St Romain: le village haut
On Saturday afternoon we walked up the valley from St Romain to Meloisey and back. St Romain is two small communities, one in its valley and one – much smaller, I suspect – is le village haut high on a cliff above. I think that must have been where the original village would have been: its church and a small castle are in the upper village. The lower village nestles in a horseshoe created by limestone cliffs. Much of our walk was to follow these cliffs on the Côte d’Or above the vineyards. Le village haut perches on the northern arm of the horseshoe around St Romain.
St Romain produces a white wine which, like many white wines in this area, must be some of the best white wines imaginable. The chardonnay grape which must produce the Burgundy wine from the limestone and the soil which surrounds this, and a small number of villages, in this area. No, maybe St Romain is not up with the really expensive white Burgundies – Meursault, Puligny Montrachet and so on – but it is what most of us are very happy to drink as a very good white Burgundy.
We parked in the lower village, so the first bit of our walk was up a steep path diagonally up the cliff to the upper village. The communities’ church is there. Would many of the villagers have had to climb that hill to get to church? Carriages could go on what is now the road up through the lower village, and pedestrians could follow the road; but it is a longish hike up the road and back again to the church.
The spur on which the village haut stands ends with the remains of a castle (a chateau fort). This perches on the cliff above the lower village, and gives views down to Auxey Duresses and Meursault and to Beaune away to the north: that is, following the line of the Côte d’Or. At the point of the cliffs was a castle. Now just a few remains of ruins survive. Very little is left. Its walls rarely exceed three or four feet (a metre), and it does not seem to have been more that a few rooms in length. The cliffs provides a natural defence on three sides, so there is no need for outer defences.
The church is not old, but has the unusual distinction of containing a flight of steps over its width from the street level door to the main single span nave. I assume it followed the contours of the hillside as it fell from the spine of the village street away towards the valley below.
We left the church, and walked through the few upper village houses towards Meloisey. [To be continued.]