Our Cistercian Heritage “Ora & Labora”, Prayer and Work: or how the Cistercian monks identified and developed the greatest terroirs of Burgundy.
In the 11th century, the abbey of Cluny was the seat of the Benedictine order and had exceptional spiritual, political and economic influence. But some monks longed for a return to the original monastic values of asceticism and deprivation. They left Cluny, went to northern Burgundy and finally settled in Citeaux.
They accepted donations of land, vines and rivers, which they could use to support themselves and feed their guests; they would organize the farming of land far away from the abbey by lay brothers, who were able to leave the confines of the abbey. When it was founded, the abbey of Cîteaux received a vineyard in Meursault from Eudes I, the Duke of Burgundy. And then the future Saint Bernard joined Cîteaux in 1112 and the abbey received “walled land on which is built a Cellier” in Vougeot, from Gales Gilles de Vergy, which was to become the famous Clos de Vougeot and would be classified as a Grand Cru. Keen to produce good wine for the liturgy and for hospitality purposes, the monks carefully identified and chose terroirs, and improved vine-growing and wine-making techniques.
In 1113, the abbot Stephen Harding invited twelve monks to leave the abbey of Cîteaux and go further south to found the abbey of La Ferté-sur-Grosne on the land and forest that had been donated by the Counts of Chalon. Soon enough, the abbey of La Ferté received offerings of vines. Recent historical research has uncovered the establishment of a wine-producing property equipped with a press and a cellar in the hills above Givry between 1120 and 1130, following donations made by Hugues II, the Duke of Burgundy, and Foulques de Réon, a powerful lord of Chalon. The Clos du Cellier aux Moines was established then with the borders that still exist nine centuries later, on a magnificent south-facing clay-limestone hillside, that has since been classified a Premier Cru.
Today the Domaine du Cellier aux Moines has been reborn and embarks on its mission with the same vision of excellence as its Cistercian founders. The restoration of the vines in the Clos began when the property was acquired by the Pascal family in 2004, and was followed by the restoration of the Cellier buildings.
Nine Centuries in the Heart of Burgundy, by the historian Gilles Platret and Philippe Pascal, published by Assouline (2013), tells the epic tale of fine Burgundy wine crafted by Cistercian monks.