The Romanée Saint-Vivant

Posted in Non classé on janvier 22, 2000

The monastery of Saint Vivant occupies an important place in the history of viticulture and of wine. Also notable for being at the origin of the famous Clos Saint Denis situated in the village of Morey Saint Denis, in the Chapter House of Saint Denis, which stood only several hundred meters away from the monastery on the hill of Vergy.

On November 13th, 1131, the monastery of Saint Vivant received from Duke Hugues 11 of Burgundy possessions that he owned in the form of woods and fields in the villages of Flagey and Vosne. Could this be the confirmation of former donations of Manassès and Ermengeard ? Perhaps. This land seems to have been left at that time in a state of abandon. To the North, the expansion of the religious communities barely exceeded Gevrey-Chambertin. The abbey of Citeaux, founded in 1098, immediately implanted itself along the Côte de Nuits (the future Clos de Vougeot in particular). It is probable that Cluny wished to affirm its presence in the face of these conquerors.

During 650 years, the history of Saint Vivant was linked to the history of the vineyards of Vosne Romanée, to that of its terroirs and “crus” and to the history of Pinot noir. This domaine remained quite stable in surface over the years and the acquisitions and exchanges were rare after 1131. The Prior’s House, wine cellars and a winery still exist today along la Rue du Temps Perdu, next to the Cloux de Saint Vivant (Cloux signifies Clos but this concept signifies in Burgundy and in the Middle Ages an entity of land that was not necessarily enclosed by walls).

It is known that in the beginning of the 16th Century, Saint Vivant possessed here in addition to several parcels of vineyards in Vosne and Flagey, the Clos des Neuf Journaux, the Clos de Moytan (Cinq Journaux), the Clos des Quatre Journaux and the Clos des Cinq Journaux. The “journal” is a measure of surface comprising around 34 “ares” or about 2/3 of an acre. The Clos des Cinq Journaux, sold in 1584, will later become the Romanée Conti.

The Romanée of Saint Vivant (this name appears for the first time in 1765, but had been without a doubt in current use for a long time) forms a parcel of 18 journaux (the former Clos du Moytan, the Nine Journaux and the Four Journaux) sold by the French State (as a national possession) on January 22nd, 1791 to Nicolas Joseph Marey, a member of the State Convention representing Nuits Saint Georges and son-in-law of the famous Gaspard Monge. The Clos des Quatre Journaux was purchased in 1898 by the Latour family. Other divisions of the vineyards took place but the Romanée Saint Vivant conserved its unity as a great growth. It remained in the Marey-Monge family until 1898. Today the vineyard is divided among a dozen burgundian domaines. Out of the 9 ha 43 a 74 ca, 5 ha 28 a 58 ca as well as the winery or “vendangeoir” belong to the Domaine de la Romanée Conti, for a production totalling, for the whole appellation Romanée Saint Vivant, 35 000 to 40 000 bottles a year.

The Romanée of the monastery of Saint Vivant was highly valued and one found it listed alongside Chambertin, Richebourg and Clos de Vougeot in Louis XVIth’s cellar book until the end of the eighteenth century. On the other hand, the anecdote attributed to Louis XIVth’s doctor, Fagon, concerning a prescription of the wine for the King’s ailments has no historical value. The monastery of Saint Vivant possessed other vineyards, notably in the Hautes Côtes. The wines were made at the monastery where there was a wine press and vast cellars.

These cellars of the monastery at Vergy were still used in the 12th century, even though the buildings were abandoned. The wine merchant house of Liger-Belair aged its wines there. They felt they could age in peace there on the hillside rather than in the incessant noise of the horse drawn carts in Nuits Saint Georges, according to the memories of an elderly winemaker from Bévy, named Emile Devedeux. He was born in 1888. He said that his grandfather was the gardener of the monks of Saint Vivant.

When the monks left during the Revolution, they told the grandfather : “Well, if we do not return, all this is yours.” But others came and everything was sold.