Burgundy, 1789. A love story. The Marey family reigns over hundreds of parcels renowned for their exceptional terroir. Bonnes-Mares, Echezeaux, Richebourg and Clos Marey-Monge are among its lands. 300 kilometers away, the specter of the French Revolution threatens the Court of Versailles. A wise businessman, Nicolas Marey could sense a change in the wind for the privileged. Quickly, his Pommard property, Château Micault, became the symbol of his social status, leading him to sell it for 25,000 francs.
In Nuits-Saint-Georges, Claude Marey does not go unnoticed. The man is whimsical and friendly. His fondness for social gatherings takes him across Europe, from Germany to northern Italy and Flanders. Wherever he goes, this rich wine merchant takes his bottles with him, making Pommard’s wines a must in European courts. Party after party, dinner after dinner, he manages to build a wine empire. His methods even make him the first merchant in the history of Burgundy, respected both in Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. The purchase of Château Micault, in Pommard, in 1754, finally establishes the fame of Claude Marey. When he dies in 1770, his sons share the family estate. The eldest, Claude-Philibert, inherits the Nuits-Saint-Georges trade. The youngest, Nicolas-Joseph, keeps his hand on the vineyards of the Côte de Beaune from the Château de Pommard, where he was born and raised. The wines of the property are now among Louis XVI’s favorites.
The shadow of the Revolution
Far from the king’s table, anger roars in the streets of the country. The privileges of the clergy and the nobility are more and more decried, while the bourgeois aspire to make a place in the sun. While Marie-Antoinette feeds on brioche, a series of bad harvests increase the price of bread, fueling the resentment of peasants. In Pommard, Nicolas Marey gradually senses a change in the wind. Handsome, wealthy, and well-born, the young man is no less cunning. He decides to take the side of the Revolution and gets rid of the symbols of his privileges.
Betting on craftiness
Once the Château de Pommard yielded for a pittance, he attaches the friendship of the Republicans by donating his collections of medals and coins to France. History will prove him right. In Nuits-Saint-Georges, the possessions of his brother are declared national goods and sold during the Terror, reducing his trade to a pittance. While Claude-Philibert is forced to go into exile in Switzerland, Nicolas keeps an asset in his sleeve. Although the Château de Pommard has changed hands, the vines remain his. The young man plays skillfully with his relations and positions, between royalists and patriots, to continue to enrich himself. He buys several plots in Nuits-Saint-Georges, as well as the Romanée-Saint-Vivant, then a national asset.
And then came Émilie
In 1792, Nicolas is elected a congressman at the National Convention, which leads him to spend most of his time in Paris. There, he frequents salons, where politics spawned with worldliness. Madame Monge’s is among his favorites. A proclaimed anticlerical, she is married to Gaspard Monge, a mathematician and founder of the Ecole Polytechnique who became Minister of the Navy under the Convention. Born in Beaune, Monge is a friend of Robespierre and one of the most brilliant French scientists. His aura certainly appeals to Nicolas, until he meets his seventeen-years-old daughter. Émilie is beautiful, generous and spirited. The young lady is educated and has already traveled across Europe alongside her father. Smitten, the young congressman courts her for months. They married in 1795, marking the birth of one of the most powerful families in the history of Burgundy.
The spell of Pommard
Joining a family very involved in the Revolution heightens Nicolas’ prestige. He decides to retire from politics to dedicate himself to his wines. He expands his vineyard, paying particular attention to the vines he kept at Pommard. Far from Paris tumult, Pommard puts a spell on Émilie. A wife and a partner, she is fully committed to the estate. From winemaking to vinification, nothing escapes her. Soon enough, Château Micault appears to be the perfect place for them to call home. The newlyweds see themselves living in the middle of their vines; Nicolas already contemplates his married life in his family home. But, the new owner refuses to sell it back, turning a deaf ear to offers well above the 25,000 francs it sold for before the revolution. Out of despair, Nicolas quadruples his initial bet, only to be dismissed once again. Nothing would do.
Why live anywhere else?
Yet, the newlyweds are so passionate about Pommard and their beloved vineyard that they can’t imagine living anywhere else. As the vineyard remains their property, they undertake the construction of a new Chateau in the middle of the vines. The cornerstone is laid in 1802, about a hundred meters away from Chateau Micault. Built in pink stone from Chassagne, the residence is an allegory of the Burgundian spirit. The view of the vineyard is breathtaking. Nested between Chantrerie, Les Paules, and Simone, the property is admired in Burgundy and beyond. Still, as skillful as ever Nicolas is now close to Napoleon. The Emperor even has a dedicated bedroom at the new Château Marey-Monge.
A wall for the Clos
Pragmatic and popular, the master of the house decides to build an enclosure around his vineyard. He promises a bowl of soup and a pair of boots to the villagers in exchange for their services. In 1812, a wall 2 kilometers long and 2 meters high encircles the vineyard, giving it the name of Clos Marey-Monge. Nicolas won’t enjoy it long. Six years later, he suffers a heart attack and passes away in his library. Émilie, only forty years old, is now a widow. She is left with seven children and a wine empire to run.
Despite the sadness, vines leave no time for grief. With Nicolas gone, Émilie is determined not to let the vineyard decline. She involves herself in the smallest details — managing the plowing, harvesting, and bottling. Using her husband’s network, she continues her business as a trader, significantly increasing her assets. Émilie dedicated her life to her wines until her last days at the age of 89. Her children will take up the torch, like her grandchildren after them.
Over time, the memory of Nicolas and Émilie will fade, and the Château Marey-Monge will soon serve as a holiday home for the family. The soul of the Clos, though, remains alive, appealing to new generations of winemakers and families who will write new pages in the history of the Château de Pommard.
Stay tuned …