This month I am spotlighting a producer that has a special place in my heart. My love for Bernard Duseigneur and his wines began on Instagram – as odd as that may sound.
As a lover of epic biodynamic wines, I stumbled upon a post that Bernard had just published. I left a casual comment of intrigue, he responded, and time rolled on. I thought little of this interaction. Two years later at an event put on by the distribution company I was representing, I walked up to a table with a smattering of bottles and pamphlets. I glanced at a familiar looking label and realization struck me. When I looked up there was Bernard Duseigneur in the flesh.
The estate was first created in 1967 in the Southern Rhone of France, tucked away in the hills of Lirac by Jean Duseigneur. With a strong focus on the terroir and respecting the land – Domaine Duseigneur has approached winemaking with organic and biodynamic principles long before it became “cool” or “trendy”.
Jean’s son, Bernard, took over production in 2002 and has gone from strength to strength. The Domaine has always embraced natural farming, completely avoiding herbicides, fertilizers, and chemicals in the vineyard. The estate now covers more than 30 hectares in the AOC Lirac, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Laudun, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Bernard produces a range of classic appellation blends in an elegant, clean, and expressive style.
Bernard Duseigneur may be a fifth generation winemaker yet his story hasn’t always been rooted in grape growing. It was not until he was in his 40s that Bernard began his career as a winemaker. For many years he was a banker, crunching numbers, and working in an office. However, we must follow our true passions and the hills of the Southern Rhone were calling. When it came time to take over production from his father, Bernard did so emphatically and has continued the Domaine’s pursuit of excellence.
The estate has never used chemicals in the vineyard so it was a natural progression to become biodynamic certified in 2002. For Bernard, making great wine is all about being in touch with the soil and the land that he works. His farming is pristine and thorough. After he has acquired balanced fruit (grapes), he has a light hand in production. His marketing efforts are transparent and attractive. Bernards attitude is humble, emphatic, and respectful. Every wine that comes out of production resembles the artist’s character.
In The Vineyard
France is an age-old mecha for wine production thanks to its ideal growing climates across the many growing appellations. Domaine Duseigneur now has almost 75 acres of vineyards spread across the southern Rhone. Jean Duseigneur boldly planted his vineyards on the hillsides. The typical fashion had always pursued grape growing in the base of the valley. Thanks to the sun, wind, and mineral-rich soils of the southern Rhone, great balance can be achieved in the fruit. It took great care and attention to adjust to the new microclimate of the hills, which the Duseigneur family began to farm. It is almost never a challenge to get the grapes to fully ripen. Instead, Bernard pays close attention to managing his crops and starting the harvest precisely when necessary. As has always been the tradition – no chemicals are used whatsoever in the vinification process.
In The Cellar
Balance is everything in wine. By the time the fruit makes its way to the cellar, Bernard makes sure that the grapes are picked with targeted levels of alcohol, acidity, and tannins. Many producers exact thorough control and manipulation throughout production, Bernard is mostly hands off. He is gentle with his winemaking efforts. Taking care to guide the fermentation process while all the while allowing the juice to speak for itself. In certain scenarios, Bernard will add a touch of sulfur during the bottling stage if absolutely necessary. Rarely will he ever use new oak barrels. Most production happens in concrete and stainless steel tanks. This allows the wine to best resemble the quality of the fruit without disrupting any sense of balance in the wine.
My Favorite Wines From Domaine Duseigneur
Domaine Duseigneur La Chapelle Côtes du Rhône – $18
Domaine Duseigneur Lirac Antares – $25
Domaine Duseigneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape – $40
Do me a favor and go pick one of these bottles up from a local wine market near you. Go drink Domaine Duseigneur!