Smack in the middle of France, in the Upper Loire wine region of Saint-Pourçain, there are about 90 acres of vineyards dedicated to a distinctive white grape called Tressalier. It’s also known as Sacy, but whichever name you call it, Saint-Pourçain is the only place in the world you can find it. So OF COURSE we had to get our hands on some so that you could, too.
If you’re a fan of crisp, aromatic, mineral-rich whites (and who isn’t?), this 100% Tressalier from Domaine Nebout is an invigorating, lip-smacking glass of wine and an affordable little piece of history. Much like Burgundy, which is only about 100 miles to the east, Saint-Pourçain winegrowing was originally established by the Romans and expanded by monastic orders in the Middle Ages. Wines from the region were shipped down the Loire and enjoyed by kings and popes. But the phylloxera epidemic of the late-1800s nearly wiped Tressalier out, and in modern times, the powers that be in the Saint-Pourçain AOC have diminished its importance, no longer allowing “varietal” Tressalier to carry the designation. Nevertheless, the Nebout family persists: They believe in Tressalier and we do, too. They call today’s wine “L’Incompris du Tressalier” (“misunderstood Tressalier”) and label it as a Vin de France, happily leaving the AOC behind so their prized soloist can shine. Take the chalky minerality of Chablis, add in the citrusy grip of Sancerre, then a dash of Viognier’s exotic fruit and spice, and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect here—at this price especially, it should not be missed!
This wine is also a reminder that the Loire is France’s longest river: It originates in the mountains of the Massif Central and flows northward through Nevers and Orléans before turning westward toward the Atlantic. The Saint-Pourçain wine zone encompasses 19 towns clustered around two Loire tributaries, the Sioule and the Allier, with a diverse patchwork of soils that owes to the area’s ancient geological history. The soils at Domaine Nebout, which is along the Sioule, are mostly gravelly, riverbed-type formations, but there are pockets of clay and limestone, granite, and schist depending on where in the appellation you’re located. There is some altitude to the vineyards here, and a relatively cool, “continental” climate, which helps preserve freshness in grapes and allow for longer development on the vine.
Although many growers in Saint-Pourçain have thrown over Tressalier/Sacy in favor of Chardonnay, the Nebouts have stood firm. Farming organically, they source today’s wine from vines averaging about 20 years of age, ferment the wine with ambient yeasts only, then age it for a short period in tank, on its fine lees (yeast sediment) before bottling. It is the quintessential “fresh” white, designed for early enjoyment, with lots more than just quenching refreshment to offer. In the glass, it’s a pale straw-gold moving to silver at the rim, with perfumed aromas of lemon/lime, white grapefruit, sea salt, wet stones, and subtle hints of honeysuckle, mango, and warm spice. It is medium-bodied and as racy and invigorating as white wine gets—perfect as an apéritif or as an accompaniment to light first-course salads or fresh cheeses. Serve it at 45 degrees in all-purpose stems and you’ve got what I think is the perfect “Summer weight” wine—easy-drinking but with clean, sharp lines (think poplin rather than linen!). Pair it with the attached recipe and you’ll be the most well-traveled wine adventurer on your block. Enjoy! - From SommSelect
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