Oliver de Cayron with a copy of the map from Dr. Jules Lavalle
In the year 1855, dozens of châteaux in the Bordeaux region of southwest France were categorized according to the quality of wines they produced. Yet few red wine enthusiasts understand that throughout that very same year, soils of the Burgundy region of France were also classified according to the quality of associated wines.
Before the Universal Exhibit in Paris commenced in 1855 (organized by Napoleon III) a choice was made to classify the red wine châteaux of the Bordeaux region. That category still exists– reasonably intact. That same Paris exhibition also prompted publication of a soil classification map from within the Burgundy area, along with the 1855 book entitled Histoire et Statistique de La Vigne et des Grand Crus de la Cote-D’Or [History and Data of the Grand Cru Vines of Côte d’Or] which was the basis for a more detailed red wine classification released 6 years later.
Dr. Lavalle’s book on Burgundy vineyards published in 1855
Olivier de Cayron
The designer behind this Burgundy category system was Dr. Jules Lavalle. Due to his multiple lifetime achievements, he was apparently both ambitious and energetic. His history today is both transparent and apparent, in addition to both private and hidden. Fans of Burgundy red wines now demand to get more information about Dr. Lavalle. They understand that information about his heritage comes from two sources– one within the general public domain, the other more guardedly private.
Dr. Lavalle had no children, so hunting for any direct descendants is futile. Yet the great-great-great-grand-nephew of Dr. Lavalle flourishes today as a distinguished French artist who has actually remained normally unwilling, though a little more eager of late, to share tales of his lively ancestor.
‘I wish to bring Dr. Lavalle back to the world,’ Lavalle’s descendant Olivier de Cayron told me throughout a recent dinner we shared in Paris. During November, we sat with renowned Chinese wine merchant Ting Ding, who arranged our gathering. Years ago, as a trainee of white wine, Ding had checked out of Burgundy’s history and became interested by the story of Dr. Lavalle and his breadth of achievements. In 2017 at a Paris event, she serendipitously satisfied De Cayron– the descendent of Dr. Lavalle. Throughout our dinner in Paris, both shared insights into Lavalle’s life, along with into Burgundy’s foundational written wine classification.
Picture Of Dr. Jules Lavalle on a ceramic dish
Olivier de Cayron
De Cayron is a lean, humble guy in taught control of emotions. Yet he is likewise a brazen lover of life, art and white wine. His distinguished 19th century forefather’s prominence stays incidental, rather than central, to his own trajectory through life.
Lots of people and press experts, intent on finding out more of the history of Dr. Lavalle (consisting of French papers) typically contact De Cayron. He respects their curiosity, but prefers to keep souvenirs of Dr. Lavalle personal, rather than delegating information wholesale to individuals or institutions. Of late, nevertheless, he is more all set to share information about the abundant and different life of his ancestor.
‘When I was young, my father spoke of Dr. Lavalle,’ stated De Cayron. ‘The public library had a map with his 1855 Burgundy category hanging on a wall. What he did was very, very crucial.
‘Burgundy produces only three percent of all French wines. Yet the white wines of Côte de Nuits, for example, are really powerful and popular.
‘Dr. Lavalle was a botanist, with an excellent interest in soils. He asked himself why Burgundy red wines taste as they do. He understood that it is because Burgundy soils resemble mille-feuilles.’ [This term, suggesting ‘thousand leaves,’ describes a popular French pastry with multiple layers]
As we spoke, Denting unscrolled a seven-foot-wide facsimile picture of the original map produced by Dr. Lavalle. The map is titled Plan Topographique des Grands Vignobles de la Còte D’Or– par J. Lavalle– 1855. This most likely accompanied Lavalle’s book. The rendering exposes elegant details of Burgundy’s well known Côte d’Or red wine region– comprised of Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. This lithographic map was initially produced in 3 parts by the publisher Normand in Montrouge, Paris.Dr.
Jules Lavalle’s map of vineyards in Cote d’Or, Burgundy, France
This delicately shaded black and white map has a ghostly quality. The strategy view of Burgundy hills includes elegantly curved contour lines that resemble foam or fungi more than normal cartographic arcs. Roadways and towns are diligently booked; clusters of famous habitations related to red wine areas stick out, consisting of such names as Pomard, Aloxe, Vougeot, Chambolle. The map stretches from the city of Dijon in the north to Chagny in the south. A heavy black line represents the train line running parallel to, and east of, the golden hills of Burgundy. This map, together with Lavalle’s book, formed a backbone to a more thorough four-level wine category system that was finished in 1861.
Lavalle based his deal with predecessors, consisting of Jean-Alexandre Cavoleau (who in 1827 published French Enology, or Stats of All French Vineyards) and Dr. Denis Morelot (who in 1831 released Vine Data of the Cote D’Or). These men, in turn, got insights concerning Burgundian vines and soils from the writings of Cistercian monks.
Today, Lavalle’s map is shown at the National Library of France in Paris, and at the Athenaeum throughout from the Hospices of Beaune in Burgundy.
Today, Burgundy’s white wine category system is based on 2 pillars– according to Camille Rodier, who co-founded the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in 1920. One pillar is Dr. Lavalle’s work (after releasing his map and book in 1855, Lavalle and a group from the city of Beaune worked together to create the tiered Burgundy classification system). The other is an 1860 category of the Committee of Agriculture and Viticulture of the Arrondissement of Beaune.Chambolle-Musigny commune
, Côte-d’Or, Burgundy, France
Jean Lavalle was born in Dijon in 1820, and became referred to as Jules in school. Today the area around Burgundy is renowned for a history of wines and abbeys. Yet it was also when a prominent center for producing porcelain and ceramic pottery, or fayence. In the 16th century, the Carthusian monks of Dijon owned a glazed roof tile factory in the ancient commune of Premières– situated today about a half hour drive southeast of Dijon. Jean Lavalle’s grandparents– the Pignant household– purchased that factory. They extracted their source clay from adjacent forests of Mondragon. Ultimately, the couple passed this factory to Jules Lavalle as an inheritance. When he worked there, Lavalle even created a special blue cobalt color which is still named after him. At one time some 280 staff operated at this factory. British author Frederick Marryat composed of the work:
‘We can not neglect the grayscales of Jules Lavalle. Lavalle seems to be the very first to have developed a ceramic pencil and specific modern procedures to create certain decors near to photography.’
Ceramics from Lavalle’s factory ended up being so distinguished that they were discovered at the Great Exhibit of the Works of Industry of all Nations in Crystal Palace in London, U.K., in 1851. This prompted a number of established artists to visit the Lavalle factory, including Italian Giussepe Devers and Louis Boulanger– a friend of author Victor Hugo (with whom Lavalle later corresponded).
Lavalle next gravitated towards science, acquiring a medical degree and a doctorate in natural science from Dijon and also ending up being a teacher of botany. He worked tirelessly, ending up being the director of the Arquebuse botanical gardens in Dijon, editor of a local horticultural publication, author of books on plants and mushrooms, city organizer for the expansion of Dijon and a colonel in charge of military defense against Prussians for the Côte d’Or. He lastly returned to the commune of his grandparents– Premières– where he became mayor prior to he died in 1880. Today his statue stands in the center of the local cemetery.Dijon, Burgundy
‘He went out with a horse and carriage and inspected the soils of vineyards,’ De Cayron discussed. As Dr. Lavalle was checking out vineyards and categorizing the soils of Cote d’Or, he also kept close relationships with local winegrowers and frequently sampled their wares. His study of vines was recognized and rewarded with a top-notch medal at the Universal Exhibit in Paris in 1855.
In the intro to his book, Lavalle composes [translated from published French]:
‘Everyone, in France or abroad, talks about Côte d’Or white wines. Everyone knows the most popular names; it is both the magnificence and the wealth of our department and of the entire nation; and yet there is no total history of these excellent vineyards. Amateurs or traders ask fruitless where to find the most essential details: Burgundy has just been able to offer them so far some basic information and unclear indications …
‘The basis of any diligent study must be a topographical strategy executed on a large enough scale to enable the reader to discover there without difficulty the least extensive climats, and sufficiently precise to serve for major research.’
[Keep in mind that in Burgundy, the word climat describes a specific vineyard site.]
‘His house still exists, with one hectare [2.5 acres] of land and trees,’ De Cayron explained. ‘Your home is like it was in the past; today it is a home of spirits.’
Wine merchant Ting Ding and artist Olivier de Cayron, Paris, France
Strangely Enough, De Cayron had little interest in white wine and scant gratitude of his own history up until his meeting with Ding in 2017. This encounter in Paris led to the two eventually forming L’Association Internationale des Vins Rares et Vieux Millésimes (International Association for Rare and Old Red Wines), which organized its very first tasting at the Lavalle house in the town of Premières, Burgundy. Together, this set, along with a few others, likewise produce a cuvée red wine from Morey-Saint-Denis– a Clos des Ormes 1er Cru. Production called Dr. Jules Lavalle Réserve Héritage. Production is limited to 400 bottles.
De Cayron studied psychology, then started his own career producing abstract art. He now lives and works in southern Paris and his output consists of photography, digital productions and microperforations. He just recently opened a contemporary art gallery in Le Mans named MixtaMediart, that includes artists involved in the Transfiguring Motion and optico-narratives. He also displays his work at the Galerie Valérie Eymeric in Lyon, and has displayed his art in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Miami, Strasbourg, Rotterdam, Sao Paolo, Istanbul, Moscow (prior to the war with Ukraine), Bangalore and other cities. He also takes pride that his child, perhaps inspired by her forefather’s association with Victor Hugo, is a published romance novelist based in Paris.Dr.
Jules Lavalle Clos des Ormes Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru white wine
‘Burgundy is our enthusiasm,’ Ding said. ‘Olivier believes it is not the wine maker however the soil, the terroir, that makes great wine.’
‘Wine is likewise art,’ De Cayron admitted. ‘Frankly, white wine is a praise. A grace. Together, a good wine with a great meal and good environment help to supply a great life.’
We toasted. To Dr. Lavalle, and his success in making the world of Burgundian white wines easier to understand– for everybody.