At the beginning…
The Domaine du Deffends has existed since ancient times; one can find the ruins of a Gallo-Romaine farm (stones, broken bottles, pottery…), once we even found a sesterce (roman coin), but the activity was no doubt essentially consecrated to olive trees and cereals.
When Jacques de Lanversin acquired it in 1963, it had long since been abandoned apart from a brief occupation during the war by “les Chantiers de Jeunesse,” a French paramilitary organisation of the time. His plan was to cultivate the land (approx. 14 hectares) as it had been previously, and given the nature of the chalky clay soil, he thought it would be perfect for grapevines. He was not yet thinking of making wine, but of growing a grape capable of producing a quality wine.
With this aim, he planted, at first, Grenache and Cinsault and then, after having seen at close hand the experimentation carried out in Rians by the former owner of Château la Lagune, Georges Brunet, he choose to add Syrah and Cabernet-Sauvignon to constitute the base of a “vin de garde.”
That was the way he set it up. However, Jacques’ initial idea to sell on his grapes based on their quality was scuppered by a new law passed in Paris. The “degré/hectolitre” law made it, for one reason or another, economically impossible. He tried to find ways around the legislation, but, in the end, was left with a stark choice; rip out the vines and sow cereal to limit the maintenance costs or, go all the way with the vines, build a cellar and make the wine himself. Thankfully, Jacques went for broke and opted for the latter. Then, when his earlier gamble that this stony and visibly arid soil could produce the goods proved to be true, he was on his way and it was not long before the quality of the wines were duly recognised.
In 1995, the arrival of the Canal de Provance saw the Saint Maximin plain, which had at one time been dedicated entirely to grapevines, convert to polyculture. From the three wine co-operatives that were part and parcel of village life, only one remains, l’Amicale. Only four private producers are left; Domaine de Saint Jean le Vieux, Vignoble Arnaud, Domaine Saint Mitre, Domaine de la Batelière. As in many places, the last 20 years have been hard on local agriculture and the village way of life.
Introduction of the Vineyard
In the heart of Provence, the Domaine du Deffends is an exceptional site between the foothills of Monts Auréliens and the Via Aurélia, the ancient roman road.
This family run vineyard spreads out over 14 unbroken hectares. For more than 30 years, we have worked every day to get the best from the « terroir » and to find distinctive expressions in our wines. To achieve this aim we have planted seven different varieties, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Cinsault, Rolle and Viognier, all adapted to our chalky clay soil, ideal south-east orientation and Mediterranean climate.
We are committed to working the land and the vines, but also to olive trees, fruit trees and the forest, all with respect to an ecosystem with a great wealth of fauna and flora. Whether with the machines or natural products, we help to maintain the balance and favour a slow and natural nurturing of the fruit. The vineyard has adopted ecological standards (Ecocert). Our production is voluntarily maintained at a low level (35hl/ha) by short vine height and Royat cordoning, and if necessary, early harvesting.
As soon as the « vendanges » or harvest starts, the collected grapes are fed directly into the vats. The whites are pressed immediately to avoid oxidization and needless handling. The reds are pigés or remontés to get the best out of the berries. The temperature remains carefully controlled to allow the aromas to open out.
Each year, we adapt our wine making to correspond to the characteristics of the harvest while always endeavouring to find the perfect expression of the land. It is also for this reason that some of our wines are not produced every year. It is our way to explore, to progress, to make better and better wine. That is our passion and that is what drives us as vintners.