Burgundy Part Un – A Geology Lesson?

See this guy.  His name is Jean-Michel.  He has ruined wine for us. Before we took the best wine tour ever with him, we were happy drinking almost anything.*  The other night after a long day of work, he passed on a (free) red because he didn’t like the smell. I rest my case.

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.

 
 

 

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Once Upon A Time There Was A Cute Little Town Called Murten

Once upon a time (1100’s), there was a town founded by Duke Berchtold that fell under the protection of the Count of Savoy, that was burned, rebuilt (in stone) and proclaimed its loyalty to the towns of Berne and Fribourg.  This town was called Murten (Morat in French).  It was so cute that in 1476, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy wanted it.  In complete honesty, I think he wanted it for reasons other than its cuteness.  Nevertheless, it is pretty cute.
Once upon a time (1100’s), there was a town founded by Duke Berchtold that fell under the protection of the Count of Savoy, that was burned, rebuilt (in stone) and proclaimed its loyalty to the towns of Berne and Fribourg.  This town was called Murten.  It was so cute that in 1476, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy wanted it.  In complete honesty, I think he wanted it for reasons other than its cuteness.  Nevertheless, it is pretty cute.
Charles the Bold (he was called bold for a reason) besieged the town, but was defeated by the Swiss in 1484.  Swiss towns had previously made pacts to protect each other.  When Charles the Bold came, it was time for them to put their money where their mouth was.  Being Swiss, they (a) took money rather seriously and (b) kept their promise.*  The other towns came to Murten’s aid and they kicked Charles the Bold’s heiney.**   Et voila, modern Switzerland was born.
From 1484 on, and for 300 years, Murten is ruled by the two states, Berne and Fribourg.
Cute litte Murten was not left to its happy ending quite yet, the French invaded the town in 1798.  Napoleon gave the town to Fribourg (sorry Berne).  Ultimately, our hero lived happily and cutely ever after (more or less).  It doesn’t hurt that it is on a gorgeous lake and has preserved its history (castle, ring wall and streets).
*At least that’s how the story goes.
**The Swiss became sought-after mercenaries and were the guns you wanted to hire for centuries.  In fact, the Swiss Guard, modern-day Swiss mercenaries, protect the pope.