The story of Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette starts back in 2003. Delphine Rousseau was head of public relations at a large French wine estate, while Julien Zernott was working at the renowned Domaine Pellé in the Loire. Determined to forge their own path, Delphine and Julien wanted to start their own domaine from scratch.
The Languedoc seemed to be the region where they could basically purchase affordable vineyards.
Guided by local people, who saw in the couple a rare energy, strength and bravery, Delphine and Julien acquired a vineyard nestled at 350 meters at the base of the Plateau du Larzac above the town of Lodève, at Le Pas de l’Escalette - the historic trail linking the Mediterranean plain to the high Larzac plateau.
For five years, they shared their time between the Loire (where they were still working) and their recently purchased vineyards. It was very demanding. Finally, in 2008, they went all in on their life long project, located in an utterly magical place.
The twenty hectares of vineyards are divided between 50 different parcels of vines, enclosed by ancient rock walls and large stone piles known as ‘clapas’. The majority of the plots are planted on ancient terraces on either side of the valley of Pégairolles de l’Escalette and Lauroux, facing East and enjoying the rising sun and also facing West, benefitting from the setting sun. The Plateau du Larzac offers shelter to the vineyards and a hindrance to the intense summertime heat, making this particular area one of the coolest in the Languedoc.
The small vineyards, most head-trained - naturally limiting yields - are extraordinary beautiful. In some ways, they would remind one of the west of Ireland. The age of their vines range from newly planted to more than 80 years old. All new plantings are propagated using Selection Massale.
At Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette farming is biodynamic and, more than often, physically challenging. The Zernotts work exclusively with southern French grape varieties: Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and Cinsault for the reds and Carignan blanc, Terret Bourret, Grenache blanc, and Grenache gris for the whites. It goes without saying that the fruits are hand-harvested and sorted.
The couple’s philosophy is simple. They focus on farming their prized parcels as naturally as possible. In the cellar, which they built themselves, and which is superbly equipped with vessels ranging from stainless steel tanks to large oak vats, they apply a soft approach together with their excellent winemaking skills.
Delphine and Julien took a huge risk in settling at the extreme north of the Terraces du Larzac appellation, in a rugged land. However with determination, dedication and tenacity they have painstakingly renovated their cool, isolated terraced vineyards. All this physical and long-term hard work pays off. Delphine and Julien have become ‘grands vignerons’ and most importantly they play an active part in the rejuvenation of the area.
The Zernotts are a truly wonderful couple producing some of the most precise wines. They are pure, sensual, harmonious and express a phenomenal freshness along with energy and a real sense of place. In all, their striking wines are ‘grands vins’.