THE BROTHERHOODS OF WINE, (first installment)

By Frederick A. Frye, M.D.  

A member of the brotherhoods of wine: Grand Chambellan of Commanderie d’Amerique  Confrerie de Chevaliers du Tastevin.

Fred at Clos

 Presently Fred is an officer at the National level with the Brotherhood.  He wrote this article some years ago and presented at the Clos de Vougeot to an International audience of UNESCO Delegates that were holding a colloquium at the Clos.  




The Clos de Vougeot, in Burgundy near Beaune, France is an eleventh century monastery & winery founded by Cistercian Monks.


Clos de Vougeot
Beaune, France


Chev ceremony at clos

Chevalier ceremony at the Clos









There are more than 11,000 members of the Chevalier Burgundian brotherhood world-wide who maintain and support the Clos with contributions.  The Clos is owned by the organization in trust through the government of France. 

Broth-er-hood  n [ M.E. brotherhede; ] an association of men united in a common interest, work, creed, etc., as a fraternity or religious order”


At the present time there are hundreds of organizations throughout the world united by a common interest

Ancient French Village

Citeaux, an Ancient French Village

in every aspect of the enjoyment of wine.  To examine how these organizations came into being in our modern times we must look to the origins of wine production in France.  Beginning in the 12th century when the Cistercian order was founded in Citeaux, the monks in Burgundy began their organized production of grape growing specifically to make wine to be used in the sacrament.  In most instances, the water available for drinking was unsafe.  Proper hydration was a challenge for good health.  As a result wine, and other alcoholic beverages were a staple in the diet of most people.  


Cistercian Monks

Cistercian Monks

 Cistercian monks hired the folk of the area to help in the growing and picking of the grapes.  In the very early days, these growers were encouraged by the monks to share their different techniques of wine production on a regular basis.  Thus the earliest “brotherhoods” were made up of these producers. 


In the period of time from the beginning of the 1400’s to 1600 trade among the European city states and kingdoms began to flourish.  Initially, trades people traveled abbey to abbey, usually a one day journey.  As the volume of trade increased, the lodging changed to Inns.  Wine consumed at these “Inns” was locally produced.  As one would suspect, lodgers would prefer one wine over another and the reputations and preferences developed



 A 1300s  Economic Transformation


Commerce in old Europe

Commerce in old Europe

The fourteenth century witnessed the beginnings of an economic transformation in Europe.  Feudal society was failing, owing to population excess and depletion of natural resources.  Lords and royalty could no longer support their subjects.  Town and cities swelled and the earliest signs of a market economy flourished.  Martin Luther’s heresy inaugurated a decentralization of church wealth and the teachings of Calvin reassured converts that prosperity was compatible with earning the right to salvation.  Governments were unwilling to give up their longstanding control of trade and intervened but only to the extent that they were able to control capital.  In time, mercantilism would relinquish economic power to free market capitalism.



Before bottles wine was shipped in various size casks

Before bottles wine was shipped in various size casks

The rulers of countries realized that their wealth would depend on regulation of trade.  Tariffs and taxes were developed as trade protection barriers for their producers.   Technological changes in shipping and the growth of urban centers led to a rapid increase in international trade.  Arabic numbers had appeared in the 1200’s and use of the decimal and double entry booking came in to usage in the 1400’s.   These accounting and bookkeeping practices were well established by the 17th century and this clearly identified the inflow and outflow of trade. 

The economics of wine developed as a result.  For the most part the wine produced in the Middle Ages was not aged.  In most instances, each year’s product was consumed before the next year’s crop.  Storage and

ancient wine bottle

ancient wine bottle

shipping of wine before the development of bottles in the 1600’s was by the cask.  After corks and bottles became prevalent in the 1600’s, it then became easier.  Then however, breakage was common, and overseas shipping to other locales was problematic.   The growers began to export their product to the rest of France and to England and the wines of the various regions became known for their particular characteristics. This led to competition between regions for market share. 



The Church influence in wine-making disappeared after the French revolution.  (To be continued)












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