Domaine de Trévallon, provence legends, on organic, biodynamic, natural yeasts and adding water to wine, or not

By Tobias Webb

It’s hard to write much about Domaine de Trévallon that hasn’t been written. I first heard about it from Luke Wilson, owner at the fantastic London eatery, 8 Hoxton Square. He had two bottles of the 1998 in his ‘secret’ wine book and raved about the wine as a winemakers favourite. So of course, my companions and I drank them both. It’s safe to say I’ve never had a wine quite like it.

The unusual grape combination, the unusually north facing terroir, the vintage variation and the organic approach the Durrbach family take (including no destemming at all, and not controlling for temperature in fermentation) all combine to make it something unique.

For those used to the (over?) consistency of Bordeaux, it can be a frustrating wine in terms of its variation, but for me that’s part of the charm. If you blind tasted six vintages, you’d likely really struggle to place them. For me the 2001 is the top of the tree, but there are many older vintages I’ve not yet been able to taste.

Below is a podcast with Ostiane Icard Durrbach, daughter of Eloi Durrbach, who founded the vineyard by planting his first vineyard in the Alpilles in 1973.

She says the 2013 will be one of their best ever. A friend of mine who has also visited Domaine de Trévallon tells me Paul McCartney loves the place so much, he goes every year and signs a barrel. I haven’t verified this.

The Durrbach’s currently farm 15 hectares of superb Cabernet and Syrah, they also grow two hectares of Marsanne and Rousanne for their white wines.

They avoid all chemical fertilizers or artificial products on the vines, do not add selected yeasts or vinify their red wines with sulphites. The whole focus is on minimal intervention.

Whilst I’m not big on tasting notes, I can tell you the wine needs at least a decade to be ready. The 2005 is not quite there yet, and the 2001 has a long long way to go.

The advantage of being 50% Cabernet Sauvignon is the age-worthiness of the wines, their disadvantage at Domaine de Trévallon being they must label the wine Vin de Pays as the appellation of Les Baux says 20% is the maximum. I suspect they don’t care much any more, given the following that the Domaine has in the wine industry.

The vintage I have seen around most often is the 2011, in shops in Paris and London.

Whilst it can show you some of what Domaine de Trévallon can offer, it’s only a glimpse, so if you like unusual sustainable wines loved by many in the know, hunt out some older vintages. They are certainly worth it. There’s more here on their wines from

Like many winemakers I have met, they are concerned about harvests moving forward and alcohol levels moving upwards as temperatures rise. North facing terroir, which offers a freshness to their wines, helps with temperature control naturally, says Ostiane. She also notes that natural yeasts may be able to able to adapt over time.

So here’s the podcast with Ostiane below, talking about their wines and sustainability work.


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About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at