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, 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.
Stéphane’s first opportunity to prove his mettle in the cellar came in the early 1990s at Saint-Émilion’s venerable Chateau Pavie Macquin. His success there – notably during the difficult 1993 vintage in which Stéphane made a highly regarded wine – drew attention to his skill. Soon thereafter he was recruited to be winemaker for La Mondotte, a new micro-cuvée from a tiny limestone plot near Pavie Macquin. La Mondotte’s first vintage, 1996, stunned the wine world, receiving unprecedented acclaim from critics and consumers alike. La Mondotte quickly became one of the most collectible Bordeaux on the market.
Today, Stéphane consults for over sixty wineries in nine different countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The consistent quality of his work, together with his keen ability to express through his wines the uniqueness of the land from which the grapes come, have earned him a reputation as one of the most sought-after winemakers in the world. In addition to his consulting projects, Stéphane has two wineries of his own – Domaine de l’A in Bordeaux and Derenoncourt California in Napa.
Stéphane credits his success to the many years he spent working in the vineyard, learning the subtleties of soil, vine and climate that are essential to crafting wine that is fresh, sensual and – above all – honest. An avid proponent of natural viticultural methods and minimal intervention in the cellar, Stéphane seeks through each of his wines to “draw out the identity of the locality and imprint it on the fruit,” in order to present the wine enthusiast with a pleasurable and profound terroir experience.
Derenoncourt California’s inaugural vintage, 2006, marked the first wine he has ever made in the United States.