Domaine de L’A
I had only been in the region two days before I realised that the roadworks on the D936 weren’t going to disappear overnight. This route seemed essential for travel between Castillon, St Emilion and Pomerol, but les travaux – in the town of Castillon-la-Bataille itself, believe it or not on the rue John Talbot (as in Château Talbot) – were adding at least 20 minutes to every journey. After twice enduring the delay I had begun to explore alternative routes, through the roughly-surfaced single-track roads that wind their way among the vineyards on the limestone escarpment above the town and roadworks. Before long, I had become something of an expert in inter-appellation short-cuts.
My new-found skill came in very useful now, as – having made a delayed departure following a visit in Fronsac – I sped along those vine-encrusted lanes eager to make my appointment at Domaine de L’A on time. And for once my haste paid dividends; as the clock on the dashboard flipped over to 14:30, I pulled into the courtyard at Domaine de L’A. A courtyard over which a large and elevated figure sculpted in bronze – probably not a likeness of the proprietors, I decided – keeps watch.
A wine domaine in its own right, Domaine de L’A is also home to Bordeaux consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and his wife Christine (pictured above), and it is also the base from which they run Derenoncourt Consultants, their highly successful oenological consultancy. I was here to meet Christine, to learn a little more of the domaine and also their consultancy work. Within a few minutes, having found her in the offices on the left of the courtyard, I was on the road once again. I swapped my rather anonymous silver (the traditional hue for almost all hire cars it seems) Ford for Christine’s distinctive mustard-coloured Mini, and we drove maybe half a kilometre to look at one of the first plots of vines acquired by her and Stéphane when the domaine was established. This was no 4×4 we were in, nevertheless it was not shown any mercy as we drove onto the rocky and uneven terrain of the vineyard, and then up a steep incline, coming to rest alongside a row of old Merlot vines. Stepping out of the vehicle, Christine began to describe the vineyard and the domaine’s brief history. This profile is the synopsis of our conversation that day.