If you’ve been following along my posts, we’ve discussed the French gastronomic meal, terroir, wine tasting, and Burgundy cheeses, but there is one more theme that I haven’t discussed in detail; French Patrimoine.
Patrimoine, or patrimony, is the idea of having a shared heritage and is a fundamental component of French culture and identity. The French take great pride in preserving their heritage and ensuring that traditions will be passed down to the next generation. Instead of tearing down old buildings, you will see them being used as a part of other buildings, or repurposed into museums, government buildings, or even schools. Many restoration projects are funded by the people who live in the area, which shows how much they value and cherish their heritage, and that they will go to great lengths to preserve it. And it’s not just old buildings, they also work to preserve other aspects of their culture, including their land and vineyards, their wine and cheese recipes/techniques, the microorganisms that are involved, as well as specific breeds of goats, cows, and horses. The Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP, or Protected Origin of Design) is a certification granted to cheese and wine products in France that are deeply rooted within a specific region and meet a list of requirements. In Burgundy, there are 44 communal appellations for wine, which will carry the name of both the appellation and the village on the bottle.
Cheese and wine have played a central role in France’s cultural heritage. One major example is the Château du Clos de Vougeot, a national monument that was built in the 12th century by Cistercian monks. It serves as a symbol for Burgundy winemaking and the role of wine in major historical events. They are famous for their grand cru vineyards, the highest classification that a wine plot can receive, which are surrounded by walls (clos vineyards). Interestingly, the vineyards were developed to such high-quality to be given as gifts. Inside the chateau, we saw the courtyard, the cellar, the monk dormitories, and two large wine presses from the 12th and 14th century. Today, the vineyards are divided by over 80 people, and the chateau headquarters the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Wine Tasting Cup (Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin), who host their chapter banquets at the Chateau to celebrate traditions and promote Burgundy wine production.