About this wine
The name of this limited production wine is a reference to the Avignon Popes who had Saint-Pourçain wines shipped to them down the Rhône river in the 14th century.
Made from grapes grown from their best plots of Chardonnay (70%) and Tressalier (30%) on vines planted up to 40 years ago in soil of granite and gravel. Yields are 35 hl/ha. Harvesting is by machine.
Extraction is by pneumatic press and the juice from each grape (for 75% of the final wine) is fermented separately in local Allier oak barrels. They stay in those barrels for one year to age before racking, filtration and bottling.
About the grape blend
Chardonnay, believed to have originated in Burgundy, is grown everywhere and is the most popular wine variety in the world - and in the US. Winemakers love the green-skinned grape as well because it’s so easy to grow and adapt to many different production techniques.
Despite its popularity, Chardonnay is viewed by some as lacking in acidity, too buttery and tending to be flabby. In fairness, these characterizations often have more to do with the practice of malolactic fermentation and/or oak aging - both common in Chardonnay production.
Tressalier is a little known grape exclusive to Saint-Pourcain, though it is grown as well in northern Burgundy, where it's called Sacy. It fell out of favor for quite some time. Even Domaine de Bellevue only resumed using it about 20 years ago. It grows in mid-sized clusters and the grapes are juicy and very acidic. It produces light, vivid and very fresh tasting wine that add cut and punch when paired with Chardonnay.
Our Tasting Impressions
The Urbain V Blanc 2016 is a distinctly outstanding wine (the 2017 tasted from barrel is as well). There is a fascinating Yin and Yang effect from the interplay of the Chardonnay and Tresslier. This is an uncommon wine experience that also happens to be downright yummy! I expect this wine will evolve nicely over at least the mid-term.
On Your Table
It has the body to pair with firm flesh seafood like swordfish but be liberal with lemon or other acidity. Serve at 46-50° and don't be afraid to hold some of these a while - though I dare you to have the restraint once you taste it.
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Domaine de Bellevue is one of the largest domaines in the VDLT portfolio, producing about 120,000 bottles annually from its 22 hectare estate. But everything else about it seems small and intimate - except of course Jean-Louis Petillat who despite his imposing stature has a warm smile and gentle demeanor.
Jean-Louis' family owned and operated the Domaine for four generations. A few years ago, he sold the estate to Jacques Gautier. To Jacques' credit, he recognizes Jean-Louis' great talent and understanding of the terrior so he gives him full control over farming and vinification decisions. Not having to worry about the business, means Jean-Louis can focus entirely on producing great wine - and does he ever.
Legend has it that Saint-Pourçain is France's oldest vineyard - a claim supported by the fact that the area was settled by the Phoenicians in the 1st millennium BCE. Even if not true, there is evidence of Roman winemaking here as early as 50 CE.
In the middle ages, Saint-Pourçain was one of the most respected and sought after wines in France. Kings and Popes enjoyed them. Some believe the wines were more highly prized than Burgundy.
Classified as part of the Loire Valley despite being on the far southeast outskirts (not far from Macon in Burgundy). The appellation was granted AOC status in 2009. There are less than 20 growers here.
There are two tracts of vineyards one has granite soil and the other sand and granite. Here, Jean-Louis practices La Lutte Raisonée (sensible sustainability) and intervenes minimally. He fully destems prior to the crush.