01_Vine_Trail_Rousset_Peyraguey_3_4
Alain Déjean

Rousset-Peyraguey

VigneronAlain Déjean
LocationPreignac (Gironde)
Size of Domaine10.3 ha
TerroirAtlantic climate, morning fogs due to the confluence of the Garonne and Ciron rivers inducing botrytis. Sandy silty topsoil on a bedrock of blue clay with limestone (Sauternes), clay-loam and sand (Barsac). 50m altitude.
ViticultureCertified biodynamic (Demeter)
View Rousset-Peyraguey wines ↓

When his mother first asked Alain Déjean to come back to the domaine and lend a hand, he wasn’t quite ready. He had spent the past 20 years on the board of French supermarket chain Leclerc. Experienced and highly qualified, Alain was good at his job, the pay was attractive and allowed him to enjoy life - becoming a farmer was not part of the plan. But, as his parents approached retirement and he got older, he increasingly felt the pull of his roots and finally decided on a complete change of lifestyle.

Alain took over the reins in 1995 becoming the seventh generation to work the vines at the domaine, and very quickly developed an obsession with the notion of terroir. He spent nights devouring books about biodynamics, looking to understand not only the esoteric theory but also, thanks to a more cartesian approach, the practicality of the various techniques and preparations. More than twenty years of practice and an all-or-nothing type of commitment have made him a fountain of knowledge on Rudolf Steiner and biodynamic farming.

“The years of oxidative ageing bring volatile acidity which is most welcome - well integrated it adds lift and umami hence balance, a rare feat in this appellation and the broader world of sweet wine.”

The Déjean family owns 10 ha of prime terroirs, six of which are found on Sauternes’s famous blue clay plateau, right in front of its most prestigious property (Château Yquem), while the rest is split between the sandy terroir of Fargues and Barsac’s clay-limestone soils.

Alain is aided in all tasks by his friend and right-hand-woman Valérie Perfandie who helped out at harvest almost 20 years ago and never left. She has learnt everything she could from Alain and has become an intrinsic part of Rousset-Peyraguey.

Alain is restless in his quest to make wines that are alive and a true reflection of their terroir and, as a consequence, created Dynamis, an association of growers whose raison d’être is sharing knowledge as well as importing elemental sulphur extracted from volcanoes. Used in Roman times, natural sulphur is more digeste (e.g. no headaches) than its fossil fuels-derived equivalent. It also binds less (chemically) than industrial sulphite therefore retains a higher level of the active free form (Total SO2 = Free + Bound SO2); dramatically reducing the amount needed to efficiently protect a given wine.

Innovation carries on into the cellar where some wines are aged for up to eight years in 100yo acacia barrels, during which time they are never racked, often developing a voile (flor) which nourishes and protects the wine. Others come from glass demijohns or barrels buried underground in dry lined trenches dug out of his cellar. It is sometimes hard to keep track of the different techniques and cuvées which make for extraordinary and unique wines. The years of oxidative ageing bring volatile acidity which is most welcome - well integrated it adds lift and umami hence balance, a rare feat in this appellation and the broader world of sweet wine.

02_Vine_Trail_Rousset_Peyraguey_3_4
Dynamisation of a preparation
03_Vine_Trail_Rousset_Peyraguey_3_4

Alain’s rebellious nature and unconventional winemaking has brought him into conflict with the INAO who have taken him to court on more than one occasion. Despite winning all of his trials (with the help of barrister friends from his Leclerc days!), he grew tired of their regular refusals to grant him the Sauternes AC and decided to declassify his entire production to Vin de France (from 2010 vintage) – watch out for some funny lines and cheeky comments on some of the labels!

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Alain recently refused to chemically treat his vineyards against the vine disease flavescence dorée as implemented by the local authorities. This ended up in another court battle which he lost this time and, sadly, was forced to uproot a 0.3 ha parcel. According to the local préfecture this plot had over 20% of vines contaminated, the threshold above which a vineyard must be uprooted by law.

This event has left Alain and Valérie bitter but might well have triggered a new case study at Rousset-Peyraguey: how to naturally treat the invading flavescence dorée?

04_Vine_Trail_Rousset_Peyraguey_3_4
05_Vine_Trail_Rousset_Peyraguey_3_4
01_Vine_Trail_Rousset_Peyraguey_1_1
One can spot Yquem in the background
02_Vine_Trail_Rousset_Peyraguey_1_1
Tasting of the many cuvées at the domaine

Rousset-Peyraguey Wines

Rousset-Peyraguey

L’AITHER 2010
SIGP
80% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon, 5% Muscadelle (12.5% alc, 220g/l of rs)

Aged for 2.5 years in a mix of 100yo acacia barrels (which help to preserve acidity) and oak, protected by natural volcanic sulphur, this wine comes from minute yields of 6hh from a parcel closest to Yquem where there is a sandy topsoil and blue clay and cobalt beneath. It has floral and spicy bread aromas and the fruit is notable for fresh quince. Unfined and unfiltered.

Rousset-Peyraguey

EPLASEN 2008
Sauternes
90% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon, 5% Muscadelle (13.9% alc, 190g/l of rs)

Eplasen comes from biodynamically tended old vines yielding around 4hh and after a year fermenting in cuve it was then aged for eight years in a mix of oak and acacia barrels. Very complex stewed orange and spices on the palate, it is rich and sumptuous and yet as ever with Rousset-P wines there is a vein of acidity that keeps everything in balance. Unfined and unfiltered. For drinking now to 2028.

Rousset-Peyraguey

CRÈME DE TÊTE 2011
SIGP
90% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon, 5% Muscadelle (13% alc, 210g/l of rs)

From the 2010 vintage onwards Alain gave up his long running battle with the AOC authorities who for the previous 15 years had never wanted to grant his wines the AOC right (Alain had won every single battle in court but it was becoming wearing), and so from now on all his wines are designated IGP (with Alain cheekily adding an S for…). Crème de Tête wines are only made in top vintages and aged for five years in old oak and acacia barrels. Amber orange in colour, it has a sumptuously rich depth of orange and citrus fruits with hazelnuts and a little spice on the finish. Very harmonious with a superb play on the palate lifted by acidity. Like all of the Rousset-P wines elemental volcanic sulphur is used for protection, at less than half the levels used by many Sauternes châteaux. For drinking now to 2030+.