Domaine Nebout St. Pourcain Blanc Le Tressallier de Gravieres 2014
The land is similar to Burgundy, in that the soils are a mixture of chalk and clay. Yet the Nebout family decided to reserve a special vein of gravel and sand, called the “sable et graviers de Bourbonnais” for its rare Tressallier vines. Today there are less than 40 hectares of Tressallier planted in all of Europe, and all of them in Saint-Pourcain, winemaker Julien Nebout told us. His family cares for 7 hectares of this rare vine and is a strong force in restoring the lost history of this exciting varietal.
The prowess of Saint-Pourcain as a source of exemplary white wines is long established. Ask a French nobleman from the 13th century where the finest wines were to be found and he’d list without hesitation: Beaune, St. Emilion and Saint-Pourçain. Yet the wines of Saint-Pourçain practically disappeared after the phylloxera blight decimated winemaking in France. After years of replanting and rethinking how and where the region’s native varietals are grown, the winemakers of Saint-Pourçain achieved AOC status in 2009.
Named after the Allier river (and not far from the forest that provides much of the wine world with Allier barrels), Tressallier’s characteristic aromas are white flowers and hazelnuts, similar to a cool-year Chardonnay from Meursault. It is both brisk and unctuous, with a snappy, mineral finish—an altogether unique experience and one that begs to be enjoyed at the table.
Praised for its stately Renaissance-era chateaux, the picturesque Loire valley produces pleasant wines of just about every style. Just south of Paris, the appellation lies along the river of the same name and stretches from the Atlantic coast to the center of France.
The Loire can be divided into three main growing areas, from west to east: the Lower Loire, Middle Loire, and Upper/Central Loire. The Pay Nantais region of the Lower Loire—farthest west and closest to the Atlantic—has a maritime climate and focuses on the Melon de Bourgogne variety, which makes refreshing, crisp, aromatic whites.
The Middle Loire contains Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. In Anjou, Chenin Blanc produces some of, if not the most, outstanding dry and sweet wines with a sleek, mineral edge and characteristics of crisp apple, pear and honeysuckle. Cabernet Franc dominates red and rosé production here, supported often by Grolleau and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sparkling Crémant de Loire is a specialty of Saumur. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are common in Touraine as well, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Malbec (known locally as Côt).
The Upper Loire, with a warm, continental climate, is Sauvignon Blanc country, home to the world-renowned appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pinot Noir and Gamay produce bright, easy-drinking red wines here.
There are hundreds of white grape varieties grown throughout the world. Some are indigenous specialties capable of producing excellent single varietal wines. Each has its own distinct viticultural characteristics, as well as aroma and flavor profiles.