Monastic wines

Although wine was already produced in France in Roman times, the first people to develop the French vineyards were monks in the 12th century. What remains of these lands and of this monastic tradition of winemaking? Often planted around the ruins of a church or an abbey that is still in use today, these acres of vines continue to produce wine thanks to the enthusiasm of wine-growers and the faith of the monks who maintain them. Such vineyards offer visitors the chance to taste excellent wines while at the same time discovering unique, historical sites once inhabited by religious orders.

The vineyards of Burgundy

Château de Cîteaux wines

This estate, one of the oldest in the Meursault region, belonged to the Cistercians up until 1792. Devastated by phylloxera, the estate's 50 acres were brought back to life in the 1990s when grapes were planted in the same layout as during the monks' period. The vines respond to careful cultivation (thinning out of leaves, pruning, etc.) and produce a delicious "Vin de Meursault" which is particularly well balanced.

Sights: 12th-century wine cellar and the château grounds.

Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Abbaye de Morgeot wines

Following the destruction of the village in the 15th century, all that remains of this Cistercian abbey is its chapel, bread oven and its vines, which are still cultivated according to traditional methods under the watchful eye of the estate manageress and wine-producer. Situated in the famous community of Chassagne-Montrachet, this small estate produces fine premier cru red and white wines meeting stringent organic criteria.

Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Château de la Tour wines

This château is the largest estate of the Clos de Vougeot. Founded at the end of the 13th century by monks from Cîteaux, this famous vineyard is now one of the most renowned in the Côte de Nuits region. The grape harvest is carried out by hand, using wicker baskets; the grapes then have their stems and stalks removed and are bottled in the heart of the Clos de Vougeot, as in the past. This estate, covering just 15 acres, produces powerful yet elegant red and white wines with woody tannins and plenty of character.

Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Wines from the Abbaye du Petit-Quincy estate

This estate was the wine cellar of the large Cistercian abbey of Notre-Dame de Quincy. The monks produced wine here until the 14th century. The estate was then taken over by wine-growers, then abandoned during the First World War. Replanted in the 1990s, the vineyards have been brought back to their former splendor and now produce a range of red, white, rosé and sparkling AOC wines, such as "Bourgogne Epineuil" and "Bourgogne Tonnerre," which have a pleasant fruity flavor.

Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Wine of Champagne

The Maison Drappier Cistercian wine cellars

Built by the monks of nearby Clairvaux to store their wine, these superb 12th-century wine cellars are now home to the Maison Drappier's best vintages. The estate's 45 hectares of vines produce an elegant champagne that is made using the famous Méthode Champenoise developed by the monks in the 18th century.

Sights: the 12th-century wine cellars.

Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier

The vineyards of Languedoc

Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Valmagne wines

This 185-acre wine estate, 74 acres of which produce Appellation Contrôlée wines, extends around the poetic setting of a 12th-century Cistercian abbey. Producing red, white and rosé wines, the Valmagne vineyards were maintained by the monks here for eight centuries, right up to the French Revolution. Now a wine estate, this site is nicknamed the "Cathedral of Vines" as a result of the Russian oak vats that have stood in the unlikely setting of the nave of the abbey church since 1820. Wine production was started again at the end of the 19th century and the estate's wines have found favor as far away as Mexico. With their strong, structured tones and supple tannins, these wines have been classified as "Vins de Pays" and "Vins de Coteaux du Languedoc" since the 1980s.

Sights: the abbey, its gardens, cloister and fountain, the old vats and the Conservatoire des Cépages.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Bourboulanne and Cinsault

Abbaye de Fontfroide wines

Vines have been grown here since the 12th century when the abbey was affiliated with the Cistercian order. The 106-acre estate, now privately owned, perpetuates the site's wine-making tradition producing red, white and rosé "Vins de Pays" and "Vin de Corbières" (AOC) wines. The grapes are harvested in the traditional way and the wine is still produced in the Saint Julien de Septime cellars, once used as a barn for the old abbey.

Sights: the abbey, its gardens and the Musée Gustave Fayet.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Roussanne, Marsanne, Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Muscat

Abbaye des Monges wines

This former Cistercian convent near Narbonne was built in 1204. The estate's 67 acres were brought back to life in 1997 and it now produces red, white and rosé "Coteaux du Languedoc" (AOC) wines, as well as a delicious sweet wine made from over-ripened grapes.

Sights: the Cistercian abbey, its convent and chapel.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Cinsault

Abbaye Sylva Plana wines

Founded in 1139, this monastic barn that once belonged to the Abbaye de Sylvanès has always had vines planted nearby. Cistercian monks worked this land up to the 12th century, using methods passed on by the Romans five centuries earlier. After a long period of inactivity, the estate's 110 acres were brought back to life in 1998 and now produce "Vins de Faugères" (AOC) wines. The estate focuses mainly on red wines.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Roussanne, Clairette and Cinsault

Chartreuse de Mougères wines

The Romans were the first to settle on this site, which still bears traces of an old Roman villa. It was not until 1825 that Carthusian monks settled here, and not until 1935 that they planted vines over 86 acres of the estate, prioritizing high-quality grape varieties. While continuing to own the property, in 1977 the monks handed over wine production to a wine-grower who has remained faithful to the methods introduced by the monks, producing fine red, white, rosé and sparkling "Vins de Pays" and "Vins de Coteaux du Languedoc" (AOC) wines.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache noir, Cinsault, Muscat, Vermentino, Sauvignon and Maccabéo

Abbaye Sainte-Eugénie wines

After this abbey became affiliated with the Abbaye de Fontfroide in the 12th century, Cistercian monks replaced the Benedictine order who had lived here since 817. The vines were cultivated right up to the beginning of the 17th century, before being abandoned. The vines are now tended once again, producing red Corbières (AOC) and Banyuls wines.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan and Maccabeu

Wines from the Rhône valley

Chartreuse de Valbonne wines

The Carthusians settled here in the 13th century and cultivated the vineyards right up to the beginning of the 20th century. After more than 70 years of neglect, an organisation took over the estate and replanted the vines on the 17 hectares which had originally been used for this purpose. The grapes are harvested by hand, then destalked in the 13th century wine cellars. They produce a range of varied and fleshy "Côtes du Rhône" wines.

Sights: the monastery, the main cloister and the wine cellar

Grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, Viognier and Cinsault

Monastère de Solan wines

This working convent has around twenty hectares of vineyards which are cultivated by the nuns who live here. Following organic principles, the grapes are carefully harvested by hand and produce reds, whites and rosés with fruity and spicy tones, in addition to a sweet aperitif wine.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Cabernet, Carignan and Clairette

Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux wines

The Benedictine monks and nuns of Le Barroux have been making red and rosé wines from the vineyards surrounding the abbey for many years. The "Côtes du Ventoux" wine produced by this small winery is made in the wine cellars of Beaumont-du-Ventoux and is known for its invigorating and fruity aromas.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault

The vineyards of Provence

Château Sainte-Roseline wines

Pope John XXII established this vineyard, one of the most important in Provence at the time, in the 14th century. Today the winery produces "Côtes de Provence" AOC red, white and rosé wines which are "crus classés." The vines here have been cultivated for more than seven centuries, following the traditions started by the monks.

Sights: the chapel, cloister, château, mosaic by Marc Chagall, and the gardens.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Rolle, Tibouren, Cinsault, Grenache and Sémillon

Abbaye de Lérins wines

Nearly 20 years ago the monks of the Abbaye de Lérins, situated on the Ile Saint-Honorat in the Bay of Cannes, decided to relaunch wine production on this island blessed with an ideal microclimate for growing grapes. The production of this small vineyard flanked by eucalyptus trees and the Mediterranean is modest, and the monks follow traditional methods, using no fertilizers or pesticides. All the monks are involved in the production of the estate's red and white wines, from the grape harvest to the bottling process.

Grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Chardonnay, Clairette