DIVINEO - Breaking Tradition in Burgundy
Written by Claire Williams
To truly know French people, one must completely grasp their food and wine culture and the rules they abide by. The need to have a baguette accompanying every meal to soak up that leftover jus on your plate; the direct eye contact made with every santé as glasses raise in a toast; and the ritual of a coffee and cigarette on an outdoor terrace after a long day. But then the question comes to mind: when is it the time to break those rules and go against tradition to create something truly exceptional? DIVINEO does just that in the wine world by breaking the traditional codes of French wine to give a new life and reputation to Vins de France. In 2021, after discovering a preserved valley in the heart of the Languedoc region, in the southwest of France, a group of friends from varying backgrounds, including an ex-CEO of Orangina- Schweppes and winery owners, founded DIVINEO and embarked on a journey to take grapes from the South and mature them in Burgundy in the east of France. DIVINEO aims to show that it's possible to make great wines by freeing themselves from traditional codification and appellations while highlighting terroirs that sometimes go overlooked. During the early 20th century, wine production in France was plagued by fraud and low-quality wine that prompted the creation of the Institut National del'Originee et de la Qualité (INAO), an organization charged with regulating place of origin, quality, and style of French agricultural products such as wine and cheese. Under the INAO, the wine classification system, known as Appellation d'originee contrôlée (AOC)—French for controlled designation of origin—sets the standards for wine in France. The wine produced outside an AOC is referred to as Vin de France, denoting only that the wine comes from France. Such a designation is historically associated with wines of lesser quality and often sold under brand names.
Seiichi Saito Wang Julien Petitjean Clodéric Prade
In Burgundy alone, there are 84 AOCs, ranging from Grand Cru to Régionale appellations, which guarantee the authenticity of a region's wines, reflect the diversity of the terroir and that of its winemakers, and typically secure a higher price point. Most connoisseurs and lovers of wine are attached to specific appellations, and each have their preferred AOC; a Pauillac from Bordeaux or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône Valley are all examples of this.
An AOC guarantees quality and protection in the production of wine; it can also make wine predictable. While each cuvée varies yearly, most are attached to certain AOCs because it's familiar, and consumers have come to know what to expect in the bottle. This is where DIVINEO comes in: their winemakers work with Southern grape varieties in Burgundian cellars to create a new universe of sensations oscillating between intensity and freshness. DIVINEO's founders boldly aim to be the dawn of a new era of wine in France by not being classified as an AOC and reinventing the Vin de France category. DIVINEO owns 19 hectares (nearly 47 acres), with nine under vine in the Robiac Valley. The valley offers a micro-climate of cool nights, advantageous elevation, and a forest environment. DIVINEO hasn't shied away from embracing variety in their grapes. They cultivate Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Vermentino, Roussanne, Picpoul, and Bourboulenc for their white wines. The main grape varieties already planted for their red wines are Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault. Their remaining land will be planted little by little in the coming years, with Chenin, Petit Maseng, Carignan Blanc and Gris, and Aligoté all on the agenda. Clodéric Prade manages DIVINEO's vineyards. A self- proclaimed Languedocien winegrower with a Burgundian palate, he is one of DIVINEO's co-founders and also the owner of Domained'Erianee in Saint-Mamert-du-Gard. In the time between DIVINEO's 2021 and 2023 cuvées, five other winemakers passionate about their aim to make revolutionary wine joined their team. The newest member of the DIVINEO team, Maëlys Jardin, says of their unusual method, "Our winegrowers are free to express all their know- how and passion in their wines. The maturing in Burgundy barrels allows us to obtain wines characterized by their freshness and elegance. They are always high-quality wines, made with precision and care."
DIVINEO, like most wineries in France, grasps the importance of biodiversity in their vineyards and attempts to have as little intervention as possible, such as using indigenous yeasts and very low doses of sulfur in the winemaking process. With an emphasis placed on agroforestry and organic farming, DIVINEO wants their terroir and the talent of their winemakers to speak for themselves. DIVINEO produced five cuvées for 2021 that genuinely express the journey from the Robiac Valley to Burgundy.
Of the five, the Grenache Vieilles Vignes—a blend of Black Grenache and Syrah—is one of their most unique and prestigious wines, made with grapes from 60+-year-old vines from vibrant terroir that imparts the grapes with a taste rarely seen in Southern territories. With notes of black fruit, spice, and a touch of smoke, this prestige range is limited to only 700 magnum bottles and will be available as of April 2023.
Creating a sense of community is also a core business goal, with DIVENEO fans invited to join their Club des Affranchis, "The Freedmen's Club". Club members are privy to exclusive convivial events in Paris, Languedoc, and Burgundy and can access members' only cuvées.
While DIVINEO is just beginning its journey, the possibilities seem endless as they grow by exploring new grape varieties and continually innovating through winemaking. Julien Petitjean, one of DIVINEO's winegrowers, said he sought guidance from winegrowers on the verge of retirement to "opt for know-how over knowledge" as he forged his path to creating wine free from preconceived notions. While the time and UNESCO-honored French food and wine culture resolutely persists, DIVINEO's challenge of the status quo may lay the groundwork for new traditions to take root. sl
You can taste DIVINEO wines at Domaine de la Roseraie in Nolay (winemaker Julien Petitjean), Domaine Petit Roy in Chorey-les-Beaune (winemaker Seiichi Saito Wang), and at Domaine Nicolas Perrault in Dezize-lès-Maranges (Perrault family winemakers). Learn more at vindivineo.com.