Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Charlemagne, king of the Franks 768–814, crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800, the man who ushered in civilization, order, and prosperity after the long Dark Ages, ruling a Christian kingdom based at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) which included virtually all of France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland.

Charlemagne’s name is associated by modern wine drinkers with one of the greatest white burgundies, Corton-Charlemagne (whose vineyards include a plot known as Le Charlemagne), produced on land he gave to the Abbey of Saulieu in 775 (see aloxe-corton for more detail). Charlemagne’s secretary and biographer Einhard tells us, however, that Charlemagne was a moderate man: he never drank more than three cups of wine with dinner, and he hated to see people drunk (Life of Charlemagne, ch. 24). Only a temperate man is truly interested in wine: when he renamed the 12 months of the year in his native language, he called October ‘windume-manoth’, the month of the wine harvest (Einhard, ch. 28)—which was presumably true of the vineyards then established in parts of northern Europe considered too cool for viable wine production today.