p in the valley behind Auxey-Duresses, surrounded by steep cliffs, is Saint-Romain, a village of some 200 inhabitants. The village is divided in two parts – Saint-Romain-le-Haut and Saint-Romain-le-Bas – one on top of the cliffs and one below. There have been settlements here, practically without interruption, for the last 6000 years.
In the middle of the 19th century the population of Saint-Romain was 850. Then came the phylloxera, followed by two world wars, and the population was gradually reduced to a quarter.
Together with Chorey-lès-Beaune Saint-Romain is the only village in the Côte de Beaune without any premier cru or grand cru land. The production is slightly more focused on white wine than on red. In 1947 it received its own appellation. Before that it had been part of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune. The best climats are right east of the village – such as Sous le Château, Sous la Velle and Sous Roche.
Compared with other communes along the Côte d'Or not much of Saint-Romain's total area is under vines. Only around seven percent of the land produces wine. In Aloxe-Corton's case it is 93 percent. This gives room to a number of walking trails that give you the opportunity to discover the numerous archaeological sites in the area. There is also a small museum of pre-history at the mairie.
Right next to the mairie is the restaurant/hotel Les Roches, run by Séverine and Guillaume Crotet. With previous experience from Troisgros in Roanne, l'Espérance in Vézelay and Le Gourmandin in Beaune Guillaume Crotet makes traditional Burgundian food with light modern touch. The tatin d'oreille de cochon à la sauge – tatin of pig's ears with sage sauce – is excellent. The wine list is like a who's-who-in-Saint-Romain, with bottles from every grower in the village. Just don't try to get any recommendations. It's a small village and Les Roches is the only restaurant, so no one is favoured.
Apart from Les Roches the only other commerce in the village is Fabrice Descharmes who comes with his truck from his bakery in Volnay every morning (except Monday). He sells the usual baguettes as well as a small slection of groceries.
Down in Saint Romain-le-Bas is where you find most of the winegrowers. The streets are narrow and in most cases very steep. I have tried going for a morning run here, but I still don't know which was the worst, jogging downhill or uphill. Both directions were exhausting.
Saint Romain-le-Haut is the smaller part of the village. Up here you have a wonderful view over Saint Romain-le-Bas and the cliffs on the opposite side, as well as along the valley towards Auxey-Duresses. At the southern end of the plateau is a large picnic area, shaded by trees. Just leave the car when you arrive at the parking area in Saint Romain-le-Haut. Then there is just a short walk along the vineyards, past the chateau and the church.
In the 11th century a castle was built at the southern tip of the plateau, not far from where you find the picnic area today. At the end of the Middle Ages the church was moved from the grounds of the castle to the heart of Saint Romain-le-Haut. The castle was abandoned and was later used as building material for new houses in Saint Romain-le-Haut.