Jean-Michel (a tour guide par excellence) said that to understand Burgundy, we must understand its geology. Burgundy doesn’t produce tons of wine, but it produces very good wines and some outstanding (ridiculously expensive) ones. Why? Geology.
Millions of years ago, Burgundy was the seaside. Over time, as pressure from the African and European plates, caused the layers of soil to bend and fracture. Glaciers further shattered them. The vineyards still follow this fault line. There is a narrow strip with great soil (for growing wine) whose diversity is due to the breakup of these layers.
The shakeup of the seaside yielded the perfect mix for growing wine in certain really specific areas (the dispersed bits and pieces combined with microclimates are the main reasons for Burgandy’s notorious complexity).
Burgundy is in France. As a result, it didn’t take long for people to realize and exploit its wine growing potential. Jean-Michel explained that the monastic orders became the first major vineyard owners. With land, time to study and a dedication to physical labor, they quickly learned how different vineyard plots consistently gave different wines. When popes took a liking to their wines, the monks had a powerful bargaining chip that they used and keenly protected (keeping the quality high).
Making a valuable commodity like good wine made the monks rich and powerful. This is just one of their several wine presses. they meant business. The monk’s summer residence. Clearly, they weren’t hurting.
After Burgundy became part of the France, the power of the church decreased and many vineyards were sold. During the French Revolution, the church’s remaining vineyards were seized and sold. Napoleonic inheritance laws caused the continual subdivision of the most precious vineyard land. As a result, many modern day growers only hold a row or two of vines! The different colors, stakes and markers at the end of the rows below differentiate the rows of different owners!
*Except for maybe Boone’s Farm.