For many observers, Derenoncourt Consultants embodies the new generation of consultants working in viticulture & wine-making. It is undoubtedly this all-encompassing perception of a vineyard that mostly clearly represents Derenoncourt Consultants’ specialty.
“A wine’s identity is defined by observing the place where the grapes are grown, by making a careful note of each and every detail, taking into consideration the soil and sub-soil, the orientation of the vines and the climate.
Establishing an ethos for wine production adapted to the vineyard itself enables the grower to produce grapes capable of revealing true character, unique wines that recount their history. Humankind comes and goes, but soils remain…”
Stéphane Derenoncourt is a French vigneron working as a consultant for numerous estates in Bordeaux and other wine producers worldwide. With his wife, Christine Derenoncourt, he runs Derenoncourt Consultants with an aim to provide a distribution outlet for quality estates in undervalued areas and regions. He and his team now works with a number of estates in Bordeaux and elsewhere.
The story of Stéphane Derenoncourt’s career is one of a man mastering his craft the right way – from the bottom up. Though considered by many to be one of the best winemakers in France and Bordeaux’s most sensitive vintner and hailed in November 2010 as the “world’s hottest winemaker” by Wine Spectator, Stéphane comes from humble origins. Born the son of a steel worker in northern France, and entirely self-taught, Stéphane developed a taste for manual labor and a love for nature early in life. In 1982 at the age of nineteen, he hitchhiked to Bordeaux on a whim, taking a job as a vineyard worker in Fronsac. For the next decade, Stéphane lived, worked, and breathed in the vineyards of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, becoming intimately familiar with the life of the vine and each plot of land’s capacity to stamp its unique qualities on its grapes.
Derenoncourt is a strong proponent of organic and biodynamic farming methods, which he has used at his home estate of Domaine de l’A in the Côtes de Castillon and Derenoncourt California in Napa Valley
“I started with biodynamics when I took my first job at Pavie Macquin in 1982. It was considered crazy at the time, but I didn’t know anything else, so to me it was normal.”
“Bordeaux is the most energetic region in France when it comes to looking at organic and biodynamic farming. I have 13 clients that started working organically just this year,” he says. “But Bordeaux is also the region in France perhaps most set against organic. To be honest, the maritime climate makes it very difficult. But the work and research is being done more and more, and people are starting to become more comfortable with it, and I am doing my best to convince people that the best way to get pure fruit is to work this way.”
Derenoncourt consults for about 85 estates now. I asked how Derenoncourt decides to work with clients—what is it that he looks for, and what does he ask of them? “First I look at the potential, based on terroir. Then, how is the soil, the health of the vines and the depth of the roots. Then we deal with pruning, viticulture and yields. And then, from there, we focus on selecting the parcels within the vineyards, to improve the quality of the grand vin.”
New Yorker Michele D’Aprix considers Stéphane her most important mentor. Michele is the winemaker at Chateau Beauséjour in Saint-Emilion and her import portfolio includes the wines she makes at the Chateau, her Pierre Angulaire and Stéphane’s L’Expression de La Croix Lartigue as well as wines from the Right Bank estates Chateau Le Ringue and Chateau La Bienfaisance that practice vineyard and winemaking methods under the tutelage of Derenoncourt Consultants.