Les Terres d’Ocre Saint-Pourçain Blanc Instan T 2013
You can’t say I am not true to my word (well, not for this one moment, anyway). A few weeks ago I was revelling in the perfumed acid-girdled luster of the 2015 Saint-Pourçain Trésaille, from Domaine des Bérioles, and I resolved to investigate this appellation, and its unique calling card – the Sacy (or Tressallier) variety – a little further. And so here we are with the 2013 Instan T Blanc from Les Terres d’Ocre, a blend of Chardonnay and Tressallier which is perhaps more typical of the appellation than the heavily Tressallier-dominated Bérioles wine.
There have been grapes grown around Saint-Pourçain, on the banks of the Sioule and the Allier (the latter eventually flows into the Loire) for centuries, although it was only in 2009 that the vineyards were awarded the status of Appellation Contrôlée. It is one of many regions that were elevated from the defunct Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure classification system before it was euthanased in 2010, after it was recognised by the French Ministry of Agriculture that the various French wine classifications were in need of simplification (someone was bound to realise it sooner or later). The seeds for this elevation in status had begun 25 years earlier, back in 1984, when a dossier summarising the case for promotion was first put together. Gaining appellation status in France is not usually a rapid or simple process.
For such an obscure and small appellation, the soils of Saint-Pourçain are relatively complex. As you might expect, this being a riverside appellation, alluvial sands, gravels and pebbles have a place here. These soil types are found in the more northern vineyards, and naturally they tend to be associated with more delicate, entry-level styles. To the south, however, there are also vines planted on clay and limestone, including travertine, a particular type of limestone formed by the rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate, often associated with hot springs or limestone caves. These soils have the best reputation within the appellation, for both red and white varieties. Finally there are also volcanic and metamorphic bedrocks, including granite, schist, gneiss and quartz, terroirs more associated with reds than whites.
Within the appellation red varieties dominate, with about two-thirds of the vineyard area planted, mostly to Gamay, with a little Pinot Noir. Only about one-third of the vineyards are planted to white, a shame I think as I have up until now found the white wines rather more convincing than some of the reds. Chardonnay dominates, not quite at the same level as Gamay but fairly convincingly so, with Tressallier bringing up the rear, helped by very small areas of Sauvignon Blanc and Aligoté. White wines represent just one-quarter of the appellation’s output, with not-quite one-quarter rosé, the rest – slightly more than half – being red.
This weekend’s wine embodies the ‘reborn’ nature of the Saint-Pourçain appellation; just as Jean Teissèdre of Domaine des Bérioles has wrestled his vines from various cooperative contracts, Les Terres d’Ocre was born in 2013 when Eric Nesson withdrew some of his vines from a similar arrangement. The vineyards and vinifications are managed by his nephew Florent Barichard. The 2013 Instan T from Les Terres d’Ocre is a blend of about 75% Chardonnay with 25% Tressallier, vinified in fibreglass cuves and bottled early. It has a good concentration of colour, and a confident nose. It presents aromas of plentiful and pithy fruit, with seams of pear, melon and white peach too, all quite scented and certainly fresh. It has a broad substance on the palate, full of the stone fruit and orchard fruit suggested by the nose, with a little bitter pithiness to it as well. I can’t help but admire it, although I sense more impact from the Chardonnay here (unsurprisingly, looking at the assemblage) than from the Tressallier. It has a nice acid backbone, but also a flourish of toasted almond in the finish. This is a wine of substance and also structure, and implies that I should continue my explorations in this appellation. I will do my best. 15.5/20 (27/3/17)