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September 21, 2023

By decree: The Duke of Burgundy’s 14th-century AOC

Philip the Bold’s 1395 ordinance is famed for establishing Pinot Noir ahead of Gamay as Burgundy’s dominant red grape variety. But did it also usher in the first French wine appellation?

By Rod Phillips

Almost all serious winelovers will have heard of the 1395 ordinance of Philip the Bold (Philippe le Hardi), Duke of Burgundy—the ordinance that decreed the destruction of all Gamay vines planted in Burgundy. Philip famously called Gamay a “very bad and very disloyal” grape whose bitter wine made people ill and had ruined Burgundy’s reputation for fine wine. He ordered that all Gamay vines in the duchy should be cut down within a month.1

This ordinance has been understood in many ways. Some have seen it simply as a forthright statement that Gamay made poor wines and that Burgundy’s reputation as a producer of fine Pinot Noir wines had to be protected from it.2 Others have regarded it as a measure designed to protect owners of Pinot Noir vineyards from competition from the higher-yielding Gamay vines.3 (Philip’s ordinance might well have been self-serving in this respect, since he owned nearly 200ha [500 acres] of vines.4) The ordinance has even been portrayed as an ill-tempered, emotional reaction to Gamay wines; the duke “disliked it [Gamay] so much he tried to ban it entirely […]. One […] imagines the duke glowering at his writing desk, vassal to a king-size hangover.”5

More recently, historians have understood the ordinance in its political and economic contexts. Rudi Beaulant has emphasized its broader intent rather than its specific content, arguing that concern about the spread of Gamay was exploited by the duke as part of a more general attempt to increase his authority at the expense of municipal governments such as Dijon’s and Beaune’s. From this perspective, his attack on Gamay was a means to a political end rather than the sole end in itself.6 Meanwhile, Thomas Labbé, focusing on the economic crisis of the late 1300s and early 1400s, has argued that the ordinance was an attempt to shore up the wine sector, an importance source of commercial and fiscal revenue in Burgundy, where it was the most important commodity subjected to taxes.7

A careful reading of the ordinance suggests that a number of motivations was in play but that it was far from simply the act of an erratic, despotic ruler who disliked wines made from Gamay. Although there was some apparently intemperate language in the ordinance, it becomes decidedly less so when read in context. Nor was the ordinance necessarily designed to establish a monopoly for Pinot Noir as Burgundy’s red grape variety. But whether Duke Philip was primarily motivated to give Pinot Noir privileged status, to extend his authority, to protect his financial and fiscal interests, or to stabilize Burgundy’s economy—and these are not mutually exclusive aims—the ordinance also made a case for what was arguably France’s first wine appellation: Vin de Bourgogne.

Of course, it is anachronistic to think of Philip trying to establish a wine appellation in the modern sense in the late 14th century. What is argued here is that he sketched out rules that prefigured those of modern appellation regulations and that were tantamount to a simple de facto appellation. But already at this time, appellations in the broadest sense were implied in that wines (and other commodities) were generally known by their places of provenance, such as vin de Beaune, vin de Dijon, and vin d’Aquitaine rather than by, say, grape variety.

While there were no rules governing grape varieties or production metrics and methods in such wines identified by provenance,8 consumers expected wines from specific places to have certain characteristics and quality. The 1395 ordinance, as we shall see, refers to consumers and merchants feeling deceived when vins de Bourgogne did not meet the standard they expected and paid for—allegedly because they were blends that included some Gamay. The 1395 ordinance aimed to put this right.

The background to the 1395 ordinance

Until the 1300s, Burgundy lagged behind Bordeaux in winning recognition for its wines. Except for the region around Auxerre, Burgundy’s main wine-producing zones were far from navigable rivers, and merchants were unable to ship wine predominantly by water, the least expensive and most rapid way of transporting it. Barrels of wine from Burgundy (mostly 408-liter queues)8 made the slow and expensive overland journey by ox-drawn carts to the rivers Yonne and Seine, which would take them to the all-important Paris market and to destinations beyond, both within France and in northern Europe. Other barrels were hauled to the River Loire, destined for customers downstream and in the Mediterranean region.

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The additional shipping costs made Burgundy wines expensive at their destination markets, and during the 1300s their main consumers were popes, kings, and nobles, who began to seek them out for their cellars and for special occasions. They were served at royal coronations in Reims, proved popular at the papal court at Avignon, and were the choice of aristocrats and archbishops. By the 1330s, they were being taxed at a higher rate in Paris than wines from elsewhere, a measure of wine quality; wines from the area around Beaune (now the Côte de Beaune) paid a tax of 5 sous, compared to 4 sous for wines from Bordeaux and a little more than 1 sou for wines from the region around Paris.10

Throughout France at this time, most grape varieties were not clearly or consistently identified, and vineyards tended to be interplanted, so that wines were generally field blends. But in Burgundy there was more awareness of varieties, and although vineyards were often interplanted with several, vignerons tried to keep Pinot Noir separate when making wine. Evidence of this comes from an unusual source: a charge against a vineyard owner who struck and killed a young worker, Jehannin, during the 1394 harvest near Auxerre because he failed to separate Pinot Noir grapes from the other varieties. The owner appealed to King Charles VI for clemency, saying “he had told the harvesters to keep the Pinot [Pinoz in the original] apart, without putting the other grapes with them: but despite this, the said Jehannin put the Tressots [Treceaus in the original] and other grapes with the Pinots.”11 This suggests that grape varieties were interplanted, rather than separated in the vineyard, and that harvesters were responsible for putting the different varieties into separate baskets.

It was Pinot Noir that was used to make the wines—variously known as vin de Bourgogne, vin de Beaune, and vin de Dijon—that became so popular among the rich and powerful in the 1300s. They were prized not only for their quality but also because they were scarce: Pinot Noir yields at the time were far lower than the maximum yields permitted today, and in years of poor weather there might be no wine, or virtually none, at all.

As for Gamay, it was widely planted in the south of the Duchy of Burgundy, notably in the Mâconnais, as well as in nearby Beaujolais (which was not part of the duchy) and the area around Lyon. Gamay wines were quite well known in Beaune by the 1360s, and Gamay plantings seem to have moved north from that time, reaching the area around Dijon (Chenôve, Marsannay-la-Côte, and Couchey) in the early 1390s, about the time of Philip’s ordinance.12

But Pinot Noir was regarded as the superior variety by far, and we would expect the dukes of Burgundy to have supported its successes in bringing not only honor and fame but also revenue to their duchy. This support became even more urgent from the mid-1300s, when the Black Death—which first struck Burgundy in 1348 and even more severely in 1360—killed perhaps one half to one third of the population. Throughout France, demand for goods fell, including demand for wine. In some parts of Burgundy, wine was overproduced—and until the population began to rebound in the late 1400s, there were periodic proposals to reduce production by pulling out vines from poorer locations and forbidding the planting of new vineyards.

This crisis of the late 1300s could not have happened at a worse time for Burgundy, whose wines had just begun to win recognition for their quality. It made support for fine Pinot Noir wines imperative—and that is what Philip set out to provide in his 1395 ordinance, whether or not he also had broader political and economic purposes in promulgating it. It is in the course of doing so that he appears to have sketched out the first wine appellation.

Burgundy Philip the Good
Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Rogier van der Weyden (1399–1464) (after) / Flemish Musée Communal, Bruges, Belgium. Bridgeman Images.

The ordinance of 1395

Philip began the ordinance by saying that he had received complaints from “many bourgeois [townspeople] and others of our good towns of Beaune, Dijon, and Chalon [Chalon-sur-Saône] and their environs.” The complainants—who are not identified—argued that their regions had long produced “the best and most precious wines of the Kingdom of France, the most suitable for nourishing and sustaining human beings.” Moreover, they said, the excellence of the wines grown in their regions was attested to by their being purchased by the pope, the king, and many lay and clerical nobles. Purchasing visits to Burgundy by the buyers for these nobles and by “other merchants from various countries and various regions” had brought money and goods that had handsomely benefited the people of Burgundy.

We should note that Pinot Noir was not mentioned explicitly anywhere in the ordinance, even though the name was becoming more widely used by 1395. The first known use of the word Pinot is a reference in the accounts of the archbishop of Sens (in Auxerrois) to “ij queues de pinoz”—“two queues [408-liter barrels] of pinot.”13 During the last quarter of the 14th century, there were many more references to Pinot Noir (spelled pineau, pynos, or pinoz) in Burgundy and in other parts of France with reference to wines from Burgundy. The association of the grape and the place must have begun somewhat earlier—it was clearly made orally before being committed to paper for the first known time in 1366.

When Philip issued his ordinance in 1395, then, the word was relatively new, but it seems to have been in common and increasing usage, and it is inconceivable that the duke and his staff did not know the name of the grape variety to which he was referring. Moreover, everyone likely to read, hear, or be affected by Philip’s proclamation would have known which grape variety was widely planted in the vineyards around Dijon, Beaune, and Chalon—the areas on which the ordinance focused and whose wine was highly valued. There is no reason why the ordinance could not have referred to Pinot Noir by one of its various names (or by Noirien, as Pinot Noir was also widely called from the 13th to the 19th century), but there was really no need to. This aligns with the later-institutionalized French practice of referring to a wine not by grape variety but by the name of its geographical provenance.

But when the ordinance turned to Gamay, the allegedly inferior grape that was its target, it was necessary to name it, not least because several other varieties were grown alongside Pinot Noir; the hapless young harvester, let us recall, was struck for mixing “the Tressots and other grapes with the Pinots.”15 The name Gamay must have been widely used in the late 1300s as plantings spread—vignerons needed to identify the vines they wanted to plant—but the reference to it in the duke’s edict (where it is spelled Gaamez) is the first time it is known to have appeared in a document.16

With its attention now on Gamay, the ordinance turned abruptly from the positive tone in which Pinot Noir was discussed, to a thoroughly negative one. Despite all the fame and all the benefits Pinot Noir wines had brought, “in recent times, a number of our subjects of the said places and regions and others, wishing to have a great quantity of wines, have planted among the good vines of the said places where the said good wine is made, and in nearby places such as gardens, meadows, and arable lands, vines of a very bad and very disloyal plant, called Gamay.”

The ordinance went on to specify three main reasons why Gamay was such an objectionable grape variety.

The first was that Gamay produced high yields. The quote above refers to vignerons being motivated to plant Gamay by the desire for “a great quantity of wines,” and the ordinance adds that “from this bad plant comes a very great abundance of wines.” We do not know how yields were managed at this time, but the modern mantra of low yields giving better-quality wine had not then been articulated. Even though an association of quality and yield is implied in the ordinance, it is the varieties themselves, not yield, that were said to dictate quality. It is likely that vignerons, whether they grew Pinot Noir or Gamay, aimed for the highest yield possible, and what was at issue here was not yield in itself but the tendency of Gamay vines to produce much higher yields than Pinot Noir.17

Later in the ordinance, Philip complained that some vignerons were boosting Gamay yields even higher by fertilizing their vines with manure from cows, sheep, horses, and other animals, and with animals’ horns and rotten grapes. Wines made from vines cultivated this way were such that “no human being […] could suitably use them without putting his person in danger.” The duke would not have been a fan of organic and biodynamic viticulture.

Second, the ordinance recorded objections to the locations where Gamay was being planted: “in gardens, fields, and on arable land.” This was not a fault in Gamay, but it echoed historical objections to viticulture taking over land better suited to other crops. Wine was an important product, but grain was the basis of the medieval diet, and arable land had to be protected. Objections to planting arable land with vines go back to Roman times and continued in France long after Philip’s edict.

In addition, some vignerons had “craftily” interplanted Gamay with Pinot Noir and planted Gamay in places where Pinot Noir would grow well; “and to get the greatest quantity of the said bad wines, they have left in ruin and devastation the good places where the said good wine might have grown.” It was, then, not only that Gamay was being planted in viticulturally marginal locations better suited to cereals and other crops, but that it was taking over land that would have produced the fine wines made from Pinot Noir.

Although the inferiority of Gamay was implied in the complaints about high yields and where it had been planted, the explicit condemnation of the quality of Gamay wines came only in third place: “the said wine of Gamay is of such a nature that it is very harmful to humans, such that a number of people who have used it in the past have been affected by serious illnesses, we have heard; because the said wine that is made from the said vine, of its said nature it is full of a very great and horrible bitterness.”

Even so, the ordinance went on, “when it [Gamay] is harvested and when the wine is young, it has a sort of sweetness.” Vignerons who want to sell it and take it off its new lees “are in the custom of adding to it large quantities of warm water. In this way, the said wine maintains the said sweetness for a long period of time. But once that time passes, the wine of the said vine returns to its original nature. And even worse; because it becomes entirely foul.”

This is certainly a negative review of Gamay wine, even if some of it sounds somewhat exaggerated. Philip asserted that it was harmful to health, but he qualified the statement by saying that he had only heard this. In any case, it was not uncommon at this time for poor wine to be described as dangerous to its consumers, and it was the mirror image of the claim, made earlier in the ordinance, that wine made from Pinot Noir was “the most suitable for nourishing and sustaining human beings.” The belief that poor-quality or faulty wine was dangerous lasted many centuries—for example, in 1792, a tinsmith from Seurre, a village near Beaune, was arrested for serving wine to soldiers that tasted so bad that they refused to drink it. Expert tasters judged the wine to be “of a nature to be harmful to health.”18

The last part of the ordinance ordered vignerons who had Gamay vines to cut them down: “For the good and benefit of our subjects, and the public good […] all those who have the said vines of the said Gamay [must] cut them or have them cut to the extent that they are in our said land, within a month following the date of the present.” By the following Easter (1396), the vines were to be grubbed up: “ripped out, eradicated, destroyed, reduced to nought […] for ever.”

Fines would be levied on anyone who failed to remove their Gamay vines, and if any vignerons persisted in fertilizing their vineyards, the carts and animals involved would be seized. Any civic-minded subject who informed the authorities about infractions of this law would be rewarded with one quarter of any fines that were imposed, with the remaining three quarters going to the duke’s treasury. This sparked a conflict with the mayor and councillors of Dijon, who argued that the city should be the beneficiary of any fines levied on vineyards in the Dijon region, which stretched from the city as far south as Gevrey-Chambertin.19

Even if the underlying aim of the ordinance was to enlarge the duke’s authority at the expense of the municipal authorities of Dijon in this way, it is not irreconcilable with the explicit aim of restoring the good name of Burgundy’s Pinot Noir wines that had allegedly been sullied by Gamay. According to the ordinance, merchants and other purchasers of Burgundy wines had so often been “deceived and defrauded” by blends of Pinot Noir and Gamay that they were no longer coming to Burgundy. “Our said land and our said subjects have been greatly damaged and harmed and are at present being even more so, unless we provide a remedy.”

The meaning of the ordinance: an early appellation?

The explicit argument of the ordinance looks fairly straightforward. Pinot Noir made excellent wines that had brought fame and financial benefits to Burgundy. In contrast, Gamay made high volumes of bad wine, and plantings were increasing, sometimes at the expense of Pinot Noir. The poor quality of Gamay and blended wines had compromised Burgundy’s name in markets where wines were more often known by their provenance rather than by grape variety. The remedy was obvious: Gamay vines had to go. The duke would have endorsed the literal force of the Twitter hashtag #GoGamayGo but not its spirit.

Yet beneath the apparently straightforward intent of the ordinance is a quite sophisticated law relating to geographical boundaries, grape varieties, viticultural practices, and vine yields. It is in this sense that it can be read as prefiguring what we would recognize as a simple wine appellation.

There is a little ambiguity as to whether the order to rip out Gamay vines referred to the whole of the Duchy of Burgundy or only to the areas around Dijon, Beaune, and Chalon, the regions where the complaints about Gamay originated. These are certainly the main areas Philip was concerned about, but the weight of the text suggests that he ordered Gamay to be removed from the whole duchy. At one point in the ordinance, the duke complains about Gamay’s being grown “in the said places and regions and others,” which takes us beyond the three regions, and later the order is said to extend to “our said land” (notre dit pays in the singular form), which almost certainly means the duchy. It is safe to say that the appellation—let us call it that—sketched here had the same frontiers as the Duchy of Burgundy.

Duke of Burgundy
Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Unknown artist, copy of the beginning of the 16th century, from an original from the end of the 14th century. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, France. Photo © Leonard de Selva / Bridgeman Images.

The first characteristic of the appellation was the designation of permitted grape varieties. In this instance, it was a negative designation: no permitted variety was specified—though we could say that Pinot Noir was specified without being named—but one variety (Gamay) was banned. According to some writers, it was not just banned but banished or exiled, as if the “disloyal” grape was a political opponent of the duke. As detailed in one account, “Gamay was exiled way off south to Beaujolais, where it better enjoyed the warmer weather and older geology.”20 But we should be clear that Gamay was not in any sense “exiled” to Beaujolais; it already flourished there and elsewhere.

Apart from the sections of the text that disparage the quality of wine made from Gamay, the ordinance uses a key term that underlay later French appellation law: The assertion is that Gamay was a “very disloyal” (tres-desloyaul in the original) variety. To modern ears, it sounds archaic—as if Gamay was unfaithful or even treasonous to the Duchy of Burgundy or to the Duke of Burgundy personally. Or we might think that “disloyal,” used in the sense of having betrayed or harmed the honor or fame of the duke and the duchy, was being used in a metaphorical sense. A grapevine, after all, does not possess the agency or intentionality to be loyal or disloyal.

But it would not have been out of place at the time for a plant to be accused of and punished for committing a crime such as treason. In the Middle Ages and after, many animals, birds, and insects were tried in court and punished—by being fined, imprisoned, or executed—for offenses such as theft and murder. They were tried in the very same courts in which humans were arraigned, their cases argued by the same lawyers, before the same judges. These judges periodically convicted pigs, horses, dogs, cattle, and other animals for harming or killing people, and insects and other vermin for destroying crops.

There is an example from Burgundy in the early 1500s, when the rats of the diocese of Autun were summoned to appear before a court to answer the charge that they had eaten the barley crop. The rats failed to appear at the specified time, and their lawyer won them an extension by arguing that cats were watching for them and that no one should be expected to appear at the court unless they could do so safely. It is not recorded whether they later appeared.21 Given the willingness to charge animals and insects with crimes, it would not be a stretch to condemn a vine to death for treason (a capital crime). Cutting Gamay vines off at ground level before pulling them out (as was prescribed) echoes execution by decapitation.

But the French word loyal, the antonym of déloyal, has another meaning and in that sense appeared in later decisions about delimited appellations in the phrase “usage local, loyal, et constant” (plural: “usages locaux, loyaux, et constants”). In the 20th century, appellations were delimited on the basis of the viticultural and winemaking practices (usages) common to a region—practices in terms of vineyard sites, grape varieties, vineyard management, and the like. Within each appellation these practices were defined by place (local), time (constant), and quality (loyal).

This meaning of the word loyal as “of good quality” is rarely used today, but we find it in older French dictionaries. For example, in Antoine Furetière’s Universal Dictionary, Containing All French Words, published in 1690, one meaning of loyal is “the good quality of things.”22 Thus, as far as grape varieties in an appellation were concerned, they should be indigenous (local) and of good quality (loyal) and have been cultivated for a long time (constant).23

It is not clear what Philip meant when he declared that Gamay was “disloyal”: whether the vine was treasonous and needed to be punished or, more prosaically, that it was a variety of poor quality that could not but make poor-quality wine. Whichever is the case, Gamay was unacceptable. It was also a newcomer, apparently introduced to the Côtes de Nuits, de Beaune, and Chalonnaise in the two or three decades preceding the ordinance. In these respects, it was unlike Pinot Noir, which was regarded as an indigenous variety and which the ordinance praised for its long history (ancienneté) in Burgundy.24 In short, Gamay was not local, not loyal, and not constant. On all three counts, it failed the test that varieties later needed to pass to be permitted in appellations, and it had to be extirpated, while Pinot Noir passed with flying colors.

Another issue underlying Philip’s hostility to Gamay was its high yields. As we have seen, high yields were not in themselves problematic at that time—in fact, they were generally welcomed, especially in Pinot Noir, which was a notorious low-cropper. It was the high yields of Gamay relative to Pinot Noir that were objectionable, whether or not they were boosted by fertilizer. By privileging a grape variety that had a distinctive yield, the ordinance explicitly added yield to the characteristics of the appellation.

Finally, the use of fertilizer itself was problematic. As irrigation would centuries later prove to be controversial in France because it was thought to alter the character of wine—to the point that the use of irrigation had to be declared on wine labels—so the use of fertilizer was, in the 14th century (and long afterward), thought to pass on bad flavors to wine. The ordinance banned the use of fertilizers in the cultivation of Pinot Noir, adding a rule regarding viticultural practices to the appellation.

The overall effect of the 1395 ordinance, then, was to establish Burgundy as a wine region based on territory, grape variety, yield, and viticultural practice, even if it was not nearly as comprehensive as later appellations. The one respect in which it seemed defective was in terms of its territory, though defining the territory of an appellation d’origine as the same as a political entity was common in the 20th century. Many of Burgundy’s village appellations generally have the same boundaries as the political boundaries of their communes, sometimes modified to exclude areas unsuited to viticulture.

A more explicit delimitation of the territory in which vin de Bourgogne could be produced was set out in a royal edict of 1415, 20 years after Philip the Bold’s ordinance, which might be said to have completed what was accomplished in 1395. This edict was issued by King Charles VI in response to disagreements among various regions as to how their wine should be known. As far as Burgundy was concerned, Charles decreed that the name vin de Bourgogne could be used for “the wines grown below the bridge of Sens, both those in the area of Auxerre and those in the area of Beaune.” It is a vague definition, but it seemed to include Auxerrois and the côtes de Nuits and de Beaune—excluding the Chalonnais and Mâconnais.

This 1415 geographical delimitation, as much as it lacked specificity, has been called the “first appellation”25 or a “proto-appellation,” which is fair enough if we think only in terms of a geographically delimited area. But if we consider the 1395 ordinance and the 1415 together, we might well see the latter as giving more precision in geographical terms and rounding out an appellation that, as we have seen, had more substance than geographical delimitation alone.

The aftermath of the 1395 ordinance

Was Philip the Bold’s 1395 ordinance successful in establishing a vin de Bourgogne region that was free of the detestable Gamay? Apparently not. For one thing, there was a dispute as to whether fines levied on Dijon-area vignerons who continued to grow Gamay and fertilize their vines should go to the duke’s or to Dijon’s treasuries.26 (It is possible that the city governments of Beaune and Chalon also objected, but there is no known documentary evidence.) While the dispute continued, the mayor and council of Dijon refused to have Philip’s edict announced publicly by the city’s town crier, the means by which laws were promulgated. This meant that the edict could not be enforced in Dijon’s vineyards, and it was not until 1401 that a compromise was reached between the duke and the city.

Then, the 1395 ordinance was so draconian that many vignerons probably disobeyed it. It was issued on July 31, and it ordered the cutting down of Gamay vines within a month—during August, just as the grapes were beginning to ripen. It was a terrible thing to ask vignerons to destroy any part of their livelihood, but even more so to require them to do it while the vines were laden with ripening grapes. Any vigneron whose vineyard was entirely or substantially planted to Gamay and who obeyed the edict would have been ruined. Not only would they have lost their 1395 vintage, they would have had little or no income for the following two or three years, even assuming they could afford to replant with Pinot Noir or another variety. It is likely that many Gamay growers were poorer vignerons trying to make a living from the high-yielding variety.

While we might have an image of the medieval period as successfully hierarchical, with the lower sort deferring to and obeying their superiors without question, it was not so. Resistance to measures thought oppressive was common. In 1425–27, the authorities in Dijon announced a plan to rip out vines from the Poussot district because the wines had a bad reputation, and some vignerons threatened to kill anyone who tried to destroy their vines.27 In 1395, many vignerons must have opted to defy Philip’s ordinance and take their chances with getting caught rather than obey and face the certainty that they and their families would be plunged into poverty.

That the 1395 order to remove Gamay was widely ignored is shown by its being reissued in 1441—nearly half a century later—by Philip the Bold’s grandson, Philip the Good. He restated his grandfather’s arguments, declaring that Gamay was “wicked” and that it made “bad and weak wines.” He, too, lauded Pinot Noir, which made “worthy and excellent wine.” This reissuing of the order further suggests that Gamay was an important issue, besides any other purposes—such as extending ducal authority—that the 1395 ordinance may have served.

Yet Gamay long retained a presence in the three regions (Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, and Côte Chalonnaise) that were key to the 1395 ordinance and elsewhere in Burgundy. In the 1700s, for example, the vines belonging to the parish of Volnay (in the Côte de Beaune) included both Pinot Noir and Gamay. Pinot Noir remained the favored grape variety, for no matter what the vintage and its effect on wines, those made from Pinot Noir were called “good wines” (bons vins) and those from Gamay were designated “common wines” (vins communs).28

In the early 1900s, the AOC authorities took a middle road, neither banning Gamay from AOC wines nor giving it full equality with Pinot Noir. Gamay could be grown throughout Burgundy, but it was permitted in AOC wines only in blends such as Passe-Tout-Grains and in Crémant de Bourgogne, not as a varietal wine. To the south, Beaujolais, with distinct appellations, became the land of Gamay. We might even look back to the 1395 ordinance as being a harbinger of Beaujolais Nouveau. Remember that Philip condemned Gamay wines as being very bitter, but even he conceded then that in their youth (the phrase in the ordinance is de nouveaul) they had “a kind of sweetness.” That was surely an argument for drinking them while they were still young, and long before before their supposed bitterness emerged.

Philip the Bold’s 1395 ordinance set the tone for Gamay to be disparaged as a grape variety for hundreds of years. Only recently has it been recognized as capable of making fine wines. The designation of the Beaujolais crus starting in 1936 was an important step, but it was the creation of AOC Bourgogne Gamay in 2011 that finally brought together, explicitly, the names of Burgundy and Gamay. Duke Philip would not have been happy.


1. Copies of the 1395 ordinance are held in the Archives Municipales de Beaune (Carton 94, No.7) and the Archives Municipales de Dijon (B 138). There is a transcription at (full URL: Translations into English are mine.

2. Marcel Lachiver, Vins, Vignes et Vignerons: Histoire du Vignoble Français (Fayard, Paris; 1988), p.142.

3. Rod Phillips, French Wine: A History (University of California Press, Sacramento; 2016), p.37.

4. Patrice Beck, “Les Clos du Prince. Recherches sur les Etablissements Viti-Vinicoles Ducaux,” Annales de Bourgogne 73 (2001), p.104. The vines were owned by the duchy, not by Philip personally.

5. Ben O’Donnell, “The Exile of Burgundy,” Wine Spectator (online), November 17, 2011.

6. Rudi Beaulant, “Un Terroir pour Trois. L’Evolution des Rapports Politiques et Sociaux entre le Duc de Bourgogne, la Mairie de Dijon et les Vignerons aux XIVème–XVème Siècle,” Revue Internationale de l’Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin 1 (2018), pp.140–58.

7. Thomas Labbé, “A Propos d’une Nouvelle Découverte: Quelques Réflexions sur l’Apparition du Pinot dans les Archives Bourguignonnes,” Revue Internationale de l’Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin 2 (2019), pp.41–46.

8. Wines were sometimes identified by the name of the port from which they were shipped, rather than the zone of their production. For that reason, the wines of Béarn were sold as Bayonne wines in the 1700s. Phillips, French Wine, p.114.

9. Barrel sizes varied over time until they were standardized. By the 1700s, a queue held 456 liters.

10. Lachiver, Vins, Vignes et Vignerons, pp.141–42.

11. Guillaume Grillon, Jean-Pierre Garcia, and Thomas Labbé, “Le ‘Très Loyal Pinot’: Itinéraire d’un Cépage Mythique de la Bourgogne,” Revue Internationale de l’Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin 2 (2019), p.16.

12. Rosalind Kent Berlow, “The ‘Disloyal’ Grape: The Agrarian Crisis of Late Fourteenth-Century Burgundy,” Agricultural History 56:2 (1982), p.437.

13. Labbé, “Nouvelle Découverte,” p.41.

14. Lachiver, Vins, Vignes et Vignerons, p.143.

15. My emphasis.

16. We should assume that grapes were long known by name in the daily conversations and discussions of vignerons and wine merchants who needed to distinguish vines and wines from one another. This gave rise to the multitude of local names given to varieties. It is unclear why these names were recorded in documents only from the late 1300s.

17. In the 1730s, the Pinot Noir vines of the parish of Volnay produced an average yield of 5.3hl/ha, while vines making Passe-Tout-Grains produced 14.1hl/ha, almost three times as much. This difference might, of course, have been partly a result of different planting densities. Livre de Vendanges. Cure de Volnay. Archives Départementales de la Côte d’Or (ADCO), G4067.

18. ADCO, L1027, Jugement du Tribunal Criminel Révolutionnaire, September 29, 1792.

19. Grillon, Garcia, and Labbé, “Le ‘Très Loyal Pinot’,” p.13.


21. Hampton L Carson, “The Trial of Animals and Insects: A Little-Known Chapter of Medieval Jurisprudence,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 56 (1917), pp.410–11.

22. He gives as an example, “This grain is not of good quality [loyal], it has too much rye and is full of weevils.” Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire Universel Contenant Généralement Tous les Mots François (2 vols; The Hague and Rotterdam, 1690), II, no pagination.

23. There is a discussion of the phrase in Jean-Claude Hinnewinkel, “Les Usages Locaux, Loyaux et Constants dans les Appellations Viticoles du Nord de l’Aquitaine. Les Bases des Aires d’Appellations d’Origine,” in Le Vin à Travers les Ages (Féret, Bordeaux; 2001), pp.133–46.

24. Pinot Noir had a long history in Burgundy, but there is no evidence that it was indigenous to Burgundy: “If Pinot Noir is the emblematic grape of Burgundy, nothing indicates it originated there.” Grillon, Garcia, and Labbé, “Le ‘Très Loyal Pinot’,” p.14.

25. Giulia Meloni and Johann Swinnen, “Trade and Terroir: The Political Economy of the World’s First Geographical Indications,” American Association of Wine Economists Working Paper 225 (2018), In the same edict, Charles defined the regions that could use the names vin de Loire and vin de France (the Paris region, known as Île de France), and these might also be regarded as being the first geographical indications in France. But unlike Burgundy, they lacked guidance regarding grape varieties, yields, and viticultural practices.

26. This is explored in Beaulant, “Un Terroir pour Trois.”

27. I am grateful to Dr Rudi Beaulant of the Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté for information on this point.

28. See Rod Phillips, “A Priest and His Wine: Volnay 1726–76,” The World of Fine Wine 63 (2019), pp.104–09.

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