"For love of everything that is wine"

Wine and the Change of Ownership during the French Revolution

     In general terms, it has long been universally recognized by both modern historians and researchers of anthropological trends that the French Revolution profoundly affected the lives of people throughout France in practically all strata of society, from matters pertaining to regional politics and peoples’ economic wellbeing to aspects related to cultural identity and religious practices. What appears, however, to be less generally agreed upon by contemporary historians – specifically from an historiographical standpoint – are the levels of significance of the respectively different ways in which the Revolution had conjunctively resulted in the transformation of the actual ‘wine landscape’ of France, specifically with regard to vineyard ownership and, in association, production, trade, and general consumption.

     As is well known by most contemporary viticultural scholars of French history, the ‘institution of wine’ in France – that is, its production, trade, and consumption, as well as peoples’ attitudes towards it – has always existed in an essentially indefinable state of fluctuation. Since the time of the Phoenicians, wine as an institution in France has continually undergone innumerable sorts of evolutionary changes, from subtle, localized alterations to far-reaching, all-encompassing transformations. While modern historians acknowledge that the French Revolution culminated in some of the most profound of these transformations that the ‘institute of wine’ in France had ever before experienced, a general consensus has yet to be reached on exactly which of these transformational effects in relation to vineyard ownership was most significant.

     For their part, such eminent wine historians and contemporary viticultural enthusiasts as Hugh Johnson and Desmond Seward have argued in their written works that the single greatest change in ownership brought about by the Revolution was the dispossession of monastic-owned vineyards throughout the former Ancien Régime. In contrast, other historians such as Alan Forrest have ‘suggestively asserted’ – in other words, not stated outright, but indirectly alluded to – that the most profound alteration of vineyard ownership occurred not from the dissolution of monastic lands, but from nobles’ losing huge tracts of land ‘under vine’ (including the right to annex common land in seigneurial fashion) with the abolition of all the feudal privileges they had enjoyed under the former Ancien Régime. For such scholars as Forrest, this gave members – especially merchants – of bourgeois extraction the opportunity to assume these vineyards for themselves. Finally, another prominent wine historian named Roderick Phillips seems to treat the subject of ownership transformation with a somewhat lesser degree of specificity. While he does point out that the Revolution most certainly had a fundamental impact on vineyard ownership, he is not entirely specific in his written work as to what he considers to be the most significant expression of its transformation, while, at the same time, citing all sorts of irrefutably important factors, including monumental increases in peasant wine production, the abolition of trade duties, and general increases of consumption. Clearly, modern scholars have adopted unequivocally diversified viewpoints concerning changes in vineyard ownership brought on by the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. The outstanding question, of course, is which aspect is most significant?

     With relevant intent and purpose, this paper shall examine the different ways in which the aforementioned modern scholars of wine – and those individuals whose research is notably related to the history of wine (such as Forrest) – have approached the issue of ownership transformation of vineyards throughout France during the period of the French Revolution, as well as its associative impact on production, trade, and consumption. In the process, special attention will be awarded – where available – to analyzing assorted pieces of primary and secondary information (and hypotheses) provided respectively in research texts and articles of various modern academicians. Perhaps, in analyzing and discussing the different perspectives of these scholars, a (sort-of) compromise can be achieved at reconciling the different postulations on vineyard ownership put forth by each historian in their respective works, specifically via perspectives of actual production, patterns of trade, and general consumption. Failing this, it will still nonetheless be unfailingly proven that modern scholars have assumed diversified viewpoints on the issue of vineyard ownership transformation as a result of the French Revolution.

     In Vintage: The Story of Wine, which is arguably one of the most respected and renowned contemporary works ever written on the history of wine, world-famous viticultural historian and wine enthusiast Hugh Johnson states bluntly that the “single greatest change that the [French] Revolution in France … made to the ancien régime of wine was to dispossess monasteries and the Church of their enormous holdings.”[1] As a result of the dissolution of monastic lands, Johnson intimates that it was specifically individuals of bourgeois extraction who were most able to capitalize on the opportunities this presented: “New aristocrats (or at least new money) soon filled the shoes of the unfortunates who lost their heads.”[2] The author maintains this is most visibly illustrated by what had occurred in the world-renowned (both historically and contemporaneously) winegrowing region of Burgundy, where the French Revolution had witnessed the dispossession of enormous holdings of monastic-owned lands ‘under vine.’

     To his credit, Johnson’s assertion is supported by evidence included in the written works of other contemporary scholars. Until the French Revolution, the vast majority of Burgundian vineyards had, according to world-respected viticultural scholar and critic Jancis Robinson, remained in the hands of ecclesiastical authorities for astonishing periods of time, in some instances for upwards of eight hundred years.[3] With the onset of the Revolution, however, many Revolutionaries appear to have shared particularly poignant grievances specifically against monastic ownership of vineyards. One of the main charges leveled against the monasteries during the Revolutionary period was, it seems, the excessive amount of revenue they derived directly or indirectly from their vineyards.[4] As such, the French Revolution was prolific in the production of often-hilarious (as well as savage) cartoons of monks, with one even showing two abbots being pressed in a winepress and spewing out gold coins.[5] In itself, this arguably serves to at least partially account for the substantial extent to which Revolutionaries might have wished vineyards in the Burgundian region to be confiscated from monasteries and sold off to secular owners, thus reinforcing Johnson’s argument. For instance, in 1791, as a result of the “Biens Nationaux” (the nationalization of monastic lands), the great vineyard of Clos de Vougeot, which had been established by the Cistercians around 1100 CE and covered about fifty hectares, was confiscated and divided into sixty privately-owned properties with about one hundred owners.[6] At one time, the Clos had produced wines that ranked among the finest in France (it was even a tradition that the French army, marching past, would salute the winery); that dependability was lost as a result of fragmentation.[7] Of course, there are many outstanding plausible reasons for this; for instance, Johnson remarks that the highest bidder of the lot never paid, so there was no alternative but to ask the abbey’s last cellarer, a popular monk named Dom Lambert Goblet, to continue with the winemaking.[8] Apparently, this was not enough to maintain pre-Revolution quality; and yet, this does prove that Revolutionaries’ dissatisfaction toward monastic ownership did not always transcend (at least) their desire for the production of quality wine. Nonetheless, it does seem that the dissolution of monastic vineyards had far-reaching consequences in vineyard ownership as result of the French Revolution, especially in the long-time winegrowing region of Burgundy.

     On the whole, Hugh Johnson’s notion that the greatest affect on vineyard ownership had been the dispossession of monastic holdings is reiterated by viticultural historian Desmond Seward. In Monks and Wine, Seward presents his position on the subject with noticeable fervor: “It [i.e. the French Revolution] dealt Western Monasticism the most terrible blow in its entire history at a time when the monks were already demoralized by the hostility of the intellectual climate.”[9] Having said this, standing in contrast to Johnson, who generally provides very little in the way of actual figures, Seward subsequently notes that, with the prescription of all French monasteries in 1790, “Over 400 Benedictine and 250 Cistercian abbeys went down [which included the owners of Clos de Vougeot], together with nearly 600 friaries, 1500 nunneries and several hundred other houses.”[10] Furthermore, unlike Johnson, Seward treats the subject of monastic dispossession as having impacted far beyond the confines of the gentle slopes of Burgundy, reaching as far north as the legendary region of Champagne. According to Seward, the “fabled Benedictine and Cistercian vignobles of Champagne and Burgundy had been put up to public auction very early on.”[11] From what is purported by viticultural historian Thomas Brennan, this does seem to have had, at the very least, some sort of impact on the actual trade of wine in the Champagne region. For example, during the Revolution, the author remarks at how disruptions had notably impacted on the trade dealings of the now-world-renowned Champagne-producing house of Clicquot.[12] Thus, to be certain, changes in vineyard ownership had also extended beyond the Burgundian region, extending to the northerly wineproducing region of Champagne.

     Though Seward’s scope is somewhat larger than that of Johnson, it is nonetheless apparent that both scholars consider the dispossession of monastic lands as a result of the French Revolution to have impacted most significantly on changes in vineyard ownership throughout the fledgling Republic. From an historiographical point of view, however, the assertion of each author is largely incomplete, in that both appear to only be applicable to winegrowing regions of France that had traditionally been monastically-dominated. More importantly, the contentions of each author are also hardly adequately supplemented by significant data relating to changes of actual consumption, only that quality of production had suffered along with disruptions in trade. Hence, it is highly unlikely that the dissolution of monastic holdings was the most significant way in which vineyard ownership throughout France had been affected as a result of the French Revolution. As such, it is imperative that other forms of changes in vineyard ownership be examined.

     As intimated by some contemporary academicians in their written works, as opposed to the dissolution of monastic holdings, the most significant change to occur in viticultural ownership during the French Revolution had stemmed from the loss of feudal privileges. For his part, eminent Southwest France historian Alan Forrest suggests that this appears to have precisely been the case especially in the former Aquitainian region, where large tracts of vines belonging to French nobles were, in many instances, taken over by individuals of bourgeois extraction: “It is these groups [the Bordeaux bourgeoisie], opulent and ambitious … who were able to seize the opportunity offered them by the political events of 1789.”[13] With specific regard to impetuses that contributed to actual changes in ownership, Forrest makes it clear that there had for quite a long time existed a continuous trend amongst individuals of bourgeois stock to acquire landed, vineyard-laden estates; during the eighteenth century, “large tracts of land had been opened up to winegrowing; and many of the wealthy men of the region, parlementaires and aristocrats as well as merchants seeking social recognition through the possession of landed estates, were turning to the production of quality crus for export.”[14] Consequently, as Forrest argues, wine exports, at least those to England, actually increased during the years of the Revolution to levels even above those of the 1780s.[15]

     Similar to Johnson and Seward, Alan Forrest’s (albeit) ‘suggestive assertion’ appears to be generally supported by the works of other modern scholars. As a primary example, in an article written by French and British historian Paul Butel, the author notes how the years of the Revolution had witnessed the acquisition of lands – which, as a matter of course, included vineyards – by bourgeois merchants, especially in the region of Bordeaux: “The most important developments in this respect arose from the sale of biens nationaux between 1791 and 1800.”[16] Like Forrest, Butel also regards the acquisition of landed estates by great merchants as having taken place long before the Revolution had even begun, for “more and more people were interested [during the eighteenth century] in the switch of capital towards viticulture which could give a high level of profits through the sale of high-quality wines.”[17] Though it might seem surprising, such individuals during this period even had to compete with certain noblemen, who availed themselves of their landed wealth to further expand their domains in an effort to increase the size of their vineyard holdings.[18] Hence, with the onset of the French Revolution, it would only be in accordance with human nature that merchants would have used the opportunity to ‘rub it in these noblemen’s faces’ by taking over their lands, gigantic holdings which they had for so long sought to acquire. After all, as Forrest relates, it was especially on these noble-owned estates, specifically in the prestigious Médoc regions of Pauillac and Margaux, where some of the best quality wines were grown.[19]

     In conjunctive relation to this, the information Butel provides in his article supports Forrest’s ‘suggestive contention’ in an exceptionally significant manner, in that the former makes specific reference to a person of bourgeois merchant extraction who is strongly believed to have taken wholesale advantage of the opportunities presented by the French Revolution to further his own landed, ‘under vine’ interests: this notorious individual is Jean-François de Lacombe.[20] At the world-renowned winery of Château Haut-Brion, the Reign of Terror brought about the confiscation of the aristocratic-owned estate and the execution of its owner Joseph de Fumel, which occurred on 27 July 1794.[21] Lacombe, who was President of the Revolutionary Committee, is believed to have intended to confiscate the famous wine estate for himself, apparently under the guise of condemning its rightful owner as a traitor to the Republic; at his trial, Lacombe told Fumel, “Your name, rank and the positions you held under the tyrants all count against you, which is enough for this court to condemn you.”[22] The unfortunate thing is that, four days after Fumel’s execution, on 31 July 1794, the Revolutionary Committee itself was dissolved and Lacombe and his cohorts were arrested and put to death; as a small mercy, soon after, Fumel’s nephews were able to obtain a pardon for their uncle, as well as the restitution of all confiscated property.[23] In a document extracted from the estate archives, one which outlines the return of the estate and all coinciding property, it is stated (albeit in the usual incomprehensible legal terms) that the Department of the Gironde had granted the return of Haut-Brion to its rightful owners, in this case presumably the eldest male heir, Pons-Maxime Fumel, along with his cousins Joseph and Laure de Fumel.[24]

     One the whole, similar incidents such as this one, though with fewer severed heads, appear to have occurred throughout the region of Médoc, especially in the now-world-famous appellation of Margaux; such examples include Château Rauzan-Gassies, Château Durfort-Vivens, and Château Palmer. Though the circumstances are unclear, until the Revolution, the now-defunct estate of Rauzan-Gassies had been part of the still-eminent Château Rauzan-Ségla for over a hundred years (the two estates were never reunited after the Revolution); the estate of Durfort-Vivens, which had been owned by the Comtes Durfort de Duras since the fifteenth century, also changed ownership during the Revolution.[25] Furthermore, in the case of Palmer, the turmoil of the Revolutionary years witnessed the establishment of one of modern Bordeaux’s most prestigious estates. Originally named Château de Gascq, the French Revolution saw the estate accumulate horrific debts, which greatly contributed to its owners being forced to sell to British General Charles Palmer (1777-1851) in 1814.[26] Clearly, Forrest is largely correct in ‘suggestively asserting’ that changes in vineyard estate ownership were extensive throughout the Aquitainian region of France as a result of the French Revolution.

     These incidents aside, it is additionally clear that Forrest’s ‘suggestive contention,’ which is not only confirmatively supplemented by Paul Butel, is also supported by the fact that it was not simply in the region of Bordeaux where the loss of noble privileges had resulted in vineyards being taken over by merchants of bourgeois background. The Revolutionaries had also put an end to the seigneurial rights to annex even common lands (triage) as early as 15 March 1790.[27] As such, in areas where concentrations of grapevines were especially high, such as the Côtes-du-Rhône, located south of Burgundian region, inhabitants were able to partition/appropriate common lands which were once virtually under exclusive domain of the nobility, and used the new plots to increase the size of their vineyards.[28] Indeed then, Forrest’s ‘suggestive assertion’ that the most profound changes in vineyard ownership as a result of the French Revolution lay in the abolition of feudal privileges is abound with recognizably significant merits.

     This being said, from an historiographical point of view, however, Alan Forrest’s ‘suggestive contention,’ similar to the assertions presented by Johnson and Seward, is somewhat incomplete. For one thing, on a fundamental level, Forrest’s analysis is debatably really only applicable to winegrowing areas of France where monastic winemaking had never really taken hold; according to Johnson, for instance, “Bordeaux was never very clerical country.”[29] And even then, there was still at least one exception to this general norm. At the now-world-famous estate of Château La Mission Haut-Brion (located right across the road from Château Haut-Brion), the Revolution saw the exile of the priests who managed the estate and cultivated the vineyards.[30] On 14 November 1792, La Mission, having been declared a “national asset,” was sold at public auction to Martial Victor Vaillant, the concessionaire of public lighting for the city of Bordeaux, for a sum of 302,000 pounds.[31] And so, while it is only logical to ‘suggestively postulate’ that the abolition of noble privileges (which included the allowance for the acquisition of common land) had the greatest impact on vineyard ownership, it does seem that Forrest’s ‘postulation’ is largely confined in terms of applicability to regions of France where monasticism did not play an especially significant role in the institution of wine. Clearly, there remain other aspects of vineyard ownership changes which ought to be examined.

     For some prominent viticultural historians and contemporary enthusiasts, the question of which aspect had been most significant concerning changes in vineyard ownership as a result of the French Revolution is not entirely addressed with absolute specificity. In A Short History of Wine, viticultural historian Roderick Phillips, while providing an awesome array of anecdotal and statistical feedback, generally offers what might be interpreted as a ‘semi-ambiguous’ analysis of what he perceives to be the most important impact on vineyard ownership as a result of the French Revolution. According to Phillips, “The Revolution … saw changes in the ownership of many vineyards, first when the property of the Church was nationalized and later when land belonging to individuals convicted of emigrating or other political crimes [such as Joseph de Fumel of Château Haut-Brion] was confiscated. Some of the rural land that was seized was under viticulture, and its sale by auction, starting in 1790, gave buyers from all social groups the chance to participate in a profitable sector of the economy.”[32]

     From this statement, it is clear that Phillips’ attitude toward the question of whichever aspect represents the most important change in vineyard ownership as a result of the French Revolution is one of non-commitment. However, unlike previous viticultural historians discussed thus far (with perhaps the exception of Alan Forrest), it appears that Phillips was nonetheless cognizant of the fact that practically every aspect of changes in ownership – regardless of which one is supposedly most significant – had been reciprocally impacted by certain fundamental areas constituting the institute of wine, including monumental increases in peasant wine production, the abolition of trade duties, and general increases of consumption. Moreover, to his credit, Phillips’ observations also seem to be largely confirmed by the works of other contemporary scholars.

     Though it might come as a surprise to some, winegrowing had been far more widespread throughout France in the eighteenth century than it is today, as wine was for many peasants the only product they actually sold on the market.[33] This being said, Phillips notes that there were several reasons for why the years of the French Revolution in particular had witnessed dramatic increases in viticultural production, the most important apparently being that “the Revolution did away with many of the restrictions that had been imposed on the ways peasants used their land.”[34] As supported by the works of other academicians, this seems to have resulted in astronomic increases in the overall production of wine in many areas of France. For instance, in the southerly department of Aude, which is highly peasant-dominated, during the thirty years after the Revolution, estimates provided by mayors for total areas ‘under vine’ indicate an increase of 75 percent, from 29,000 to 51,000 hectares, with the volume of wine produced trebling to an astonishing 900,000 hectolitres at the same time.[35] Scholars T.J.A. Le Goff and D.M.G. Sutherland also agree that the production of wine had apparently risen somewhat from 1786 to 1815: “Figures for average production throughout France from 1786 to 1788, 1805-08, 1810, 1812 and 1823-41 show a fairly dramatic leap during the Revolutionary generation, from 27.2 million hectolitres per year on the eve of the Revolution to 36.8 million hectoliters per year in 1805-12, a level not much less than that reached in 1823-41.”[36] And then, for his part, nineteenth-century British wine enthusiast Cyrus Redding records that, in 1788, there were 3,988,800 acres ‘under vine’ in France, which, by 1829, had increased to 5,104,800.[37]

     For all intents and purposes, such increases in viticultural production could only have occurred via the substantive contribution of peasant winegrowers, who were undoubtedly able to increase their yields as a result of the abolition of restrictions placed on the ways they were allowed to cultivate their own plots of land – which, in itself, is most certainly a reflection of changes in actual ownership allowances – during the years of the French Revolution. This is also somewhat confirmed by what had occurred throughout the Mediterranean coastal plain during the Revolutionary years. Because so much common land in this area came in the form of rough garigue hillsides, which could not support long-term grain cultivation, grapevines were introduced (logically by peasants, who made up the bulk of the general populace) on the freshly cleared plots; for many of these individuals, the choice of viticultural production was strictly an economic decision, as the wine market continued to expand throughout the remaining years of the Revolutionary period, as well as during the era of Napoleonic rule.[38] Hence, the placing of such large, new areas ‘under vine’ clearly represented a change of peasant ownership, in that plots belonging to peasants were met on their part with visible expansion.

     This being said, Phillips himself argues that the French Revolution had witnessed the establishment of all sorts of new impetuses for the engagement of viticultural production itself, one of which stemmed from the abolition of trade restrictions throughout the Republic. From what is told by Phillips, the abolition of trade restrictions of wine had even marginally predated the monumental events of 14 June 1789: “The first episode of Revolutionary violence in Paris was not the famous storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July, but rather a series of attacks in the preceding days, when most of the customs barriers around Paris [which heavily taxed all wine coming into the city] were destroyed or burned.”[39] This is only one of many examples provided by Phillips of the ways in which the years of the Revolution had witnessed the elimination of trade barriers related to the sale of wine; his observations are also confirmed in the works of other scholars.

     With the abolition of the old provinces of France and their administrative subdivisions, and with the creation of the new departments, all privileges were eliminated and the wine trade began to operate freely.[40] In Bordeaux, for instance, as part of the abolition of all feudal privileges, the so-called “Great Privilege” (or “Wine Privilege”) limiting the wine trade to Bordelais citizens only, had been abolished as an unjust right.[41] As a consequence, this undoubtedly fostered the promotion of vineyard ownership, not just among the merchant class but among peasants, as well. After all, with the elimination of practically all trade barriers, the overall market would have increased exponentially, which is arguably, as an example, confirmed by the widespread vine planting that had taken place throughout the Mediterranean coastal plain. At the same time, it must have also represented an overall increase in the actual demand for wine, which logically served as a further stimulus for vineyard ownership amongst the aforementioned groups.

     According to Phillips, “The French Revolution not only facilitated the extension of viticulture but, directly and indirectly, it also stimulated the demand for wine.”[42] In terms of accuracy, this assertion appears to be largely correct. For his own part, Phillips notes that high prices (presumably in non-winegrowing regions) in the years prior to the Revolution had excluded many people from purchasing wine for regular consumption; hence, with the institution of fairer prices in a more open market, there was an appreciable increase in the demand for wine during the 1790s.[43] Moreover, Le Goff and Sutherland also state the highly likely possibility that increases in the demand for wine were also fueled by the growing numbers of troops who served in the armed forces, each of which required wine as part of their daily rations.[44] Indeed, it does appear that the years of the Revolution had witnessed notable increases in the demand for wine.

     Clearly then, Roderick Phillips is more than adequately mindful of the reciprocal nature how of changes in vineyard ownership during the Revolution had been affected by such things as monumental increases in peasant wine production, the abolition of trade duties, and general increases of consumption. At the same time, from an historiographical point of view, because the author makes no definitive commitment to whichever is supposedly the single greatest aspect of actual changes in vineyard ownership as a result of the French Revolution, the comments he includes in his written work – despite their level of fascination – are arguably diminished. This is rather unfortunate, as the information he provides in A Short History of Wine are unquestionably highly valuable when examining the many ways in which the institution of wine, aside from changes in vineyard ownership, had been affected by the French Revolution.

     Ultimately, the positions taken by each viticultural historian discussed in this paper – whether definitive, suggestive, or deficient – on the question of which aspect represented the most profound change in vineyard ownership as a result of the French Revolution are unquestionably diverse, with each viewpoint containing both degrees of relevancy and points of fallacy. To the credit of High Johnson and Desmond Seward, the dissolution of monastic holdings had undoubtedly terrifically affected vineyard ownership, seeing as how around 4.5 million hectares of land were prescribed in the process.[45] At the same time, however, their analyses are largely only applicable to winegrowing areas of France where monastic holdings were notably substantial. The same seems to be the case for Alan Forrest’s ‘suggestive assertion,’ in that the abolition of feudal privileges, which culminated in members of bourgeois extraction taking over formerly noble-owned vineyard estates for themselves, is only really applicable to winegrowing regions of France where monastic winemaking was not firmly rooted. Granted, Forrest’s ‘suggestive contention’ – that the most profound alteration of vineyard ownership occurred not from the dissolution of monastic lands, but from nobles’ losing huge tracts of land under vine (in conjunction with common land) with the abolition of all the feudal privileges they had enjoyed under the Ancien Régime – is more encompassing than that of Johnson or Seward; all the same, however, in terms of being the most profound, it is, quite simply, inadequate, even as a ‘suggestive contention.’ As for Roderick Phillips, while he is undoubtedly aware of the reciprocal manners in which the ownership of vines had been affected as a result of the Revolution, he is most certainly unclear as to which aspect he considers to be the most profound.

     Perhaps it is simply beyond the means of even the most skilled viticultural academicians to arrive at a general consensus as to which aspect of vineyard ownership transformation as a result of the French Revolution was most significant. It could be argued that the very idea of there being a most significant characteristic of changes in ownership is simply fraught with too many variables with which to contend. In the end, nevertheless, it does appear that the positions mentioned in this paper by each historian at least equal one another in scholastic merit. After all, it is most certainly clear that both the dissolution of monastic holdings as well as the abolition of feudal privileges had tremendous effects on changes in vineyard ownership. Plus, it also appears to be the case that vineyard ownership had been enormously reciprocally affected by increases in peasant production, the abolition of duties, and general increases in consumption. Therefore, as an adequate compromise, it can be said that the French Revolution most certainly had all sorts of significant changes of vineyard ownership throughout France, but to determine which one had been most profound is practically a futile endeavor.

[1] Hugh Johnson, Vintage: The Story of Wine (London: Mitchell Beazley, 1989), 309.

     One of the most respected written works on the history of wine for both academicians and general wine enthusiasts. Logically, Johnson’s statement that the greatest affect of the French Revolution on the institute of wine was to dispossess monasteries of their holdings, regardless of stemming along the lines of ‘literary suggestiveness,’ has significant vineyard ownership implications.

[2] Ibid.

     For Johnson, matters pertaining to ‘bourgeois upstarts’ are generally addressed from the angle of the dissolution of monastic-owned vineyards, for such is the position from which he discusses ownership changes that occurred as a result of the French Revolution.

[3] Jancis Robinson, ed., The Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 164-65.

     Unhindered by its encyclopedic format, Robinson’s work is undoubtedly one of the finest resources modern viticultural historians can consult for information pertaining to general historical trends as well as factual information, all of which is derived from the written works of other noted wine historians.

[4] Gregory A. Austin, Alcohol in Western Society from Antiquity to 1800: A Chronological History (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio Information Services, 1985), 370.

     Highly valuable as a chronological database for general trends as well as factual and primary and secondary information, all of which is derived either from primary documents or the scholarly works of contemporary scholars; it also contains many important dates and statistical data.

[5] Desmond Seward, Monks and Wine, with a forward by Hugh Johnson (London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers Limited, 1979), 165.

     Arguably the standard text for examining the longstanding relationship between monasticism and the ownership of vineyards (and the production of wine) throughout the history of France.

[6] Jan Harm de Blij, Wine: A Geographic Appreciation, with a forward by Robert Hosmon (Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman & Allanheld, 1983), 53.

     Extracted from a section containing similar assertions to those of Hugh Johnson, though with less specificity when examined from an historiographical standpoint.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Johnson, Vintage, 274-75.

[9] Seward, Monks and Wine, 172.

     Important note: it is only subsequent to making this assertion that Seward makes suggestive reference – via numerical data – to the actual loss of monastic-owned vineyards as a result of the French Revolution.

[10] Ibid., 172.

[11] Ibid., 174.

     By including Champagne in this particular passage, Seward realizes that Burgundy was not the only winegrowing region of France to be affected by the dissolution of monastic lands during the Revolution.

[12] Thomas Brennan, Burgundy to Champagne: The Wine Trade in Early Modern France (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 270.

     A fascinating work detailing the historical development of the winegrowing regions of Champagne. Though Brennan does not mention ownership in this extract, it is only logical to assume from Seward’s contention that because so many Champagne vineyards were auctioned off, questions of ownership must have arisen, which undoubtedly translated into disruptions of production and, by extension, actual trade.

[13] Alan Forrest, Society and Politics in Revolutionary Bordeaux (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), 30.

     One of the most important scholarly texts on the Revolutionary experience in the city of Bordeaux along with the rest of the Gironde. This extract, while relating specifically to changes in the political climate, implicitly extends toward ownership of property, both in the city of Bordeaux and, more importantly, the surrounding region, as well as the Médoc (see other notes extracted from written works of Forrest).

[14] Ibid., 15.

     Assuming this statement is accurate (which it seems to be), members of the bourgeoisie were undoubtedly keenly interested to take advantage of opportunities presented by the loss of feudal privileges to acquire noble lands ‘under vine’ (and estates) for themselves, for it was quite a lucrative venture.

[15] Alan Forrest, The Revolution in Provincial France: Aquitaine, 1789-1799 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 245.

     Another work by Alan Forrest that reinforces the author’s ‘suggestive contention’ that the abolition of noble privileges during the French Revolution had the greatest impact on vineyard ownership.

[16] Paul Butel, “Revolution and the urban economy: maritime cities and continental cities,” in Reshaping France: Town, country and region during the French Revolution, Alan Forrest and Peter Jones (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1991), 45.

     An excellent article briefly outlining the economic impact(s) of the French Revolution, providing valuable confirmative data on the change of vineyard ownership through the abolition of feudal privileges.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Robert Forster, “The Noble Wine Producers of the Bordelais in the Eighteenth Century,” The Economic History Review, New Series 14, no. 1 (1961): 32-33.

     Highly valuable (regardless of having been written over forty years ago) as a source of statistical data on the increase of noble-owned estate holdings during the eighteenth century – see Table 3 on page 32 of Forster’s article.

[19] Forrest, Society and Politics, 15.

[20] Butel, “Revolution and the urban economy,” 45.

     Important Note: Butel only makes reference to this individual as having engaged in the acquisition of landed estates – he does not provide examples of any specific instances of when this actually occurred.

[21] Chateau Haut-Brion (Mérignac: Burdin L’Image, 2004), 14.

     Written for the estate of Château Haut-Brion under the penmanship of its owners, its cellar master, its winegrowers, its consultants, and, most importantly, its historian. The information is taken both from the estate archives and secondary texts, thus making it highly valuable for an historiographical study on ownership changes that occurred as a result of the French Revolution.

[22] Ibid.

     An especially important passage, for it illustrates the extent to which certain bourgeois merchants were desirous of acquiring formerly-owned noble wine estates. Important note: it is the estate historian and archivist Alain Puginier (with whom an interview was conducted on 16 August 2005) who strongly believes Lacombe had wished to confiscate the estate for himself by having its rightful owner executed.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Archives de la Château Haut-Brion, Acte de Vente (Deed of Sale); Department de la Gironde (14 Août Fructidor), Cote deux, [chemise] no. 56.

     Extracted from the estate archives of Château Haut-Brion. It clearly outlines, in contractual format, the transfer of the Haut-Brion estate and all incidental property from the Department of the Gironde back to its rightful owners, the Fumel neveux (nephews) not long after the execution of Joseph de Fumel.

[25] David Peppercorn, Wines of Bordeaux, with a forward by Hugh Johnson (London: Mitchell Beazley Wines Guides, 2002), 50 and 56.

     Written guide for contemporary wine connoisseurs, which contains valuable tidbits of data pertaining to changes of estate ownership during the French Revolution; the sheer number of examples reveals that instances of ownership changes in Bordeaux during the Revolutionary period were remarkably extensive.

[26] René Pijassou, Château Palmer: Noblesse oblige (Paris: Editions Stock, 1997), 35.

     Estate book for Château Palmer, which documents the history of the estate. It serves as an excellent example of a high-end estate that underwent a change in ownership as a result of the French Revolution.

[27] Noelle P. Plack, “Agrarian Individualism, Collective Practices and the French Revolution: The Law of 10 June 1793 and the Partition of Common Land in the Department of the Gard,” European History Quarterly 35, no. 1 (2005): 40

     Useful article that outlines the impact of land changes as a result of Jacobin decrees during the French Revolution. It indicates clearly the extent to which people were ready to take advantage of common lands.

[28] Ibid., 57.

[29] Johnson, Vintage, 309.

     The fact that Hugh Johnson actually makes this statement debatably adds tremendous weight to his own position that the dispossession of monastic holdings played the greatest role in vineyard ownership transformation as a result of the French Revolution.

[30] Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Mérignac: Burdin L’Image, 2004), 4.

     Written for the estate of La Mission Château Haut-Brion (which was purchased by Château Haut-Brion in 1983) under the penmanship of its owners, its cellar master, its winegrowers, its consultants, and, most importantly, its historian. The information included is taken both from the estate archives and secondary texts, thus making it highly valuable for an historiographical study on ownership changes that occurred as a result of the French Revolution.

[31] Ibid., 5.

[32] Roderick Phillips, A Short History of Wine (London: Penguin Books, 2000), 215.

     One of the most invaluable works arguably ever written on the history of the institute of wine, researched via the utilization of primary and secondary texts, along with various sorts of politically-relevant and archival documents. Logically, by not committing to one supposedly greatest aspect concerning ownership transformation, it is conceivable that Phillips was simply not in a position to form an opinion.

[33] Albert Soboul, The French Revolution, 1789-1799: From the Storming of the Bastille to Napoleon, trans. Alan Forrest and Colin Jones (London: NLB, 1974), 119-20.

     Detailed written work outlining the events of the Revolution, along with their effects on the general lives of the French populace. It clearly illustrates the extent to which the production of wine had long existed as an important ‘crop’ for the majority of peasants in winegrowing regions of France.

[34] Phillips, A Short History of Wine, 211.

     This extract demonstrates Phillips’ willingness to address changes in ownership from all sorts of angles.

[35] Malcolm Crook, ed., Revolutionary France:1788-1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 131.

     Useful work describing the lengthy revolutionary years of France, including the ways it impacted on the political, economic, and social climate of the fledgling ‘nation.’

[36] T.J.A. Le Goff and D.M.G. Sutherland, “The Revolution and the rural economy,” in Reshaping France: Town, country and region during the French Revolution, Alan Forrest and Peter Jones (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1991), 62.

     Interesting article that examines effects of the Revolution on rural economic life. This extract serves to reinforce Phillips’ contention that wine production increased during the Revolutionary years on account of the abolition of restrictions placed on the ways peasants used their land.

[37] Cyrus Redding, A History and Description of Modern Wines, 3rd ed. with additions and corrections (London: Henry G. Bonn, 1851), 89.

     Highly-detailed work (statistically-wise) that outlines, in an historical and contemporaneous manner, practically all known pertinent data related to the institution of wine.

[38] Plack, “Agrarian Individualism,” 57.

[39] Phillips, A Short History of Wine, 210.

     This extract clearly reveals the level of importance people (at least in Paris) must have felt toward matters pertaining to the trade (i.e. financial cost) of wine.  

[40] Guido G. Weigend, “The Basis and Significance of Viticulture in Southwest France,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 44, no. 1 (March 1954): 77.

     Highly valuable article (regardless of being over fifty years old), which details both the history and importance of viticulture in Southwest France.

[41] Austin, Alcohol in Western Society, 370.

[42] Phillips, A Short History of Wine, 212.

[43] Ibid.

     Important note: while the Revolution does appear to have witnessed an increase in the demand for wine, overall prices do not seem to have actually been lowered as a result of the abolition of trade restrictions; in fact, they actually increased. Source: Louise-Marie Fourat, De Forêts en Vignes: Journal d’un notable de l’Autunois (1774-1807) (Dijon: Éditions de l’Université de Dijon; Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne, 1997), 24.

[44] Le Goff and Sutherland, “The Revolution,” 62.

[45] Tom Kemp, Economic Forces in French History (London: Dennis Dobson, 1971), 86.

     Well-written text that outlines the role economics has played throughout the history of France.



Email me at julianhitner@hitnerwine.com


See Contact information for more details

Members Area

Recent Blog Entries

Oops! This site has expired.

If you are the site owner, please renew your premium subscription or contact support.