Most people know only about Burgundy’s wine, but not the history of the Kingdom of Burgundy and its wine. With its little kingdoms, and later as a unified, independent country, the history of these dozens of counties unified and separated is such an intriguing story. Today, I would like to talk about the history of wine and Burgundy.

 Duchy of Flanders (Flag). One of the richest regions in Burgundy (Both then and now)

Wine was first made in about 6000 BCE in Georgia. Its enjoyment was later spread throughout the world by the Armenians, Sicilians, Greeks, and Persians. During the time of ancient Rome, it became a beverage used throughout the world. Later, regions like Spain, Burgundy, or the Caucasus rose as the main regions in Europe for wine production. Especially, Burgundy, was able to rise as a region full of big and small kingdoms, not unified, but rather led by nobles who got their wealth by fermenting the grapes in the region until 411, when the number of kingdoms in Burgundy highly decreased. In 982, Burgundy was unified (except for a few kingdoms led by dukes of the region) under Otto William, a Burgundian noble. However, Burgundy was conquered by neighboring countries about once every century or two, due to the fact it was between France and the Holy Roman Empire, and Burgundy was one of the richest countries at that time. For instance, in the late 9th century and 10th century, Burgundy was conquered by the Holy Roman Empire and Italy.

The army of the Burgundians, armed by the Burgundian style of armor

Again, 400 years later, during the times of the 100 yr war, Burgundy’s richest region, Flanders, was conquered by the British, to boost the morale of the English soldiers with the wine. Also, the Britich used their new base in Flanders to attack the French from both land and sea, and take away the large amount of money stored there. Other parts of North Burgundy were conquered by the British, and the French would try their best to drive out the English forces in Burgundy, putting Flanders in chaos. In the end, the Burgundians regained Flanders, but the Calais region of Flanders, within Burgundy remained British territory. Also, the Prince Bishop of Liege conquered most of South Flanders and Austria took control of middle Burgundy. To regain land and connect South and North Burgundy, King Charles the Bold, known for his bravery, attacked Austria, even though they had been engaged in an alliance. Austria, except for a few cities like Verdun, and parts of Switzerland fell under control of Charles’ forces. The price of wine also skyrocketed, as parts of France and Burgundy banned all nonburgundian wine (which was less profitable than champagne or Burgundian). Most nobles in Eastern France were Burgundians who sold champagne, as the grapes to make champagne grew well near Burgundy. Later on, the two wines became the most expensive alcoholic beverages in Europe. As the strength of the Burgundians increased, Austria became desperate and allied with Switzerland, previously their biggest enemy. That was before King Charles had a war with the east and with France, the Holy Roman Empire, and many other Dukes that had some small kingdoms throughout Burgundy. These countries and duchies needed the wealth and wine (to boost soldiers’ morale and sell for profit), so they started a war between Burgundy’s biggest alliance, Savoy and Burgundy itself against the French-Switzerland-Austrian-Holy Roman Empire’s alliance. Even England later fought with the Burgundians as well, to gain more resources and sustain their territory. After the war, Burgundy was in chaos, most of the soldiers were killed, and during the Battle of Nancy, King Charles the Bold died after being lanced by some Swiss mercenaries. Sooner or later, Burgundy fell into French hands in the middle 1500s. In spite of its strong cavalry and robust army, and help from the neighboring kingdom of Savoy, which itself survived for another 300 years, Burgundy eventually fell into oblivion as a country, and today is part of France and the Netherlands.

Largest extent of Burgundy(under King Charles the Bold)

 This is how the Kingdom of Burgundy, once a prosperous country, well-known for its developed warfare, fell into enemy hands. The kingdom was always the area that other kingdoms wanted to conquer, full of wealth and wine. (Descendants of the Burgundian rulers still hold land in the area.) All in all, in my perspective, most countries that are between two or more other countries find it hard to survive in the long-term.