effort had been made to limit erosion. But that assumption would not have been completely true.

 

Even now, 15 years later, with ever-improving an information, and a growing acceptance that erosion is significant problem that needs to be further addressed, not every farmer is making the necessary changes. While soil management may not be ideal in every plot, vast improvements have been made from the time of the Middle Ages, when erosion ravaged vineyards of the Côte d’Or.

One of Vogue's parcels of Musigny denuded of all grass. While there is no denying the quality of the wine today, what of the vineyard in the future? photo: googlemaps

One of Vogue’s parcels in Les Musigny, denuded of all grass. While there is no denying the quality of the wine today, what of the vineyard in the future? photo: googlemaps

Man has waged an epic war against erosion for centuries; which, until recently, has been largely futile. The early Burgundians were understandably ignorant of soil structure and proper tillage techniques, both factors that greatly mitigate erosion. They had no way to know that it was the way they farmed that actually caused the huge erosional problems they fought so unsuccessfully to reign in.

Change, in an old, tradition-bound culture is resisted; and that is nearly as true in Burgundy today as it was in the middle ages. New techniques such as conservation tillage can be very slow to be adopted, much less having a discussions with older generation about whether a vineyard should be tilled at all. That this ancient practice of zero tillage has been implemented with success in other areas as long ago as 1971, is of no consequence.

Many farmers still restrict the growth of ground cover by use of either pesticides and or routine tilling, both of which diminish soil structure and increase exposure to erosional factors. This can be seen even in Comte de Vogue’s perfectly neat parcels of Les Musigny, where only a few tufts of grass evade the plow blade or the hoe. While it is difficult to argue with Vogue’s results in the bottle, the unseen menace of sheet erosion exists robbing the soil of fine earth fractions, ever so slowly.(1)

Before global warming, the vines were planted in Burgundy in east-west rows, straight down the slope. This directional planting was done in belief that it opens the vines to the early morning sun, allowing better ripening. Unfortunately, any truth to this is offset by increased erosion. While the weather was often predictably cold, and complete ripening could be hit or miss, the soil is a not a renewable resource. As we examined in Part 4, soil lost over 6,000 years ago from the hillsides of central France at the hand of Neolithic men, still has not, and in all likelihood, will never really repair itself.

Burgundy’s historical defense of the vineyard

flooding gate

photo: Caroline Parent-Gros

Murgers, or stone walls, have historically been the farmers first, and perhaps only, line of defense since antiquity.  Murgers (or Clos if the wall completely surrounds a vineyard) as part of the idealized visage of Burgundy, shows itself as part of many vineyard’s name, ie. Volnay Clos des Chênes or Nuits St-Georges’ Les Murgers.

Most murgers were no more than stacked stones constructed from rock that had been removed  from between the rows of vines because they were plowing obstacles. Stacking them into walls to protect the vineyard from erosion naturally evolved in the fields. In the 18th and 19th century, some of the more wealthy landowners began to have murgers constructed from brick and mortar, then covered with a fine glaze of lime plaster.  Grandiose entrances to these murgers were hung with intricate iron gates, meant to indicate both the importance of vineyard, and the owner.  In either the case of a stacked stone wall, or a much more extravagant Clos, walls have been the leading defense the vineyards for centuries. They not only serve to direct runoff around the vines, also have the equally important function of keeping the soil that is in the vineyard from being carried out.

Folatieres wall

 

Vineyard reconstruction in the middle ages

It is now widely understood that the simple act of farming causes erosion, and poor farming techniques can cause tremendous erosion, particularly on slopes. The earliest record of man’s attempts to fix the vineyards eroded to the point where they could no longer support vines, comes from documents kept in the later Middle Ages.

Jean-Pierre Garcia, a noted scholar at the Université de Bourgogne, quotes manuscripts in which detail the fight against erosion 600 years ago, in his paper “The Construction of Climates (Vineyards) in Burgundy during the Middle Ages(from French). Translating these ancient texts from the French of the Middle Ages into modern English is challenging, but the message these manuscripts contains is clear: fighting erosion was back-breaking and exceptionally expensive, despite the luxury of cheap labor. This work was likely paid for the Dukes of Burgundy or the Church, or on possibly a smaller scale, by the Duke’s seigneurs, noblemen whose the manors covered Burgundy.

Murgers in Vosne

click to enlarge. photo: google maps

The accounts are as such: In Corton in 1375 and 1376 AD, 38 days of work were required to remove a drystone wall that had collapsed “in the vine” and rebuild it “four feet high along the vine Clement Baubat to defend of acute coming from the mountain.”  In Volnay, it was written in 1468-1469, that men had to excavate the earth below the Clos which had eroded down to rock, and “lifted from earth” returning the topsoil to the vineyard. In 1428 there is a reference of constructing a “head” “above the Clos Ducs Chenove for the defense eaues to descend along said cloux.”

By the end of the middle ages, there are the first references to “exogenous inputs of land”, meaning that earth is brought in from an outside area to replace the topsoil lost to erosion. Land was taken in 1383 from Chaumes des Marsannay and from below the “grand chemin” (highway). This was a huge undertaking that was completed over the scope of “691 workers demanding days”.

Horses and wagons were very expensive in the middle ages. Having 800 wagon loads plus the labor was a major undertaking.

Horses and wagons were very expensive in the middle ages. Having 800 wagon loads plus the labor was a major undertaking. This, a woodcutting from 1506 depicts the power associated with the horse-drawn cart, is called “The Triumph of Theology”.

Then again in 1407 through the spring of 1408, it took 128 days of work were “to flush the royes and carry the earth in the clos,” and 158 working days “to bring the earth into the Clos.” It is immediately obvious that medieval French measure was unique to the time, and is very difficult translate. In one instance, it was recorded that for 28 days carts carried earth into a vineyard in Beaune, and “28 days labor and 48 days working.” In 1431 there was this reference that “six days a horse hauler, dumped 30 days to 2 horses (are needed to dig from) the Chaumes de Marsannay and the road beneath the Clos where piles of earth were raised.” While the exact labor is impossible to gauge, it is very apparent that immense effort was made, by whatever means necessary to return the vineyards of Burgundy to agricultural viability.

Here rill erosion has stripped the soil down to the limestone base in Corton-Charlemagne. photo from an excellent study by  J Brenot et al of the Segreteria Geological Society in Rome.

Here rill erosion has stripped the soil down to the limestone base in Corton-Charlemagne. photo from an excellent study by J Brenot et al of the Segreteria Geological Society in Rome.

The practice of bringing in soils from outlying areas continued through at least through the 18th century. When the RomanéeConti vineyard (a national property) was sold in 1790, the sale documents reveal that in 1749 the “Clos received 150 carts in grass taken off the mountain” of Marsannay.

1785-1786 “dug near the bottom of the vineyard and removed 800 wagons of earth, and this was spread in areas devoid of ground and low parts.”  This practice appears to have ceased, or as Garcia writes “at least on paper” after 1919 when the Appellations of Origin was established. The INAO has certainly forbidden exogenous soil additions since it was formed in 1935.

Interestingly, while on the subject of Romanée-Conti: some of its soils are clearly foreign to the Vosne-Romanée, according to geologist Francois Vannier-Petit,  a void appears in the substrata of the south-western corner of RomanéeConti  which suggests the hillside had been quarried at some point, and filled in with “exogenous” landfill. James E. Wilson noted this void as well in his book Terrior (p 137), where he notes that seismic data suggest this void was created by a fault, but electrical resistivity data suggest an erosional scarp (meaning ancient erosion created a cut out in the hillside) into what Wilson identifies as Ostrea acuminata marl below. Wilson, in either case, assumed that subsequent gravitation induced rock slides and erosion from above filled the void with colluvium. Any of the three possibilities are viable explanations, but the manuscript from the  1785-1786 do clearly state 800 wagons of earth” were “spread in areas devoid of ground and low parts.”

The issue of a quarry in Romanée-Conti is far from clear cut. click to enlarge. photo googlemaps

The issue of a quarry in Romanée-Conti is far from clear-cut. click to enlarge. photo googlemaps

At this point, no record has been found regarding a quarry having been excavated at the site of RomanéeConti, but many governmental and clergy records were destroyed during the revolution. With this, the argument that these vineyards have “special dirt” has been laid open as fallacy. The topsoils of the Côte have been reshuffled for centuries, integrating alluvial loams and clays from the base of the slope (or from elsewhere) back into the fold of the upper slopes of the Côte d’Or. The vignerons of Marsannay who are lobbying for 1er cru classification for their vineyards would certainly point to the fact that their dirt is very similar to the dirt in Gevrey. Better yet, it is clear that a fair amount of Marsannay dirt contributes to create RomanéeConti, the greatest wine all of the Côte d’Or, and that dirt has been there for centuries.

As if by divinity, the some potential erosional problems were avoided by the fact that Burgundy’s vineyards tended to be quite small. Murgers at vineyard boundaries could then slow the velocity of the runoff as it moved down the hillside, not allowing it to gain so much momentum that a high suspension velocity can be reached. These vineyard breaks have been crucial in even wider erosional damage in many areas.

The creation of small vineyards was often caused by two factors. The first being economically large vineyards did not make sense. There wasn’t sufficient demand for wine to produce significantly more than the greater Burgundy area could consume. The poor roads and the lack of safety between villages and cities made medieval trading slow and perilous. Additionally the division and subdivisions of France and the rest of Europe meant that lords had the right to restrict passage and to impose fines and tariffs upon merchants.  These factors diminished the volume and frequency of trade within the continent, and in turn limited the amount of wine needed to be produced. Large tracts of vineyards were not necessary. The second, and perhaps the greatest limiting factor of vineyard size would be size of a plot that a single man could work in a day.

Les Glaneuses (1857) by Jean Francois Millet

Les Glaneuses (1857) by Jean Francois Millet

While ouvrées simply means worked in modern French, it was used in the past as a measurement of land based on how much land a single farmer could work himself.  Thus, one ouvrées (4.285 ares (2) or a tenth of an acre) is the amount one man can work in one day without a horse.  Madame Roty re-counts her family’s history in explaining that in the late 1800’s an earlier generation did not bother to plant their vines in rows since they could not afford a animal.

This suggests an interesting fact set of circumstances. Before the Revolution, (the Roty’s farmed Gevrey since 1710) farmers who specialized in grape cultivation, worked a handful of parcels on the local Seigneur’s manor, in the open field system described in Part 4. In this feudal society, they had the use of a shared horse and plow which belonged to the estate. However, after the ownership of land was released to the serfs following the Revolution in 1793, they may have now owned their parcels, but they so poor they could not afford the animals to farm them. This forced most of the peasants of Burgundy use to no-till farming methods. Later as economics of the region improved, a horse could be bought (perhaps in co-op one with one or more families), the Roty’s were forced to remove some of the vines so the animal and plow could pass through.

Farmers who could afford a horse, found the animal multiplied their efforts eight-fold, allowing them to plow 8 ouvrées in a day.  A family with a horse could now manage seven hectares of land, which were, of course, divided into the same feudal era parcels families of the area had always farmed, just as they do today.

The emergence of tractors opened up the capabilities substantially more, allowing growers to farm much larger areas of land. Additionally that extra time has allowed growers to farm in farther flung vineyards, in villages outside of their own.

 

Next Up: Part 4.2 Erosion fundamentals: infiltration rates, runoff and damage, and how it has changed the wines of Burgundy.

 

 


(1) Musigny has three factors in its favor. It has a shallow slope which aids in its soil retention.  It is a shallow vineyard, in that its rows are not long, and runoff can not achieve a high suspension velocity. And third, it is enclosed by walls that help protect it from some erosional forces.

(2) Ares is 100 square meters, and a hectare is 100 ares.

 

 

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy: Part 4 the history of erosion and man

 

 

 

Erosion and man

by Dean Alexander

Erosion has had a monumental impact on the character of the wines of Burgundy. It took several decades once the INAO began preventing exogenous soil additions (early 20th century), before growers slowly began to realize that they must change the way they work their fields. They could no longer hit reset, by bringing in new soil to fix what they had damaged through poor farming practices.  The vineyards have since responded positively; with increasingly healthier soils, and far better soil retention. The region is now producing the finest wines in its long history. But without a doubt, the erosional damage of the past has been so immense and irreparable, that we will never really know what the terroir of Burgundy might have been. 

 

How long ago this happened, will certainly surprise you.

 

The First Farmers

Plow were first widely used as agricultural neolithic man move into central France around 4,000 BC .

The plow: 4500 BC

With the recession of the Ice Age, the Neolithic hunter-gatherers of the region were now free to venture northward, allowing the arrival of agricultural Neolithic man in central France, 6,500 years ago. Around that time, the first plows were developed, and with the economy of effort it provided, more food could be produced. This in turn allowed the population to grow, greatly increasing the need for arable land.

As agriculture began to be adopted by Neolithic man, particularly after the development of the plow, erosion became a significant issue across Europe.To meet that demand, they burned to clear forests for pasture and fields. This was an expedient means of what would otherwise take years of work. The unintended consequences of burns to facilitate clearing, were often massive, fast-moving wildfires that swept though forested and grassland areas.

Without the protection of trees and grasses upon the hillsides, the erosion that ensued was monumental. There may have been more erosion in the 700 years Neolithic man farmed the land of central Europe, than in the preceding 35 million years since the Côte d’Or was formed, and perhaps more than all of the time since. Although through intervening centuries have seen the reforestation of the hillsides, the damage done by Neolithic man permanently changed the landscape of France.

What did Neolithic man look like? Click here.

The Middle Ages

William Shepard, Historical Atlas 1923

Tenant Farming example. William Shepard, Historical Atlas 1923

Since the Neolithic, two subsequent periods of deforestation occurred, each time followed by large-scale erosion. The least destructive of the two was the periods between the 12th and 15th century, which despite the black plague in the middle 1300s, saw a large population growth in France.

The king, or the Duke in Burgundy’s case (1), would grant large parcels of land from the royal demesne (domaine) to his nobility, who were considered the servants of the Duke. Known as seigneurs, the nobility, would then use the land to raise money to fund the Duchey. The seigneur granted strips of land to tenants (serfs) to farm in open fields. These fields where then were farmed communally by the inhabitants of the manor. Intermixed with the tenant parcels were the demesne of the seigneur, and the demesne of the church – all of the land which was worked by the surf communally as partial payment for their tenant rights.

The rights the tenants had to the land were very strong and generational. They could not be evicted from the land by the seigneur. Additionally, the tenants were able to accumulate rights to more than one strip of land, meant parcels could be scattered across the manor. A transfer of land rights typically happened when a tenant died and had no heirs. At that time another tenant would assume the right to work that parcel. This occurred on a massive scale in the wake of the black plague, which arrived in Lyon in 1348. Lyon, which was only 155 km, or 96 miles along the main highway, the Via Agrippa, from wine villages of the Cote d’Or. There is little doubt that the plague struck the Cote d’Or very hard.

Newcomers to the manor who had no land rights worked for tenants that had more land than they could work themselves. It is estimated that half the of the agricultural community consisted of landless serfs.

Farming with plow

From an early 15th century manuscript. The Granger Collection, New York

The manor model, with its communal farming, required everyone to adhere to the norms of the region, and this discouraged innovation and adoptions of new techniques, causing production per hectare to lag behind farms in England, Holland and elsewhere in the world. The farmer’s dependence on the communal sharing of prohibitively expensive horses and plows needed to farm the heavy clay soils of central Europe only reinforced the status quo.

The inefficiencies of farming under this system meant that as the population grew, it required that the economy remained primarily both rural and agrarian. The existing estates could not supply enough food if population grew mainly in urban centers, so population tended to grow in rural areas. More mouths to feed, and more able hands to employ, meant economic opportunity for the Duchy if new arable land could be developed from the forests.

Even though the open field system inherently discouraged innovation and suppressed productivity, the system proved to be so economically successful its existence eclipsed the time of feudalism. Right up to the revolution, the open field system to continue to fund well-heeled landowners in this very capitalist endeavor. But even then, to say the open field system was gone, might be an incomplete truth. The people may have then owned the land, but their situation had not greatly changed. In fact, until only recently, the wide-spread division of small parcels ensured the impoverishment of paysans across Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, with an obvious, strong parallel to the medieval tenant arrangement. Indeed, the old lord-tenant arrangement of métayage (sharecropping) would reemerge. post-1789 revolution, between those who owned the land, and laborers who would work it. In 1929 there were 200,000 Métayers in France, farming the same 11 percent of agricultural land. This was truly not so differently as had been the arrangement in 1729, or in 1529 for that matter.

As with a population that doubled in the 3 centuries after 1000 AD, the needs for timber and hardwood also increased. Wood was needed for construction, woodworking, iron smelting and metal working, not to mention fuel for heating.  All of these needs multiplied the pressures on deforestation. Although forest management had to various degrees been practiced, it tended to be exercised on forests on properties owned by the aristocracy and the church. Elsewhere, woods fell to the ax and saw.

18th century: The last major assault on terroir

A devastatingly cold 17th century followed, slowing the population growth and economies. The end of that century saw the failed harvest of 1693, when the death toll, according to David Huddart, and Tim Stott of Europeans is thought to have numbered in the millions. This period of economic lull set the stage for a final epoch of deforestation and erosion of France.

By the mid 18th century, the average temperature had risen enough to achieve food security. Once again, with food in their bellies, populations rebounded, and focus on innovation brought healthy economies. Industrial development ensued, bringing expansion and colonialism.  Massive fleets were built, from forests felled for the needed timber. As the population grew again, farming and pastureland expanded once again to support the needed food supplies. The open field system prevailed through this period, and given their inefficiencies, yet more land was needed to feed the population. To these pressure, the forests fell away, leading to erosion.

The protected hunting forests of the Aristocracy, and those belonging to the Church, alone stood untouched. While these forests were often noted as early forestry, it is somewhat disingenuous call this entitlement “forest husbandry”. Indeed, by the time of the French Revolution the royal forests had become a hated symbol of privilege.(2)

Unlike the medieval period that saw erosion primarily because of deforestation, this dawn of industrialization created many new erosional sources.  Iron works and foundries required mines and open pits to be dug to excavate ore, while limestone, prized for its hardness, was quarried across the country, including within the vineyard land of the Cote d’Or.

quarriesandbeyond.org

 

It was the wealth of the times that created a demand for Burgundy’s limestone. Thousands of large building projects: for the Church, wealthy private citizens, the aristocracy, for government buildings and public works, all of which required vast amounts of building materials. The high demand created such soar value for the “marble”. I had originally concluded when first writing this article, that the value of the limestone below, outsized the value of the grape production of that location, but I have since come to what I believe to be a more valid conclusion. I submit that the quarries dug in locations in which the limestone remained unfractured, examples of which can be seen in the climates of Meursault Perrières, Clos de Beze, Bonnes-Mares, and some submit, even Romanee-Conti, made those particular locations unsuitable for quality vine cultivation, unlike the superb plots which surrounded them.

It was used in its solid slab form for wall paneling and floors, but the rubble was also burned in special kilns to produce Quick lime (calcium oxide) which is the primary ingredient of both mortar and plaster. Softer limestones were often sought for the production of quicklime, as it was far easier to excavate the softer stone than the harder, unfractured stone which was required for floors and wall paneling.

The excavation of the limestone not only changed the substratum and topography of these vineyards, but greatly affected vineyard lands to either side of these projects, and with substantial impact to the vineyards below. This is where the overburden (the topsoil and useless rubble) was cast, in the most expeditious manner, downhill.

Meursault Perrieres quarry site175 years later, the disruption of such a quarry site to the terroir of the region is easily seen in the two vineyards of Les Perrières in Meursault, and Les Charmes, which lies just below. A large quarry was cut out of the hillside of MeursaultPerrières Dessous. The location of bulk of the excavation appears to now have been declassified from Les Perrières, as well as a wide strip above the exposed limestone wall.  The sub-plot of Clos des Perrières which is owned by Albert Grivault vineyard is just below the main area of excavation, but it was certainly was part of the quarry itself. The area directly behind the removal site would certainly have been utilized for temporary buildings, for staging or even storage of limestone before transport, a loading area for horse carts, and space for any other logistical needs a quarry would require.  The slope of this entire area was more or less leveled from it previous gradient. Clos des Perrières begins that the overburden would have been spread, although. The dirt roads of the regions were also impacted, by the transit of thousands of heavily loaded wagons, itself causing extensive erosion. And then it would rain.

The likely disposition of overburden and erosion from the quarry in Les Perrières, with finer sediment with higher suspension

The likely disposition of overburden and erosion from the quarry in Les Perrières, with finer sediment with higher turbidity / suspension velocity travels farther down-slope. The original map this diagram was taken from, and more information on Les Perrières can be found at clivecotes.com.  Click to enlarge

The sections of Les Charmes-Dessus, lying just below this quarry received the discharge of overburden, deepening the soil along this half mile of roadway. That this discharge and erosion onto Les Charmes Dessus, and no doubt Les Charmes Dessous, lying just below that, is without question. The soil depth was increased by the alluvial soils eroded from the quarry site, in addition to any normal erosional deposits that would have occurred, giving the vines more depth than they require, mimicking vineyards that are actually lower on the slope.  The wines from Meursault Charmes, are fairly commonly described as fat, without the vibrancy and minerality of Les Perrières, and often given the faint praise of being rather hedonistic.

Excavations by Thierry Matrot in 1990 in his parcel of MeursaultPerrières (parcel 15 in the map to the right) found roughly one foot of topsoil before striking the limestone base. Whereas, digging into his plot of Meursault-Charmes however proved to be far more work. Here a pit of 6 feet was dug before hitting the limestone substrata.(3) This indicates, a significant amount of limestone colluvium had developed in Charmes, that has mixed with transported clay to attain this six-foot depth of marl dominated soil.. I have not been able to determine the location of the Matrot’s plot (or plots) in Les Charmes. It is a large vineyard and without the dig location, this information doesn’t have nearly as much meaning as it would otherwise. It does illustrate the dramatic effect erosion has had on the vineyards of Burgundy and the character of the wines from each location.

 ~

Much more on the effect slope position and soil depth on the character of wine can be here for vineyards on the lower slopes, and here for vineyards on the upper slopes.

 

This diagram illustrates the changes in temperature in Northern Europe, as well as major historical in intellectual periods.

This diagram illustrates the changes in temperature in Northern Europe, as well as major historical in intellectual periods.

(1) The Burgundians were an Eastern Germanic tribe which likely crossed the Rhine in 406 AD, in a combined force with the Vandals, Alans and Suebi tribes. The Roman forces there had largely departed four years earlier to deal with Visigoth king, and sometimes Roman ally, Alaric, who would ultimately be an actor in the fall of Rome. But the crossing signaled the end of Roman rule Central Europe.

The Kingdom of the Burgundies, ruled the lands east of Paris, down to the Mediterranean with various boundaries. A series of smaller Duchy, including the Duchy of Burgundy, succeeded the Kingdom of Burgundies in 1032. The Duchy was relatively sovereign, but owed its allegiance to the French crown. The influence and power of the Duchy expanded greatly in 1384 with a union with the Hapsburgs. The house of Valois – Burgundy, the ruling family of the Duchy of Burgundy at the time, ultimately expanded its control of fiefs in Holland and the Netherlands, parts of northern France and Luxembourg.  In a bid to gain independence from France, 1477 Charles the Bold was killed in battle by a combined force of the Duke of Lorraine and a Swiss Confederacy. With no heir to Charles, and a weak hold on their power, the Valois were unable to prevent the Duchy from eventually being absorbed into France.

(2) Empire Forestry and the Origins of Environmentalism, Gregory Allen Barton (p.11) Cambridge University Press


Earth Environments: Past, Present, and Future, David Huddart, Tim Stott, John Wiley & Sons,, 2013

Class and State in Ancien Regime France: The Road to Modernity?

By David Parker

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy: Part 3.4 The Grand Crus

 By Dean Alexander

While working my first wine shop job twenty years ago, I asked the store manager – who was a Burgundy guy of significant reputation: “Why is Rousseau’s Ruchottes-Chambertin not as good as as his Clos de Bèze and Chambertin?”  The answer I got was honest: “I don’t know. I’ll have to ask next time I’m there.”

It years later that realized that I had asked the wrong question. The question I should have asked was: What causes these neighboring vineyards to produce wines of such different character? 

Today, twenty years later, I can answer that question. If you have read my previous 12 articles in this series on Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy, it is likely you can answer it too. More importantly, some of the lessons here can be used to understand other appellations where less concrete information is known.

Clos des Ruchottes to the right, and Ruchottes du bas, on the left. photo: googlemaps

Clos des Ruchottes to the right, and Ruchottes du bas, on the left. photo: googlemaps

The short answer

Chambertin, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, and Ruchottes-Chambertin

These three grand cru vineyards sit in a row, shoulder to shoulder on the same hillside. All have their upper-most vines smack up against the forested hillside, and all have virtually the same exposition. The legendary domaine of Armand Rousseau farms and makes wine from all three of these vineyards; yet one, the cru of Ruchottes-Chambertin, does not seem to be cut from the same cloth. The wine made from Ruchottes is not as rich or opulent. It tends to be lighter, more fine-boned, and more angular in its structure. The primary reason for this difference in wine character is that right at the border of Clos de Bèze and Ruchottes, the limestone beneath changes significantly. Unlike the other two vineyards, Ruchottes-Chambertin sits over very hard and pure limestone that is composed of almost completely of calcium carbonates and very little in the way of impurities, such as mud or clay.

The impurities within the stone, (bonded by the calcite) is what determines how much clay and other materials will be left behind as bedding materials when the stone has weathered. The more impurities in the limestone, the more nutrients will be available for the vines when the stone weathers chemically.  Further, it will reflect not just how fractured the stone has become due to extensional stress, but it will have often been the determining factor of whether the bedding has become friable as well. The wines of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze have this sort of impure limestone as a bedding under three-quarters of its surface area. It is a significant factor in giving the wines of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze a heavier weight and richer character than the wines from Ruchottes.

Another major factor in this differential in wine weight is that Ruchottes is a much smaller appellation, which confines it solely to the upper-slope. Its location makes it subject to all of the factors that challenge upper slope vineyards, details that are examined in Part 3.3.  Conversely, both Chambertin or Clos de Beze extend almost three times farther down the hill, all the way to the curb of the slope. Additionally, while the degree of slope may kick up in the upper final meters of the Clos de Bèze and Chambertin, the area under vine upon upper slope (that will produce a lighter wine) is relatively small compared to the entire surface area of those vineyards.  

Unlike Ruchottes, the long slopes of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze will reach down to almost to where the slope completely leveled off. There at the base of the slope, rock and soil colluvium will have been transported by gravitational erosion, adding generously to the depth the soil. This depth allows more water to be absorbed and retained for use by the vines. It is rich in limestone rubble, gravel, and catches and holds more fine earth fractions including transported clay that has flocculated there. Above ground scree litters the vineyards

The fact that most ownership parcels run in vertical rows, from the top of the vineyard, to the bottom, assures that any lighter, more finessed wines will contribute, but not dominate the overall blend. In other words, blending of heavier wines lower on the slope masks the lighter wines from the top of the slope. 

It is abundantly clear that the vines benefit from the higher levels of nutrients in these deeper soils. They develop grapes that carry more color (anthocyanins) and brings many times more dry extract to the wine. This translates as the wines of these vineyards having a richer, more velvety texture, increased depth, all of which covers the structure. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the upper-slope position of Ruchottes-Chambertin dictates that the soils there are very shallow, and while there is a high percentage of colluvium, it is not as rich in sand, silt or clay sized particles.  In fact, there are places the topsoil has completely eroded away, leaving fractured stone and primary clay and marly-limestone between the voids and breaks in the rock.

New research allows new understanding

Today we can examine this variation of limestone within a vineyard with a precision that was not possible a decade ago. This is due to the groundbreaking work of geologist Françoise VannierPetit and her mapping of the dominant limestone beddings of Gevrey. Through her work, we know that Ruchottes is a very homogeneous terroir, one with a very pure and hard limestone bedding dominating the vineyard. While the stone does not provide much in the way of nutrients to nurture the vines, we know it is well-fractured by two large faults that run through the vineyard.  Because of the vigorous faulting and fracturing throughout the vineyard, Ruchottes does produce a grand cru class wine, but it is a grand cru of a different character.

The geological factors in Ruchottes do not typically produce a wine with the substantial fruit or thickness of a Chambertin, and this ‘reduced’ level fruit often does not completely ‘blanket’ of structure in the wines from Ruchottes. This obvious structure is often mentioned in wine reviews, noting heightened acids and tannins, lending the wines a more angular construction than in other grand crus. By the same token, the wine from Ruchottes is often quite aromatic, with finer bones, for this wine, it means exhibiting more finesse, as well as giving the taster a heightened awareness of the wine’s precise rendering of detail. In another vineyard, this might be attributed to the grapes achieving less phenolic maturity, but the wines of Ruchottes are ripe, they just aren’t typically as large scaled or heavy. Moreover, they can be remarkably beautiful wines that can age effortlessly, for decades; often gaining poise, polish, and balance while doing so.

The gentle slopes of Chambertin. Photo: googlemaps

The gentle slopes of Chambertin. Photo: googlemaps

The substrata of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze is much more varied. With Vannier-Petit’s mapping information, we know that 35 million years ago the vineyards of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze were opened up by a large fault. This exposing the older (2 million years +/-) of softer bedding planes below.  They are both divided by four bedding planes, three of them being of soft, friable, impure materials, giving excellent nutrients.  This softer, highly fractured bedding allows the vines to thrive, and produce wines with much higher levels of fruit. This is the heart of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze.

Additionally, the twin vineyards are perfectly situated, mostly upon a gentle gradient which will resist erosion, or better yet, at the curb of the slope, where the soil is deeper,  The vineyards are well protected from wind, being squarely behind the hillside of Montagne de Combe Grisard. These two vineyards sit in the sweet spot of the heat trap formed by the hyperbolic concave of the slope. This positioning allows ripening occur even in most cold, wet years. Ruchottes, while fairly well protected, it is nearer the Combe de Lavaux through which cooling winds flow down the vast gorge.

All of these factors make the wines made from Chambertin and Clos de Bèze much easier wines to understand because they have so much to give. They can be very seductive and complex, and can be drunk either young or old.  Are they typically better wines than can be made in Ruchottes?  The knee-jerk reaction is yes, as Ruchottes can be equated to the man fighting with one hand tied behind his back. But when a well-made wine from Ruchottes is opened at the right time, and served with the right meal, it can be perfection.

Armand Roussaux parcel map

Chambertin clos de Beze

 

Digging deeper 

Gevrey-Chambertin topography

Generally speaking, when compared to vineyards in some of other villages, the grand vineyards of Gevrey are fairly mild in their gradient. The uppermost vineyard sites of the Chambertin-named vineyards butt up against the Montagne de Combe Grisard’s “chaumes”, (or ‘scruff ‘ in English). But unlike the steep upper hillsides of Vosne or Volnay that were able to be planted to vine, there is an unarable, rocky, forested landscape. Here in the chaumes, where no vines are planted, the hillside above Gevrey becomes steep.

The premier cru of Bel-Air is the one real exception. Carved out of a void in the rocky forest, and perched directly above Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Bel Air is a steep vineyard. It is a superb example of the struggles upper-slope vineyards face. See Part 3.3.1 for more on this. According to Vannier-Petit, a white Oolite formation underlies the uppermost section of Bel Air, and Premeaux Limestone underlies the lower part. Several writers have describe Clos de Bèze as having Oolite formations below the soils, but Vannier-Petit does not note this. Instead, it is likely that Oolite has slid, as scree, or even in large chunks as a rock slide, into Clos de Bèze, from Bel Air above.

A prominent feature of the area, as outlined by the late James E. Wilson, a geologist, and author of Terroir (1998), is a rocky outcropping he referred to as a “Comblanchien cap“. While this was not part of the vineyard landscape, he described it as a major feature of the “Nuits Strata Package.” This term,“Nuits Strata Package,” as coined by Wilson, is an overarching reference to the bands of limestone bedding that stretch from Marsannay to Nuits-St-George, a layering of limestones unique to the Côte de Nuits. An upper-band of Comblanchien stone, he wrote, formed a structural bulwark or ‘cap’ which has allowed the upper-hillside to resist erosion, while the softer center eroded more quickly. This has caused the Côte de Nuits to develop its hyperbolic concave slope-shape. This concave slope relief, as I wrote earlier, allows the heat of the sun is trapped, allowing fruit to ripen fully. This is particuularly true for vineyards such as this that sit in a wind shadow which is created by the trees and hillside above.

Interestingly, a much more recent map of Gevrey by Vannier-Petit, does not deem it necessary to include hillside construction above the vineyards.  So while she shows no Comblanchien cap rock at the edge of the Gevrey’s vineyards, as it seems Wilson described them, she does shows that the Premeaux stone extends one hundred or so meters up-slope. This extends well beyond the farthest, uppermost edges of the vineyard land.  While she may have felt the composition was outside the scope of the project, certainly anything that will wash, slide, or roll into a vineyard, is of great importance to our understanding of the physical vineyard makeup.

Ruchottes-Chambertin: a largely homogeneous appellation 

Here, a photo by Armand Rousseau illustrating the lack of topsoil, and the width of the fractures in the Premeaux limestone. No doubt this is a more extreme section, but it gives us the understanding of the relationship between the hard stone, fracturing and the difficulty of dealing with erosion in these vineyards.

Here, a photo from Armand Rousseau illustrates the lack of topsoil, and the width of the fractures in the Premeaux limestone. No doubt this is a more extreme section, but it gives us the understanding of the relationship between the hard stone, fracturing and the difficulty of dealing with erosion in these vineyards.

Ruchottes-Chambertin, and it’s ying-yang partner. Mazy-Chambertin (also spelled Mazis-Chambertin), sit at the tail end of the string of grand cru vineyards. The primary limestone beneath both vineyards is the significantly calcium-pure, Premeaux. Premeaux limestone, which is marketed as marble, is highly desirable for construction and prized for its pink color. It is very similar to Comblanchien (which is a creamy white), but slightly less pure, (hence the color), and slightly less resistant to geological strain. See Part 1.1 for detailed compressional strengths of various commercial limestones.

Technically, the Ruchottes appellation is made up of three small, roughly equally-sized vineyards:  Ruchottes Bas, (meaning the below) Ruchottes Hauts, (meaning above), and next to that, against the forested outcroppings at the top of the hill, Clos des Ruchottes. The Clos, is a monopole owned by the firm of Armand Rousseau.

While the lower half of the Clos des Ruchottes shares the rest of Ruchottes’ Premeaux limestone, the uppermost section, is covered in a layer of white Oolitic stone. Oolitic stone is made up of millions of small, oval, carbonate Oolite (egg stone) pellets that are fused by mineral cement. This composite construction makes the stone more susceptible to fracture, and the vines find it far easier to penetrate the many weak spots in this more porous stone. If anything, this is a benefit that the Clos des Ruchottes has over the rest of the Ruchottes appellation, especially since it is so high upon the hill. However we don’t know if the Oolite is of significant depth, and it is likely that Premeaux lies directly beneath it anyway. In either case, as vineyards go, the entire appellation of Ruchottes-Chambertin, is remarkably homogeneous in character.

The excellent Armand Rousseau website discusses Ruchottes Oolitic limestone, as well as shows the firm’s holdings in the vineyard, and is fairly detailed, and seemingly competent in their geological explanations, a surprising rarity in Burgundian marketing. Below is an excerpt.

The soil is composed of a shallow layer of red marl up to the top of the area. It is very pebbly, shallow and not fertile. The vines are based on oolithic limestone dating from Bathonien which disintegrates if frozen producing scree. This soil type forces the roots to go deeper into the rock. This results in a more fragrant, mineral style of wine that is lighter in colour but with a fine and elegant body. domaine-rousseau.com/en

Examining Ruchottes faulting and fracturing

We know through of the study of fracturing along the Arugot fault in the Dead Sea Basin, that as the distance from the fault increases, fracturing diminishes in frequency. This means that fracturing still occurs in its clusters, but the spacing between clusters is farther apart, leaving stretches of relatively undisturbed stone between areas of fracturing. As Ruchottes is located at the farthest possible distance in Gevrey from the main Saône fault, we rightly might expect this hard stone to be only intermittently fractured. Certainly there have been numerous accounts over the past century of vignerons having to dynamite sections of these vineyards to break up the stone enough to plant their vines.

Mazy and Ruchottes Chambertin with dip and strike oriented faults. Significant outcropping has emerged from this hard Premeaux stone at the convergence of these faults. Interestingly its both parallel and perpendicular to the extensional, horizontal faulting

Mazy and Ruchottes Chambertin with dip and strike oriented faults. Significant outcropping has emerged from this hard Premeaux stone at the convergence of these faults. Interestingly its both parallel and perpendicular to the extensional, horizontal faulting

Unknown before Vannier-Petit’s work were the locations of sub-faulting that occurred at the same time that the Saône Fault developed.(1) Two sub-faults bi-sect Ruchottes and Mazy, right at the border with Clos de Bèze. The vertical fault-line follows the boundary between the Premeaux stone and the various beddings that make up Clos de Bèze.

Ruchottes origin during of the Côte’s creation 

The once level Premeaux limestone bedding of Ruchottes came under great strain as the land that now forms the Saône Valley Basin pulled away and began its slide down. As the limestone slab was pulled extensionally, the once solid piece of limestone bedding first began to microfracture, then to fracture throughout the body of the stone. As understood by the study of fluid mechanics, stress intensifies exponentially upon weakest areas of the stone, from which fracturing propagates, until the main horizontal break, or fault occurs.

As this faulting occurred, the neighboring blocks of limestone were pulled downward by the void made by the dropping/falling off the fledgling Saône Valley. As this happened, bedding of Ruchottes began to tilt and slide downwards, both pulled and sliding with the adjacent formations. It is not clear if this was a rapid, cataclysmic event, or that it happened over the span of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years. Either way, the stress upon the Premeaux bedding of Ruchottes was extraordinary, and what fracturing that was not caused the faulting, certainly occurred as it tilted and moved its position downward.

Often times, faulting can cause one plate to sit significantly higher than the next, forming a drop off which may or may not fill with soil.  In some locations, such as the fault between Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet, this has occurred What soil was lost by Chevalier to erosion, found a fine resting place in Le Montrachet, allowing the soils of Le Montrachet to become much deeper (and richer).  In other instances, erosion may once again level any difference in bedding height created by faulting. Alternately, the bedding may remain at the same height following the fault creation.  To the best of my knowledge, any height differential between Ruchottes du bas and Mazy Hauts is not documented.

Looking at the satellite image, there are certainly several visual clues that this faulting exists. Most obvious are the signs of significant stress are the limestone ridges, where the bedding has folded upon itself, that pushed above the topsoil. These are dominate features directly above the southern end of Mazy Haut, and just like the walls of Clos, these limestone ridges greatly reduce erosion in these areas, which results in deeper richer soils and thus weightier wines, not only in Mazy, but in that area of Ruchottes du Dessus.

Clos de Beze & Chambertin: four distinct bedding planes

Here the soft friable makeup explains the ease that the vines have in extracting nutrients and water from the base rock

Here the soft friable makeup explains the ease that the vines have in extracting nutrients and water from the base rock

While Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze are very similar to each other, they are unique to all other vineyards in Gevrey. Both vineyards share the same four bands of bedding planes, in roughly the same proportions. The one largest difference between them is that there is a higher percentage of Crinoidal stone in Clos de Bèze than exists in the northern end of Chambertin.  However, what is farmed depends completely on the parcels owned, not what exists in the vineyard itself.  It is increasingly clear is that a parcel is a vineyard in itself, and sections within parcels can hold wide variation in the character of wine it will produce.

Upper-slope Bathonian beddings:

Premeaux limestone and Argillaceous limestone/Shaley limestone

The uppermost sections of both Clos de Bèze and Chambertin sit over the very pure, and hard, Premeaux limestone, formed during the Bathonian which is a 2 million year period of the upper middle Jurassic. As in Ruchottes, we can expect this Premeaux limestone to be fairly well-fragmented. If this were the only stone found below the surface of these vineyards, the wines would taste much more like Ruchottes, but that is not the case.

The middle-upper section of these sibling vineyards is argillaceous limestone. This is a calcium-rich clay matrix may be indurated into stone, or it also may be soft and more marly. The clay, or argile as it is called in French, normally composes up to 50% the matrix, with roughly the balance being calcium carbonate and impurities. To this Vannier-Petit adds the word hydraulique, (in parenthesis), which refers to the fact that this particular limestone contains silica and alumina, that will yield a lime that will harden under water.  The assumption is that this Calcaire Argilleux formed underwater in the Jurassic lagoon or seashore, by secreting quicklime which bound with the clay, 168 million years ago.

Decanter Magazine alternately, and perhaps inaccurately, translates from the French Calcaire Argilleux, into Shaley Limestone, (as seen in the map box). That said, Françoise VannierPetit describes in an interview, that the relationship of clay and shale, is almost as one material that continually is in a transition from clay to shale – and back again, depending on how hardened (indurated) it becomes, or degraded. That stated, shale is generally regarded as lithified clay mixed with silt, the blend of which causes the notable horizontal striations, while a body of transported clay (of a single type, ie. Kaolin) that has been indurated (hardened) is termed claystone. Geologist are notorious for their loose use of terms, which makes it challenging for the rest of us to catch up, and I suspect Vannier-Petit is often guilty of this. AC Shelly is credited with writing in 1988 that “The term shale, however, could perhaps be usefully abandoned by geologists, except when communicating to engineers or management‟

Nothing is as simple as a name. Shale can be found in many forms. The relationship between clay and shale is very tight, just like water and ice.

Nothing is as simple as a name. Shale can be found in many forms. The relationship between clay and shale is very tight, just like water and ice.

Middle to lower slope Bajonien beddings: 

Marnes à Ostrea acuminata & Crinoidal Limestone

The oyster, and other fossils that sedimentologists are constantly mentioning as being present the bedding is really only relevant because it allows the scientist to easily reference age of the material. The fact certain creatures lived only during distinct periods of time, and only in certain environments. So not only does it give scientists the age of the strata, but it tells them a lot about the particular conditions that existed in that location, quickly allows the scientist to assign the formation of the bedding material to a particular period of time. As the fossils display different signs of evolution, (in the case some oysters, their valve position changed over long periods of time) the sedimentologist can establish the age bedding, and allow them to recognize a change of bedding (at on the surface) simply by the fossils in each location.

Using this methodology, the scientist gleans information about how the bedding has shifted position, or even its location. These shifts have been very significant in the Côte. By categorizing strata by type, and fossil type. and date, they can match one strata in one location with its mate in another.  This methodology allows sedimentologists to correlate strata worldwide.

Oyster bedIn the vineyard of Chambertin, the marl (Marnes à Ostrea acuminata) lies in a layer just beneath the argillaceous material that once was an ancient oyster bed. It is loaded with fossilized oyster shells (Ostrea)  from the upperBajocien period. This soil, into which the fossils are bedded, contains a large amount of the clay, montmorillonite, which has a very high cation exchange rate, and such soils, with their negative charge, attract and hold positively charged ions called cations (minerals like calcium (Ca++), magnesium (Mg++), potassium (K+), ammonium (NH4+), hydrogen (H+) and sodium (Na+) that are crucial for plant growth. This makes this particular marl which lies in the heart of Chambertin, a particularly sweet spot for vines. And because this is a bedding plane that underlies the Argillaceous material above it, those vines whose roots can reach that deeply, may benefit from the Marnes à Ostrea acuminata too. That said, the deeper roots, it is reported, do not typically supply vines significantly with nutrients, that vines rely on their shallower root systems for this function.

gevrey pre slideThe age of the Marnes à Ostrea acuminata dates back to the very late Bajocian, parkinsoni zone 168.3 +/-, well before the Premeaux which lies above it was formed on top of it. This important because this decisively shows that the Comblanchien bedding, which lies at the base of the hillside (and was formed later in the Bathonian), slid down slope, and was pulled eastward with the falling valley. This slide of the Comblanchien, which at one time overlaid the argillaceous and oyster marl material and lay next to the Premeaux, moved downward almost 100 meters and eastward by roughly 200 meters. exposing this older marl and crinoidal bedding to the air, after having been buried underground for the previous 133 million years. The next bedding plane is the also Bajocien in origin, again being older than the Premeaux higher on the hill, and older than the Comblanchien which sits below both Chambertin and Clos de Beze.

The lowest section of Chambertin, and the largest percentage of Clos de Beze’s acreage consists of the well-fractured Crinoidal Limestone. This is the most common base rock upon which, the classified crus of Gevrey are planted.

Crinoids were extremely prevalent the lagoons and Jurassic seas worldwide, until the Permo-Triassic extinction when they were virtually wiped off of the geologic record. Their fossilized remains create weakness in the stone that encases them. This weakness in the stone, coupled with the geological fracturing of the area, has made it relatively easy for the vine’s roots to penetrate deep into this rock strata. Impurities in the stone’s construction, allows for chemical weathering, brought about by rainwater infiltration, to create rich primary clay bedding for the vines, within the breaks and gaps in the rock. These factors have proved that Crinoidal limestone provides a very effective and fertile bedding for Pinot Noir to grow.

Wilson described the Crinoidal limestone as being “cracked by numerous small faults which ‘shuffle the cards’ of strata, but generally are not large enough to ‘cut the deck’ to introduce markedly new strata.” Terroir (1998) p.131.  This is typical of his breezy style, and while it is visual (in terms of cards), it really doesn’t have much concrete meaning, other than being a colorful way to say the crinoidal stone is well-fractured. He does go on to say that this extensive fracturing allows the stone to be a good aquifer for the vines.

crinoids

Colluvium: atop the bedding planes

Almost every grand cru vineyard in the Côte de Nuits has significant amounts of colluvium mixed in their soils. While Ruchottes-Chambertin does have colluvium is one of the most glaring exceptions it is not significant in quantity.  Typically, this colluvium is accompanied by a fair amount of transported clay, which when together often forms marl.(2)  Rarely does one exist without the other in vineyards that have been classified as grand cru.

In the Côte de Nuits, there tends to be more colluvium in the colluvium to clay matrix, while in the Côte de Beaune, there tends to be more clay.  This tends to the case because there are many more marl bedding planes in the Côte de Beaune than there are in the Côte de Nuits, where marl bedding is rarer. There may be more shale in the Côte de Beaune as well.

 

The tête de cru, –  the very finest of the grand cru vineyards, have relatively equal proportions of marl and colluvium and sit only upon the slightest of slopes. This applies to the vast majority of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze vineyard area. These crus possess a perfect planting bed for vines: they have colluvium/marl based topsoil that is at least 50 cm (19 inches) deep where the absorbing roots are active.(3)  Because of this construction, the soil has good porosity for root and water infiltration but is not so porous a material that the water does not drain right through it, or cause it evaporates quickly from it. Additionally, because of its rocky nature, the grand cru soils tend to resists compaction.

While there is a band of harder, less fertile Premeaux stone on the uppermost slopes of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze, this represents a minority proportion of these vineyards. Parcels that have vines on these upper slopes, often lend a measure of finesse to the finished wine, without impacting the palate impression of the finished blend. For these reasons, Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze are among the finest vineyards in the Côte de Nuits.

Clos des Ruchottes, (and Ruchottes in general) is a far different vineyard than its two neighbors. With the near-pure calcium stone beneath its shallow soils, the low levels of impurities mean that when it weathers,  very little clay is produced. Because of the scant soil, the vineyard their neither contains nor can it attract, as much in the way of nutrients for the vines as can Clos de Bèze with which it shares a border. The resulting wines typically have less fruit, less color, seem more structured or tannic, and have a finer, though thinner texture. On the upside, the vineyard produces a very classy wine that can have excellent aromatics, remarkable finesse, and has excellent age ability.

Agree? Disagree? Comments are welcome and encouraged! Please feel free to like or share this, or any other article in this series!


Note: Many authors note that Clos de Bèze has Oolitic limestone. Vannier-Petit does not note this on her map. Instead, she places the Oolitic stone in the premier cru of Bel Air, which sits directly above it. A likely explanation of Oolite being cited as existing in Chambertin is scree/colluvium from Bel Air has slid down, to litter Clos de Bèze from above.

(1) The problem with always talking about the Saône Fault, is it ignores the fact that the fault is really the most minor part of the geological event that happened. It was a continent being pulled apart, that caused a void into which the land adjacent to the Cote d’Or fell into a trough which would become the Saône Valley. The Saône Fault is nothing more than as scar marking that event. And in fact, the Saône Fault lies buried quite deeply underground – its general location is only estimated.

(2) Marl would require a smaller particle size than just rock and gravel sized limestone pieces to produce the non-clayey consistency that marl displays.

(3) Despite the conventional wisdom to the contrary, it is this shallow absorbing root system that gathers the majority of nutrients that vines require.