Napoleon, 16 May 1800

Three suns

This vineyard region, sitting in Canton Vaud in the heart of Lavaux, between Lausanne and the Chillon Castle, is one of the two most prestigious appellations in the canton, an honour shared with Calamin. It hugs the terraces built by hand into abruptly steep slopes, heading downhill to the edges of Lake Geneva. The vines here benefit from the heat of three suns: the sun in the sky, that retained by the walls, and the mirror effects of the lake. Grapes that ripen here are well-structured and rich in sugar.

Key figures

Surface area
54 hectares
Elevation of the vines
From 375 msl (metres above sea level) on the shores of Lake Geneva to 550 msl at Tour de Marsens
1,100 mm a year on average
10.5 C, average for the year
Grape varieties planted
Chasselas fendant roux (90%)

In 2012 the Dézaley Grand Cru appellation produced 437,293 litres of wine, of which 398,283 were Chasselas (90%) and 39,010 litres of red wine (10%).

Optimal sunshine

Dézaley, like all of Lavaux, benefits from the strong impact of the lake. Winters are relatively mild, with temperatures of 2C in January. Precipitation is spread over the year, with October and April the driest months. The vines face south/southwest, with the highest reliefs at their back; the vines are thus protected from cold northern winds while benefiting from an optimal sun exposure. Early in the morning the vines are in the shade, but they then have sunshine until evening. The tight vertical line of the slope lets lake thermals play a decisive role. During the day the water heats up and air rises, so neatly that a slight breeze rises and brushes the vines. At night, the earth cools down more quickly and the wind moves in the opposite direction. Good aeration is thus continually ensured, as is a spread between daytime and night-time temperatures. Dézaley is a wine area whose sun exposure allows some of the earliest budding and latest harvesting. The growing period here is two weeks longer than average in the canton.

Slopes as steep as 100%

The terroir of Dézaley, with its very steep (up to 100%) south/southwest facing slopes, is made up of a majority of marn molasse and puddingstone. This unusual rock was formed 20 to 30 million years ago. When the Rhone glacier retreated, 10,000 years before our era, it left fewer traces here than elsewhere because it was blocked by the rocky shoulder of Rivaz. This is why the proportion of moraine is less than in the other appellation areas. Basically, the soil of Dézaley is very rich in limestone. Building terraces into the slopes allows them to retain water, which guarantees a good soil-water balance.

Cultivation method

The vine here was traditionally pruned using the goblet system, a method of cultivation that required a good deal of labour. However, progressively over the course of recent decades, this has given way to a modern system using iron wires, with guyot and cordon royat pruning, at mid-height and perpendicular to the slope. There are still a number of plants pruned in goblet – about 35%. On the stone walls, it’s mainly red grape varieties trained along wires. The density of the plants is difficult to estimate because of the steepness of the slopes and the terraces: as a general rule, this is between 9,000 and 12,000 plants/hectare, which is quite high. The yield is on average one bottle per square metre.

Emblematic walls

It is hard to imagine Dézaley without its walls. The walls retain the soil and make it possible to grow vines on the steep slopes. Overall, the surface area of the walls is roughly equivalent to that of the vines. At first glance, it appears that these are dry stone walls but, in reality, they were built with a chalky mortar even back in the Middle Ages. Maintaining them requires not only immense know-how and skill, but an enormous amount of time and therefore money.
Extract from the novel «Passage du Poète »
by Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz

« Bovard out in the vines again … And the Good Lord Himself decided that this would be vines, having fashioned the hillside as it suited him, saying, “I’m going to make a lovely slope just so, facing the sun as it needs to, with exactly the incline it needs, and I’m also going to put down below a body of water so that two suns shine on it, so that the sun which elsewhere comes only from above, comes from above and below, here … ‘The Good Lord began, we came next and then it was finished … The Good Lord made the slope, but we made it so it would serve us, we made sure it held, that it would last: so, is it only now that we know it as it is, dressed in stone? And elsewhere men are content to sow, plant, till. While we first build boxes – see if what I’m saying isn’t the truth – put it into boxes, I’m telling you, put all of it into boxes and then these boxes, we pile them one on top of another … He showed them with his hand, which moved jerkily, higher and higher, to show all these steps, all these squares of wall that were like a staircase. “And it’s no longer natural – it’s built. That’s us, it was built by us, it holds up only thanks to us. This is no longer a slope, it’s something constructed, it’s a tower, it’s the front of a fortress … Since ancient times, for as long as we have existed, since the Romans and since the monks, the olden days and the truly olden days, this has been called the Abbey here – there’s the Abbey’s wine, it’s called the Priory, there are plenty of names from those days everywhere here, it’s still awash in their handiwork; and look at these walls, just look at these walls, as far as the eye can see, so far that it pulls on the eye to look from top to bottom, from right to left – how much is there, of this? Because it had to be, or the land would slide down to the bottom; Therefore, they made a first one, then another and then 10 and 100, then 1,000, starting next to the water, and after that they climbed, kept climbing up to the sky, up on their ladder, and they would have kept climbing as long as they found a place to climb … Since the olden days, since as far back as we go, from year to year: the Romans, the monks, people wearing robes, people in pants, and then others, and then yet others again, and then our great grandfathers and then our grandfathers then our father, then us: to make and next remake, to build and rebuild, and to re-rebuild again, fix, re-cement, every year climbing, carrying the earth on one’s back, climb again, the entire slope to go looking to see where it’s slipped, there where the mountain is pushing out, there where rock has given way, there where it’s split; and to fill up the holes, fill in the cracks, push the mountain back, make sure that in any case it holds, make sure that it will last – for 2,000 years perhaps, that it will last, but it couldn’t last and it wouldn’t last, if we weren’t part of this, if we weren’t rebuilding this all the time…

He stopped, having run out of words. »


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