The history of domaine romanée-conti
The Abbey of St Vivant was (and the ruins still are) on the side of the Hill of Vergy, just behind Gevrey Chambertin. The Vergy family, a powerful Burgundy clan in the Middle Ages, gave the followers of St Vivant some land on the side of their hill, to build an abbey. A bit later on (in the 13c), they gave them land in the village now known as Vosne Romanée, to plant vines to make wine. These fields are now the vineyards of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and they are at a distance of just under 10km from the St Vivant Abbey. So a St Vivant monk, every morning, would wake on his bed of straw (before day break), put on his monk's habit, say his morning prayers, and set off for Vosne. The Abbey is about 500m above the plain, so in Winter the snow would be on the hill for weeks, the cold penetrating the stone of the Abbey, making it not much warmer inside than out. Down the hill of Vergy, and up the hill the other side of the valley to the right of the image; through the Forest of Mantuan, then down the other side through the hamlet of Concoeur; across the flat top of the Côte, before descending again to tend to the vines. At the end of each day, he would make the return trip. And the reward for this harsh existence? A clear conscience and a life expectancy of all of 35 years. The way of life was similar for the Cistercian Monks planting out the Clos de Vougeot, just a little to the north of Vosne, who lived a similar spartan existence at their abbey at Citeaux, 13km east of Vougeot; the Monks of Beze, planting out the Clos de Bèze in Gevrey Chambertin, would make the journey from Bèze, to the north of Dijon; and the Chanoines of St Denis (who also lived on the Hill of Vergy) planting their Clos St Denis in what is now Morey St Denis. The track from St Vivant to Vosne is wide, reasonably well signposted, and makes a wonderful walk on a nice day. Perhaps with a little time to spare a thought for the monks of days gone by, the founding fathers of the Burgundy that we know today.
The beautifully tended winter vines of Romanée-Conti
Some steps are finally being taken, under the guidance of the Jean Charles-Cuvelier, secretary of the Association of St Vivant, and Aubert de Vilaine, of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, to preserve this site, so important and relevant to the history of wine making in Burgundy.