Our Tasting Impressions
Using the remarkable 2015 Urbain V as the benchmark, this younger vintage, no surprise, is fresher but has unfinished work to integrate the oak. Nevertheless, this blend of Chardonnay with the uniquely Saint-Pourçain Tressallier, remains a beguiling, impressive and delicious wine. I suspect that in time, this may eclipse its older brother. There is a bit more depth, structure and intensity. Magnifique!
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 Tressallier (30%) on vines planted up to 40 years ago in soil of granite. Yields are 35 hl/ha. Harvesting is by machine.
Extraction is by pneumatic press and the only the best juice from both varieties is fermented separately in local Allier 350-liter oak barrels. This was the first wine and vintage Jean Louis aged in oak. The barrels were new but lightly toasted. They stayed in those barrels for about 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 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.
Tressallier 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.
About the vintage
Jean Louis reports that 2018 was hot and sunny producing ripe, healthy grapes.
Suggested Glassware: Grassl Liberté
Domaine de Bellevue is one of the larger 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 - including winemaker Jean-Louis Pétillat who 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 terroir 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. There is evidence of Roman winemaking here as early as 50 BCE. 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 de-stems prior to the crush.
VDLT is the only North American source for Jean-Louis’ wines.