Monks and Wine in Burgundy: Background information when reading Shadows in the Vineyard

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Shadows in the Vineyard

The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine

by Maximillian Potter

Shadows in the Vineyard by Maximillian Potter X
Shadows in the Vineyard by Maximillian Potter
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2014, 304 pages
    Jul 2015, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Monks and Wine in Burgundy

Print Review

Example of terroirIn Shadows In the Vineyard, we learn how strong a factor the concept of terroir is in winemaking. "It's the sum of the natural characteristics unique to each parcel or climat of vines: the amount of sunlight and rain an area receives, the pitch and composition of its earth, and, of course, the vines," writes Maximillian Potter. Terroir explains why different plots of land yield different kinds of grapes and therefore, different kinds of wines. Interestingly enough, the idea of terroir was first introduced to Burgundy by monks centuries ago.

The Catholic church gained increasing influence in the Middle Ages and expanded their land-holdings in the Burgundy wine territories by means of generous gifts bequeathed them by royalty. Abbeys and monasteries were rapidly established, including the two largest — Cluny in 909 (held by the Cluniac order of monks), and Citeaux, in 1098 (held by the Cistercian order.)

Clos de VougeotThe monks first established their vineyards in order to produce wine for mass, but gradually viticulture became a vital part of their daily routine, and soon Burgundy wine became famous. In 1336, Cistercian monks created a walled vineyard (a clos) named Clos de Vougeot that continues to produce great wines (the wines of Romanée-Conti were made here for a while before operations were moved). The Cistercians were dedicated to studying, understanding, and improving winemaking; they were the first to realize that different grapes from different vineyards in the Cote d'Or (the northern region of Burgundy - the "golden slope") - sometimes even different vines from the same vineyard - led to dramatically different wines. The concept of terroir (and all its associated romance) was born.

bottle of Clos de Vougeot wineUnlike the Romans who came before them, the monks did not believe in diluting the wines, which they considered to be God's blood and therefore sacred. The monks experimented with wines to make sure they were preserved well; arguably their greatest contribution was the thorough upkeep of records related to experiments in viticulture. Even if many documents were later destroyed during the French Revolution, enough survived to help future winemakers maintain high Burgundy standards.

Later on, nobility imposed their own standards on Burgundy wine - a rule imposing the cultivation of only Pinot Noir to yield better wines, for example - and to this day Pinot Noir dominates the Cote d'Or. However, there is no doubt that the foundations set by monks centuries ago determined the future course of the region's wines.

Image of an example of terroir courtesy of Friedrich Petersdorff . The steep slope, soil composition and influence of the nearby Mosel river are unique aspects of the terroir of this German wine region.
Image of Clos de Vougeot courtesy of Jebulon
Image of Clos de Vougeot wine courtesy of Arnaud 25

Article by Poornima Apte

This article was originally published in August 2014, and has been updated for the July 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Speak No Evil
    Speak No Evil
    by Uzodinma Iweala
    Young Nigerian American writer Uzodinma Iweala is fast becoming known as a powerful chronicler of ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter
    by Ali Smith
    "God was dead; to begin with." This first sentence of Winter perfectly sets up the dreamy journey ...
  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

  • Book Jacket: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One N U G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.