From the sixth century, grape vines began to migrate from the Gallo-Roman villas on the plains to the hills. This migration was strongly encouraged by the Burgundian Laws of the sixth century that granted ownership to anyone who planted vines on uncultivated land. The birth of the clos: these dry-stone walls, crowned with several layers of flagstone and slightly inclined to facilitate the flow of rainwater, were built to protect the vines and, in particular, to prevent animals from entering the vineyards. They were also built to mark out the property of private individuals, religious institutions, dukes of Burgundy and kings of France. The most famous are the Clos de Bèze in Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos de Tart in Morey-Saint-Denis, Clos de Vougeot and the Clos de Saint-Vivant in Vosne-Romanée.
The history of this closcan be traced back to the founding of the abbey of the same name (Saint-Pierre de Bèze, 30km north-east of Dijon) in the year 630. According to old documents, Amalgaire, Duke of Burgundy, endowed the monks of the abbey with land and plots of vines within the township. It wasn’t until the 13th century that the closexpanded into the 15 hectares of land that it covers today.
After its construction by the monks of Cîteaux starting in 1098, a few plots of land and a small cellar were donated to the abbey between 1112 and 1115. The clos as we know it was first mentioned in documents in 1212. Following several purchases and exchanges, the monks managed to gain a monopoly over the clos. They constructed buildings around two courtyards, which served as places of both residence and work for the lay monks (those responsible for manual labour). The large cellar and dormitory date back to the 12th century, while the winery in its current form was rebuilt around 1476-1477. The two wings of the castle were built during the Renaissance and are visible from the main road. This transformed the farm building into a prestigious residence for the abbots of Cîteaux.
Since the end of the Middle Ages, the spiritual authorities and the passing of time have worked together to refine the practices and reputation of Burgundy wines. In 1375, Philip the Bold outlawed the cultivation of the Gamay grape in favour of Pinot Noir, which was of a higher quality. In 1416, King Charles VI issued an edict that established the boundaries for the production of wine in Burgundy, from Sens to Mâcon. From the 18th century, the face of viticulture began to change with the founding of Burgundy’s first wine merchant, Maison Champy in Beaune. In 1847, King Louis Philippe granted the township of Gevrey the right to add the name of its famous cru, “Chambertin” to its name. Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-Saint-Denis and Vosne-Romanée all followed suit. In 1855, Dr Jules Lavalle established the Burgundy wine classification system in his book, Histoire et statistique de la vigne et des grands vins de la Côte-d’Or(a history and study of the vineyards in the Côte-d’Or). Four categories were created: Tête de cuvée, including Romanée-Conti, Clos Vougeot, Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze...Première cuvée, Deuxième cuvée, Troisième cuvée.
The vineyards underwent major upheaval in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1875, phylloxera, an aphid native to America that attacks the roots of the vine, causing it to die, came to Burgundy. From 1888, French vines were grafted onto American plants that were resistant to the pest. The physiognomy of the vines changed drastically: previously planted in groups together, the vines were now planted in rows, as the new plants did not thrive under the conditions created by the old vine layering technique. Later came the development of machinery, which led to the gradual disappearance of ancestral techniques. Fraudulent practices resulting from a lack of regulations on the origin of wines as well as the First World War and the Great Depression led to the introduction of a system for registered designation of origin. In 1919, the Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin was passed, and on 30 July 1935, the four AOC (certification for protected designation of origin) categories were created: Appellation régionale, Appellation communale, Premier cru, Grand cru.
For 2,000 years, communities have cultivated the vines, driven by a desire to create increasingly close connections between the wine and the area where it is produced, as well as to present each wine according to its origin. This work has created an extraordinary mosaic of over 1,000 Climats, making Burgundy the global benchmark for terroir-based viticulture. This heritage has given tangible form to the marks left over the years by monks, dukes of Burgundy, tradespeople and winemakers. On 4 July 2015, this remarkable heritage was recognised with the inscription of the Climats of Burgundy on the UNESCO World Heritage List.