Richebourg is a legendary vineyard – and while Romanee-Conti, La Romanee and La Tache are regarded as slightly better, most Burgundy lovers can tell you about a very special moment with a bottle of Richebourg.
My Richebourg moment was Henri Jayer Richebourg 1985 – tasted back in 2002 – a legendary wine and a typical Richebourg … big, powerful and still very young at the age of 17.
The quality of Richebourg has improved quite a lot during the last 20 years, but even before this the overall quality of the wines from Richebourg were very high compared to other Grand Crus with multible owners.
But let us take a closer look at Richebourg … the history, the plots and the owners.
History of Richebourg
It’s somewhat unclear when the name Richebourg was first used, but documents show that the term Richebourg was used as early as 1512 according to Jean-François Bazin.
Richebourg today includes two climats – Les Richebourg 5.05 ha (the original part) and Les Verroilles ou Richebourg 2.98 ha – in total 8.03 ha. – see maps below.
Early history of Les Richebourg
Les Richebourg was like most of the known vineyards in Burgundy owned mostly by the Church up til the French revolution in 1790. In the case of Richebourg a large part of the current vineyard was under the ownership of monestary of Citeaux.
In 1791 the vineyards of the Abbey of Citeaux were sold to a Parisian banker Jean Focard1. The path of ownership is however somewhat unclear, but it seems likely that Richebourg was traded several times after the initial deal with Focard – that was at least the case with Clos de Vougeot, which was sold at the same time to Focard.
Early history of Les Verroilles sous Richebourg
Les Verroilles was mentioned as Clos des Varoilles in 1774 by Abbe Claude Courtépée11. Courtépée mention that 4 journaux (1,4 hectare) of Clos des Varoilles were owned by M. Jaquinot de Chazan – thus indicating that at least a part of Verroilles separated from the church ownership before the revolution. Clos des Varoilles was also mentioned by Maupin 10 in 1784, where he mention Clos des Varoilles and the owner M. de Chasan – see picture below.
Full page from Maupin’s book click here
The 1,4 hectare of Clos des Varoilles mentioned by Courtépée does not cover the total area of Les Verroilles sous Richebourg – but the area is approximately the same as the Gros holdings in Les Verroilles.
In 1827 the cadastral system was established and this could have changed some of the borders between the different climates – but it’s interesting that the vineyard was mentioned as a “Clos” as the both the AF Gros and Gros Frere et Soeur holdings have a wall on the northern side towards Chambolle Musigny and there is another wall between the Meo-Camuzet Plot and the Gros plots.
Anyhow the name Clos des Varoilles was not used further on, and Lavalle mention the climate as Les Varoilles sous Richebourg, while the term officially used today is Les Verroilles ou Richebourg. The change from “sous” to “ou” was a part of the unification proces, as the owners on Les Verroilles wanted to link the vineyard closer to the Richebourg brand.
The unification of Les Richebourg and Les Verroilles sous Richebourg
Les Richebourg and Les Verroilles sous Richebourg were separate vineyards until they were unified under the name of Richebourg in 1924. Even today the two climates in Richebourg are still mentioned on some maps, and in the official records the two climates are still maintained separate.
Before the unification of Richebourg in 1924 there were a lot of discussions and even legal battle about the right to bottle the wines from Les Verroilles sous Richebourg under the name Richebourg.
Some considered Les Richebourg to be the superior vineyard, while the owners on Les Verroilles sous Richebourg argued differently. Lavalle (1855) classified Les Richebourg as Tete de Cuvee while he rated Les Veroilles sous Richebourg as Premiere Cuvee. Rodier (1920) disagreed and rated both climates Tete de Cuvee.
Les Richebourg is facing directly east with the rows of vines going east/west and this climate has a somewhat better exposure to the sun, while Les Verroilles is facing more northeast with the rows going north/south. In general the harvest is earlier on Les Richebourg due to the more direct exposure to the sun. Henri Jayer mention that one normally should harvest Les Verroilles 2 – 3 days after Les Richebourg, and that the grapes from Verroilles “promise lover alcoholic content but always a better pH12
In the “old days” … before global warming … the better exposure of Les Richebourg could be an advantage in lesser years, but in the last two decades most vintages have produced grapes with good ripeness – and the northeast exposure of Verroilles can even be an advantage in hot years.
Summing up I don’t think there is a big difference in quality today – and the wines from the Verroilles terroir in general are matching the quality of the wines produced on Les Richebourg. Stylewise the wines from Les Richebourg can be slightly more dense and massively powerful, while some wines form Les Verroilles enjoy slightly better acidity and sometimes a more pronounced stony minerality. But to be honest the difference between the produceres is far bigger than the difference in terroir between the two climates – and many wines are indeed a mix of the two climates.
In the end Les Verroilles sous Richebourg was added to the Richebourg vineyard in 1924. In 1936 the vineyard gets AOC Grand Cru status for the full area today know as Richebourg – and the two climates as Les Richebourg and Les Verroilles ou Richebourg.
The ownership of Richebourg – the sources and reference points
The ownership of Richebourg in the decades after the revolution is not very well described, but there are three reference points and sources – Lavalle (1855), Danguy and Aubertin (1892) and Rodier (1920).
My angle on this is to take each of the current plots and take a look at the historic ownership of these plots. In most cases this will take us 100 years back .. sometimes even further.
The current ownership of Richebourg
Today Richebourg is devided between 11 owners, with Domaine de la Romanee-Conti as the main and principal owner in both Les Richebourg and Les Verroilles.
- Domaine de la Romanee Conti – 3.51 ha
- Domaine Leroy – 0.78 ha
- Gros Frere et Soeur – 0.69 ha
- A.F. Gros – 0.60 ha
- Anne Gros – 0.60 ha
- Thibault Liger-Belair – 0.55 ha
- Meo-Camuzet – 0.35 ha
- Jean Grivot – 0.32 ha
- Mongeard Mugneret – 0.31 ha
- Hudelot-Noellat – 0.28 ha
- Frantin – 0.07 ha
On the map below I have attached ownership to the different parts on Richebourg.
The historic ownership of Richebourg
Next step is to explore the history of each of the current plots, and try to establish a historic view on the ownership. The reference point for this work is Lavalle1 and he mention the following owners on Richebourg in 1855:
Les Richebourg in 1855 (4 hect. 93 ares 45 cent.):
- Duveaux (Duvault-Blochet)
- MM. Frantin
Verroilles Sous Richebourg in 1855 (3 hect. 6 ares):
- M. Frantin
Historic view on the ownership of Les Richebourg
There are currently 6 domaines producing wine mainly from Les Richebourg. One owner – Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – also have holdings in Les Verroilles and the DRC Richebourg is based on both climates.
The map below show the owners in Les Richebourg.