History of Dézaley

A grape-growing tradition with a long history

A grape-growing tradition with a long history

In the 12th century The Bishop of Lausanne, Guy de Malagny, whose own roots were Burgundian, had the intuition that the Dézaley hillside could well be an excellent terroir. He gave the Cistercian monks this land, uncultivated, in 1141, with a mandate to clear the steep slopes and prepare them for growing grapevines. It was also necessary to bestow a few favours and some money on these monks before they would undertake this colossal work, which also required help from the population in the area to clear the land, create terraces, build so many walls they were lost to view, remodel the terrain, work the soil and the vines. In this way the domains of Clos des Abbayes, belonging to the Montheron monastery and Clos des Moines, belonging to the Haut-Crêt monastery, were created. It was by working with the monks and for the monks, doing this hard labour, that our ancestors learned the métier of vigneron that was passed on to us, as well as their love of the land and the vine. In 1536 people from Bern came and set themselves up as new masters, bringing the Reform for the older generation and school for the little ones. Clos des Abbayes was handed over to the City of Lausanne when eclesiastical properties were secularized and Clos des Moines was given to the Oron Bailiff. During this period of Bernese occupation the vines that were the property of the Bailiff were under the control of the inspectors of the vines: those that were privately owned were managed by the Confrerie des Vignerons de Vevey, which promoted the cultivation of vines and played a role in improving the vineyards. Starting in the 18th century, the landscape gradually came to look much the way it does today, with a growing number of terraced vineyards

In 1797 Napolean passed through Dézaley and marveled at the sight – these hanging gardens – and wrote moving words on the stone that has since carried his name.

The 18th century brought progress and new and even revolutionary ideas. The managing classes became interested in industry and began to sell their land. It gave an opportunity to the inhabitants of the region who become property owners to expand the terroir which, little by little, replaced other cultivated crops. In 1797 Napolean passed through Dézaley and marveled at the sight – these hanging gardens – and wrote moving words on the stone that has since carried his name.

Some months later, people in Vaud had their own revolution, with help from France. In 1803 Vaud became an independent canton. The City of Lausanne repurchased Clos des Moines that same year. During the 19th century parishes were split and Dézaley was delivered to the commune of Puidoux. The only things missing were good roads, to achieve the state Dézaley is in today. During the first half of the 20th century the growing urbanization of the countryside worried some local authorities who were conscious of a need to protect the landscape of Lavaux and wine production. As a response to a real estate project in the area of the Tour de Marsens, Canton Vaud proposed in 1949 an initial project covering some 100 hectares with a servitude to ban construction. Starting in the 1960s the commune of Puidoux asked for a zoning law to protect the vineyards. And the memory is still alive of the popular initiative of 1977 which resulted in the site of Lavaux coming under protection by the Vaud Constitution; since 28 June 2007 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.

L’AOC Dézaley Grand Gru

A grape-growing tradition with a long history, a unique terroir

A unique terroir

The glacial movements sculpted the hillside of Dézaley and left visible, between layers of puddingrock (rock composed of rolled stones held together by a natural cement), a soil that is very clayey with limestone, which gives the wine its rich character. According to the study of Vaud’s viticultural terroirs, carried out in 2004, the terroirs of Lavaux appear as “a complex palette of moraine on molasse”. The slopes of Dézaley in particular (“rectilinear profile, neither convex nor concave”) are the articulation point between the eastern and western zones of Lavaux. In this sector, with its especially steep slopes, “natural smearing of the moraine and the continuous soil-moving by vignerons over the centuries resulted in the soil deepening to more than 1.5 metres, at less than 3 metres distance from a bench where conglomerate or sandstone emerges. This gives the Mont-Pélerin and Dézaley terraces the appearance of “giant flowerboxes” (or hanging gardens). This phenomenon combines the advantages of the slope and the thermal effect of walls and rocks with the water reserves of soils of a surprising depth, which permits the development of vegetation that is in general vigorous, that benefits somewhat from early growth.
The Dézaley and Calamin terroirs have qualities that are unique in the canton, that don’t match those of any other soil and/or “climat”.
The detailed analysis of the geological characteristics of the soils made it clear that while some 20 soil profiles represent 50% of the surface area of the canton, the wine that comes from grapes in the Dézaley and Calamin zones (DEZAL 01 to 06, CALAM 01 and 02 profiles from the soils study) do correspond, from a geological point of view, to a terroir that is well defined and very particular – the terroirs in question have qualities that are unique in the canton and that don’t correspond to any other soil and/or vineyard “climat”. On this steep slope that allows the sun to reach the soil right down to the bottom without any fear of shadows from neighbours, were built a multitude of walls that refract the light and also store the heat. Add to this the reflection of the sun by the lake and you have a microclimate, a natural oven that encourages grapes to ripen! But the quality of this wine isn’t due just to days under a burning sun. At night an aspect of the local climate comes into play: the Dézaley bise. This is a cold, dry and biting wind that tends to blow in a ragged manner. It cools down the plant’s energetic growth and slows the maturation process. Thus the grape keeps all its aromas, which increase in complexity over the course of prolonged ripening. These climate contrasts gives the wine all its classiness and characteristic notes of smoke, burning, almonds, honey and caramel within the framework of which are found aromas of flowers and fruits. From this terroir, the vignerons develop a great number of diverse products, bringing to them individual styles which reflect their philosophies, methods, choices and convictions. From Dézaley come the wines of Dézaley, each with its own particular character.


Association Appellation Dézaley Grand Cru
Jean-François Chevalley
Route du Treytorrens 1
1096 En Dézaley