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Les Terres d’Ocre Saint-Pourçain Rouge Instan T 2013

Les Terres d’Ocre Saint-Pourçain Rouge Instan T 2013

Last week’s weekend wine choice – the 2001 Coteaux du Layon Clos de la Soucherie – was delicious but admittedly quite mainstream. After all, even if you have no interest in the wines of the Loire Valley, or in sweet wines, I suspect most wine drinkers would still have some inkling what the Coteaux du Layon is all about. Similarly, the reputation of Claude Papin and Château Pierre-Bise stretch far beyond the reaches of the Loire Valley. So this week I have something a little more esoteric, chosen for no reason other than the fact that with this wine we are about as far from the mainstream as we can get. Les Terres d’Ocre is home to Eric Nesson and Florent Barichard, an uncle-and-nephew team, and the domaine lies in Saint-Pourçain. If your response to that is “where?”, fear not, because I suspect you are not alone.

Saint-Pourçain is a Loire Valley appellation, but it lies a long way upstream, much further upriver than Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, long regarded by many as where the interest ends with the wines of the Loire. That’s a real shame, because having explored the wine regions that lie near the Loire’s headwaters, such as the Côtes du Forez and Côte Roannaise, there are wines here that offer delicious flavours, savoury authenticity and not uncommonly a really vibrant intertwined backbone of acidity and minerality. Like the Côtes d’Auvergne, the vineyards of St Pourçain lie not on the Loire but on its major tributary in these parts, the Allier. Here vignerons tend (as the label below helpfully informs us) Pinot Noir and Gamay for red wines, and for white Chardonnay and the little-known Sacy, which locally goes by the name of Tressallier.

Les Terres d'Ocre Saint-Pourçain Rouge Instan T 2013

It is not that long ago (in 2009 in fact) that Saint-Pourçain secured appellation status, and perhaps in keeping with that for many years it has been dominated by the local co-operative, which looks after about 400 hectares of the 600 planted. This is relevant to Les Terres d’Ocre, as Eric Nesson withdrew 9.5 hectares of his family’s vines from the co-operative’s control only very recently, so that his nephew could try his hand at them. Florent Barichard studied at the viticultural lycée in Amboise under Vincent Carême, and he worked with Vincent and Tania on their domaine for a few years before returning home to Saint-Pourçain. The 2013 vintage appears to be his first, with a single white and red released.

The 2013 Instan T Rouge from Les Terres d’Ocre is a blend of 60% Gamay from vines grown on pink granite, plus 40% Pinot Noir grown on a more sandy terroir. The fruit sees a fermentation in cement. In the glass it has a translucent appearance, relatively pale, but with lots of lovely bright claretty colour. Aromatically it has a suggestion of delightfully tense, berry-skin and cherry-skin fruit, with some smoky notes of granite stone. There is a hint of tension here, with plenty of lovely flinty, matchsticky character. Indeed, it has a beautifully cool and pure tension on the palate, a light tannic substance, with bright acidity, and all the granitic confidence and substance I was hoping for. This is delicious, perfumed, but tense and long too, in a mineral and acid-driven style. 16.5/20 (30/5/16)

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