Les Terres d’Ocre – St Pourçain

Continuing the theme of St Pourçain we opened a bottle of Florent Barichard’s Instan T Pinot Noir (30%) Gamay (70%) last night.  Vinified in cement tanks and originating from vines that are on average around 25 years old, the Pinot qualities come through nicely on the nose and palate. Some strawberry fruit and earthy notes backed up with a grind of pepper are followed by a fresh palate with light tannins and a touch of spice.  It was an excellent partner to an Iranian vegetable stew that had more than a hint of chilli and dried lime, tumeric, cumin and coriander.

The wines of St Pourçain are not widely known as the vineyards are located a long way from mainstream Loire.  Around  a four hour drive from us here in Anjou the vineyards of St Pourçain are located close to the river Sioule a tributary of the Allier that is itself a tributary of the Loire (which separates around Nevers).  Geographically it’s in the Auvergne region and has more in common with Burgundy than the Loire. Promoted to AC status in 2009 production is still dominated by the co-operative that farms around 400 hectares of the 600 under vine.  In addition there are 200 hectares farmed by 17 independent producers one of whom is Florent Barichard, responsible for making the wine for his aunt and uncle Eric and Valérie Nesson.

Historically, St Pourçain’s vineyards are some of the most ancient in France and the wines from this region were highly acclaimed from the Middle Ages right up until the French Revolution. Having enjoyed the patronage of kings and the church for centuries, the Revolution saw vineyards being confiscated and being handed back to the people.  St Pourçain never managed to regain its reputation as time went by.

You’re not going to find these wines on every shelf but they are worth looking out for.

For lots more information and a full history of these little known vineyards do check out Richard Kelly’s website which is a hive of information for the Loire enthusiast.