Richard I was the King of England from 1189-1199. In that short period he established a legacy that is still flourishing to this day, giving us some of our most lasting ideas about what a medieval monarch looks like. He led the Third Crusade against Saladin, a confrontation that attained legendary status. He is well represented in the media, in films such as 2010's Robin Hood, 2005's Kingdom of Heaven, and our favorite, 1968's The Lion in Winter. But what does Richard have to do with wine?
Along with the kingship of England, Richard also inherited Dukedoms and Counties across Europe too numerous to list here, one of which was Aquitaine, known to us in modern times as Bordeaux, in the south west of France. Richard is famous for spending very little time in England, preferring to spend most of his time fighting. However, he understood that his war machine required one very important thing: top quality wine.
In 1199, sixteen years before his younger brother, King John, signed the Magna Carta in 1215, and soon before being struck down by a crossbow bolt to the chest, Richard signed a charter that granted, for the first time, self governance to a group of the King's subjects. The city of Saint-Émilion on the Gironde River, just northeast of what is now the city of Bordeaux, received the right to govern itself in exchange for quality-control checking every barrel of wine that was shipped from their port to Richard's troops. If the sampled barrel passed the taste test, the side was burned with the King's royal seal. If it didn't, it was hurled into the river.
The group that was established to oversee this still exists to this day. The Jurade (Judges) of Saint-Émilion is alive and well in 2015, with over 3,000 members. In their long-flowing red robes, they are a key part of the celebrations and formal rituals around the grape harvest.
Grapes that were planted in Richard's time are some of the same ones we have planted in our vineyard at Yorkville today. Those same varietals, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, all blended together, was the wine Richard, with his refined palate, was gulping down after the heat of battle.
Edward discusses his history of grape growing and winemaking in Mendocino County. Believed to be the only vineyard in the world that grows all six of the noble Bordeaux red varietals. [click here to watch the short video]
Our beautiful carved barrel. Richard's royal seal of 1189.