Book Review: A Simply Gorgeous Book About a 900-Year-Old Winery
If you’re still looking for a Christmas present – especially for a Catholic or a wine lover – we have a book for you.
Nine Centuries in the Heart of Burgundy is the story of the Cellier aux Moines & its Vineyards. It begins, necessarily, at almost the beginning of the Christian era. The reader gets a thorough history of the rise of monastic orders, and especially those established under the rule of St. Benedict.
The heart of St. Benedict’s rule is that idleness is the enemy of the soul. So he required the monks to be occupied at all times – at certain times with manual work, and others with spiritual reading, communal prayer, and personal prayer based upon a book, the technique known to Catholics today as lectio divino.
Benedict’s concept would find a reincarnation in the 20th century when St. Josemaria Escriva promoted the concept that the daily events of life – work, family life, etc. – were themselves a form of prayer
The thrust of the book which is lavishly illustrated with both modern pictures and pictures of architectural details and drawings from the Middle Ages, is about the seller. The property is located in the heart of historic Burgundy, midway between the abbeys of Cluny and Citeaux and was founded in 1113, nine centuries ago.
The book provides a detailed and very well done history of the Cellier which passed from monastic control during the French Revolution of 1789. To avoid the bankruptcy of the French government, the national assembly decided to sell the clergy’s assets is the property of the nation, and then to suppress the regular religious orders. The task of pursuing the work undertaken by the Cistercians was transferred to lay proprietors.
The book recounts the work of the new owners, and had and discusses how the property continued to grow. The current proprietor is Philippe Pascal, who had helped farmers in Guinea-Bissou develop peanut cultivation, then promoted French wine in New York City, was director of Mumm and Pierre-Jouet, president of Veuve Clicquot and of Moet Hennessy.
He purchased the property in July 2004, and began planning its restoration. He describes having to rebuild foundations by digging beneath them from the outside, while shoring up the interior the main house. It was several years before Pascal could take control of the Vineyards, and when he did he abandon the use of herbicides and pesticides and began to restore the soil. “Immediately the vines appeared to feel better, and wild nature was restored to her rightful place as wild grasses, broods of partridges and hairs returned to the estate.” He notes that the ecological precept of the winegrowing monks was that nature is some.
This book would be worth buying simply as a coffee table book. But it’s really an excellent history of one region of France, of the monastic history of Catholicism, and of one particular vineyard and winery. It’s a book worth adding to your collection, even its hefty price. You can order it here. (Full disclosure: Order it here, and we’ll receive 4% of the purchase price.)