Domaine Derain: Classic Burgundies

Domaine Derain – History

Domaine Derain is a biodynamic producer in Burgundy with vines in a number of different Burgundian appellations. Understanding where Domaine Derain is at requires a bit of reading, but hang in here and we will try to explain what has happened and how we are involved.

Dominique Derain started his career making wine barrels but decided, instead, to study winemaking in Beaune. In 1988 he and his wife Catherine purchased 5.5 hectares of vineyards in Saint-Aubin just south of Beaune and began tending the vines biodynamically and making their wines in a non-interventionist way as well. This formed the basis of Domaine Derain.

The Saint-Aubin appellation is one of the hidden secrets of Burgundy because the vineyards border those of the premier crus of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet but do not command anywhere near their price.

Some years ago Dominique and Catherine were joined by an eager young assistant Julien Altaber who wanted to learn the finer points of natural winemaking and Dominique was an ideal teacher. As the business grew there was plenty of work for Julien helping Dominique in the vineyards and in the winery.

And there was also a lot of administrative work so Dominique hired a young woman named Carole Schwab to help in the office but also to assist with wine tastings and other work in the cellars. Carole does have formal wine training and qualifications.

Domaine Derain – New Beginning

A few years ago, Dominique officially retired. Julien and his now partner Carole bought the domaine from him.

Julien, in addition to working for Dominique, had started his own domaine (Sextant) some years before, initially making his own wine in Dominique’s cellar, so it was a natural changing of the guard.

You can see the change of ownership in the labels. The older labels reference ‘Catherine & Dominique Derain’ and the new wines are labelled ‘Domaine Derain’. Some of the labels on the Web site might still be from before the change of ownership, but all the wines we are now selling are from the new era.

However, although no longer an owner, Dominique is still intimately involved in the cellar and vineyard. He may not have the responsibility any more but as a mentor he is still ever-present. He maybe waxing (he is still the master) or labelling bottles and he always tastes the Derain wines with us.

For us, it has been a wonderful generational change. Plus thanks to his freedom to travel more, we have the occasional unique cuvée from somewhere else where Dominique has been making wine – first it was Chile and next it is the south of France.

The wines are certified biodynamic by Ecocert and have been certified since 1989.

Domaine Derain Vin de France Allez Goutons Blanc 2022

The Allez Goutons is a beautiful white wine made from Aligoté, one of our favourite white wine grapes.

This wine is made by Dominique as an early drinking style to be consumed within a couple of years of being made.

If you are a fan of this grape variety then you certainly should give this wine a try. Despite the fact that it is a drink-now style it has incredible complexity and very good length.

It was recently in a tasting at Melbourne’s Blackhearts and Sparrows who described the wine in the following terms:

Bottled on its lees, it’s a cloudy, savoury wine dominated by notes of tart fruits, salinity, lemon pith and crunchy apple that are framed around chalky minerality and assertive earthiness. The name is pun on the variety from which it’s made. Aligoté being roughly homonymous with ‘allez, goutons’, translating to something like ‘go on, taste’. Once you do, you’ll understand how great it tastes and you too will be grateful a wine made it in such small quantities made it to Australian shores.

Dominique has handed over the reins to young rising stars Julien Altaber and Carole Schwab, and their talent can be seen in the quality of the wine. The wine is still sold under the Derain banner, but if you look closely at the fine print you can see that the Sextant domaine, now has begun to produce this cuvée.

For this vintage the alcohol level is a pleasant 11.5% and there has been no sulphites added.

RRP: $64

Domaine Derain Vin de France Allez Goutons Rouge 2023

Normally, we have imported the white version of Allez Goutons because that is the only one that has been made in the easy-drinking style adopted for this label.

Luckily, we have been fortunate to secure some of the red version of the Allez Goutons again this year.

It is a fresh lively red wine made from the Pinot Noir grape variety with low alcohol (around 11%) and designed for early drinking.

Two thirds (roughly) of the grapes are partially destemmed and then macerated for a little over a week. The remaining one third is directly pressed to create a white wine which is then blended with the resulting red from the maceration. Fermentation is totally natural as with all the Derain wines and is carried out in fibreglass tanks.

This is yet another example of how a red wine can be made lighter and fresher by incorporating direct press juice which is much lower in tannins and other polyphenols than the macerated juice.

We were delighted when it arrived in Australia fresh as a daisy and ready for immediate drinking.

RRP: $65

Domaine Derain Bourgogne Les Riaux Rouge 2021

The Les Riaux for 2021 has a label that reflects the change in ownership of the Derain domaine.

You will notice that the name is now Domaine Derain and, if you look really carefully, in the black strip at the bottom of the label you will see the names of Carole and Julien from Sextant who are the new owners. We have written more about the changeover in the introduction to this section.

This wine is an entry level Bourgogne red with the vines thriving on the Puligny-Montrachet plains quite close to the Aligoté vines.

The grapes are harvested from the tiny (less than half a hectare) Les Riaux vineyard which is close to the village of Saint-Aubin which lies just south of the central city of Beaune.

The yields here are painfully low at only 30 hectolitres per hectare so expect this red to have good fruit flavours and good structure.

While making the wine, most of the grapes are destemmed with just a few whole bunches thrown in. After pressing, the juice and skins are transferred to large wooden vats for maceration for up to two weeks before the juice is transferred to old oak barrels for six months of maturation.


Domaine Derain Saint-Aubin Le Ban Rouge 2021

The Le Ban is one of the best wines from the Derain vineyards! The wines here tend to reflect the vintage especially when it encourages slow but steady growth in the vineyard leading to wines with good structure and length.

This 2021 wine shows just how good wines can be from the previously underrated appellation of Saint-Aubin.

The vines here (which were planted in 1920, so are now over 100 years old) thrive on an east facing slope covered in limestone derived brown clay and gravel.

This 2021 is a lovely wine with an appealing cherry and strawberry fruit flavour, a core of acidity, great freshness, an underlying spiciness and perfect balance. Great drinking now but it is a good idea to pour the wine into a carafe before drinking.


Domaine Derain Mercurey La Plante Chassey Rouge 2021


This is an interesting cuvee because it has a small amount of Pinot Beurot (Malvoisie, Pinot Gris) blended with the dominant Pinot Noir. (Incidentally, Pinot Liébault, which is a mutant of Pinot Noir is also permitted in this appellation).

The Mercurey appellation is increasingly receiving critical acclaim as a number of young winemakers have recognised the attractive nature of the terroir here and are producing wines of considerable elegance.

La Plante Chassey is a south-east slope with clay soil. The grapes for this wine are harvested by hand and the wine is fermented in wooden vats before being transferred to old wooden barrels for 18 months. The wine is not fined or filtered before bottling.

RRP: $112 (SOLD OUT)

Domaine Derain Pommard Les Petits Noizons Rouge 2021

There is lots of limestone here because it is quite close to one of our favourite villages in Burgundy, namely Pommard!

This village is well known for the intense, structured red wines that benefit from the iron-rich, red soils that surround the village. This is why red wines are particularly favoured here – Pinot Noir has a particular affinity for these soils and therefore the Pommard reds are sought after.

The Les Petits Noizons is one of the best sites in Pommard and therefore the wines are particularly attractive.

These wines display a lively, strong, structured deep-red colour showing all the complexity and elegance you would expect from a Pommard!

We would advise that the put these wines down for a couple of years as they typically have some volatility when young. Once they have rested for a while they show their full promise.

RRP: $149 (SOLD OUT)

Domaine Derain Gevrey-Chambertin En Vosne Rouge 2018

Gevrey-Chambertin is well known for the intense, structured red wines produced around this village which lies on the Cote d’Or just south of the city of Dijon.

The vines in this En Vosne vineyard are nearly 90 years old! Therefore there is structure and depth of flavour coming from them.

This is a superb wine of considerable complexity and great elegance.  At a number of recent tastings this has been a stand out wine that has charmed all who have tried it. It is a beautiful Burgundy at a very reasonable price for a Gevrey Chambertin.

Note that there are only small quantities of this vintage available due to the poor growing season. The price also reflects the dramatically plunging Australian dollar.

RRP: $251 (SOLD OUT)

Domaine Derain Bourgogne Aligoté 2021

Aligoté is a particular favourite of ours. We love wines made from this grape that is beloved by Burgundians – many of whom consume it daily. The wines range from the rustic to the ethereal. It is unfiltered so the wine can be cloudy in the glass. It is fermented with native yeasts so it is alive and vibrant and completely compelling.

We need to add a little more about this grape variety to explain why we are so fond of the wines that are made from it. To us, it produces wines that are exemplary when they come from the limestone soils in Burgundy.

But don’t take our word for it! We reference the fact that none other than Aubert de Villaine from Domaine de la Romanée Conti which is considered by many to be the greatest wine in the world, along with his wife Pamela bought land in the Bouzeron commune and were responsible for it becoming an appellation entirely devoted to Aligoté.

The very old vines for this Domaine Derain wine are on the Puligny-Montrachet plains. A lovely wine for drinking at any time of the year.


Domaine Derain Bourgogne La Combe Blanc 2020

Derain La Combe 2017

The label on the Domaine Derain La Combe, with a number of almost impenetrable in-jokes about Derain and his wines. The picture on the left only shows part of the complete wrap-around label.

Don’t worry about the fact that this is a ‘simple’ Bourgogne wine. The vines from which this wine is made have an excellent pedigree.

The vines for this lovely Chardonnay are located close to the village of Puligny-Montrachet where there is deep brown soil which is managed biodynamically. The yield is only 35 hectolitres per hectare and this means the fruit is packed with flavour and the wine reflects this. La Combe is a tiny plot of only .5 hectare (they purchased .2 hectare recently).

This is a wine for contemplating. It opens up slowly in the glass, but then reveals an array of flavours and aromas that are truly compelling. This is a lovely, expressive Chardonnay.


Domaine Derain Saint-Aubin Premier Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien Blanc 2013

The soil here is very thin and the vines must struggle to gain a foothold among the limestone rocks. But this struggle produces what many claim are the best wines from Saint-Aubin.

The name is made up from two aspects of this vineyard. Murgers are small walls built from the rocks that were removed from the site to plant the vines. And Dents de Chien translates as dog’s teeth which refers to the white (calcareous) triangular rocks found in the vineyard. This beautiful wine is 100% Chardonnay.

RRP: $126 (SOLD OUT)

Domaine Derain Saint-Aubin 1er Cru “En Remilly 2020

This delicious premier cru Chardonnay is made from vines in the En Remilly lieu dit which lies on the rocky, sunny slopes of Chassagne-Montrachet.

The En Remilly climat lies at the southern end of the village of Saint-Aubin and crosses the boundary into Chassagne-Montrachet where it is also a premier cru vineyard with the same exposure and the same rocky limestone soil.

This makes these premier cru wines some of the best value in Burgundy because they share the same terroir as the very famous Chassagne-Montrachet vines which are regarded as some of the best white wines in Burgundy.

The yield is relatively low at 38 hectolitres per hectare.

The wine is both powerful and elegant as well as having great aromatic purity making it perfect for aging – however it is also drinking nicely now.

RRP: $157 (SOLD OUT)

Domaine Derain Saint-Aubin En Vesvau Blanc NV

This wine is made from Chardonnay grapes picked from the En Vesvau plot of land in the Saint Auban commune that is fast becoming recognised as one of the best areas in Burgundy for white wines. Some of the lieux dit here abut those of the very famous Montrachet vineyards.

There is a difference with the Saint-Aubin cuvée En Vesvau this year, a wine we have not had since the 2016 vintage. It is a blend of two vintages – 2 barrels of the rich 2018 vintage and half a barrel (the total harvest) from 2019, a vintage with plenty of acidity but which was largely destroyed before it began by frost in mid April and early May.

It’s an extraordinary wine, from a plot just to the east of the village of Gamay. Below it are the 1er cru wines of Saint-Aubin and it’s interesting that despite it being a Saint-Aubin village appellation, Carole and Julien have priced this wine the same as their Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly, which is a little further south, closer to Puligny-Montrachet

RRP:  $157 (SOLD OUT)

Domaine Derain Bourgogne Landré 2021

When you pour a glass of this lovely Domaine Derain Chardonnay you will first notice the golden colour with hues of green. But don’t spend too long admiring the colour as it is the mouth-enveloping flavour that will really impress you.

The weight of the wine is not too heavy and there is a lovely streak of acidity which is noticeable but not too dominant. The soil also speaks to you in the glass with pronounced minerality and even saltiness similar to that we find in, say, les Saulniers from Domaine Cadette.

Landré is a newish parcel (lieu dit) of Bourgogne Blanc for the domaine named after the former owner of the plot. At only 0.3 of a hectare, it is adjacent to their Le Riaux Pinot Noir plot. At this size there will never be very much of this wine, but the site ensures that the wine will always be of high quality due to the soils here.

 RRP:  $78 (SOLD OUT)

Domaine Derain Saint-Aubin Blanc 2020

The Chardonnay grapes in the Domaine Derain Saint-Aubin Blanc were formerly part of the cuvée En Vesvau, but from more gravelly soil, which Julien decided to keep separate. So, the wine is from the Saint-Aubin appellation which is famous for its white wines in particular due to its proximity to Puligny-Montrachet.

The grapes for this wine are farmed organically and biodynamically to ensure that the fruit is able to be picked in perfect condition and with great juice. At harvest time the grape bunches are hand harvested to ensure that the grapes stay in perfect condition and no sulphur is added to the grapes .

The whole bunches are pressed (although sometimes Julien decides to partially destem the bunches), fermented using only the natural yeasts that are on or in the grapes and then matured in aged French oak barriques for 12 months before being bottled unfiltered, unsulphured and unfined.

This is a delicious wine that will drink very nicely for a number of years, but is tasting very nice right now!

RRP: $107 (SOLD OUT)

You can see some nice photos of the Sextant and Derain vineyards on their Instagram site here.

Dominique Derain

Dominque still dabbles in winemaking. You can read about these wines on his own page.

The wines of Dominique Derain