In 2012 the usual peace and tranquility of Gevrey was abruptly shaken by news that its charming small chateau, owned by the same family since the Revolution, had been purchased by a billionaire casino owner from Macau - Sacre Bleu! National newspaper headlines led with scare stories such as ‘French nationals will soon be travelling to China to buy their beloved Burgundy’ and other more grisly nonsense.
However such fears were confounded, and a truck load of hats and a dictionary full of words consumed, when the new owner set out upon a thoughtful and considered renovation - even engaging the village history society! It appeared that a true lover of Burgundy, with very deep pockets, was prepared to commit the vast amount of money the restoration would require, over and beyond the initial 8m euro purchase price.
However, having meticulously restored the annexe which provides living accommodation for the Chateau, the main body of the building is sadly going to have to await the arrival of another wealthy patrimonial benefactor - as the Chateau is back on the market.
Or perhaps there is another solution?
Is there anyone who has not walked into the Cathedral at Reims, or Notre Dame de Dijon, or just about any large medieval structure, and wondered - just how on earth did they do that? How did they build a structure like that with no cranes, modern scaffolding, theodolites, and so on? But build them they did, and those that have not been destroyed during wars, are still standing today, pretty much as they were 1,000 years ago. So perhaps there is something to learn from the skills and techniques of yesteryear?
Geudelon is roughly half way between Paris and Gevrey. It is in the north western part of Burgundy, an area rich in oak forests, with a plentiful supply of water and stone. It was here in 1998, that it was decided to construct a medieval castle - using only the building techniques and materials that would have been available in 1228. Crazy? Well maybe, but for the reasons indicated above, perhaps not. In any event, they are now about 8 years off finishing the project, which employs some 70 craftsmen, administrators and guides, and receives thousands of visitors a year from France and around the world. It is one of the most original and remarkable of 21c building projects, and a proud testament to French initiative. It also happens to be a castle built to the same design, and roughly the same proportions as Gevrey!
So perhaps when this team of medieval castle contractors become redundant in 2026, they can move to Gevrey and help to restore our precious relic from a bygone age!
Meanwhile two more scandals involving the international mass poisoning industry. In Europe, news that some Dutch chicken farmers had been treating their battery hens with insecticide, which of course then found its way into the eggs, met with general outrage. The outcry was accentuated by the decision of the Dutch health authorities to sit on the scandal for several months while they worked out what to do. To an extent this is understandable - why should it not be acceptable for the public to consume poison in eggs, when synthetic chemical poisons already exist in more or less everything else they eat and drink? That would be my defence on behalf of the chicken farmers! However while the unsuspecting battery egg eating public were tucking into their contaminated egg butties, the news was finally revealed. Millions of eggs had to be recalled across Europe. And in the US, news that blockbuster new pesticide poison Dicamba, is wreaking havoc when accidentally sprayed on crops that have not been genetically modified to withstand its hyper toxicity. Am I serious? Well sadly, unlike the story about travelling to China to purchase Burgundy, this is for real. Weeds and bugs develop resistance to pesticides, so ever stronger poisons are needed to deliver the same result, which can now only be achieved, by creating plants that can withstand this enhanced toxicity. But it occurs to me that some taxpayers money could be saved if governments and the agro chemical industry combined resources to clone a toxic resistant human. Then the weeds and pests would stand no chance, and we could all stop fretting about what we eat and drink!
It all seems a long way from the fresh organic fruit and vegetables that we purchase for Les Deux Chevres on Dijon market, or the array of fine organic fruit that arrives from local trees at this time of the year from our fruit man, who by day works the vines on the Gevrey estate of biodynamic Rossignol-Trapet.
The connection between biodynamic wine and food production, and what is happening at Guedelon, is that biodynamics can be seen as the means by which medieval methods of food production and crop protection (both of which were highly efficient and not reliant on ever stronger contaminating poisons) are revived.
Back in Gevrey, with the start of the harvest about a week away, another thunderstorm threatens and fades away. The grapes this year are plentiful. Gevrey avoided the ravages of the late frosts which afflicted other parts of Burgundy, and there was ample sunshine throughout the year - all of which points to a very good vintage for Gevrey Chambertin.
We have chosen to follow the harvest with two of our favourite organic winemakers - Mark Fincham of Marchand Tawse, and Axelle Machard de Gramont from Nuits St Georges. We will be posting regular updates on the The Burgundy Blog as the harvest of their super healthy and chemical free vines proceeds! A bientot!