Guide to the Loire regions

Saint-Pourçain

Grower Profiles


Corinne Laurent                              

Domaine Laurent
The Laurent’s claim to be the oldest wine producer in the region and can trace their ancestors back to 1715. Historically, they would have been no different to other vignerons, owning three or four hectares of vines, but also relying on cereals and raising beef cattle to make ends meet. 

The cereals were jettisoned with the arrival of the somewhat shy Jean-Pierre Laurent; a graduate of Beaune and a stagière for Bernard Bachelet & fils in Dezize-les-Maranges, before returning to work with his father, Joseph. All the front of house work is conducted by the very able Corinne, Jean-Pierre’s wife, originates from the northern Allier and has been at the domaine since the couple married in 1990. Corinne runs the commercial side of the business out of a port-a-cabin in the courtyard and is the current president of the Fédération départementale des Vignerons de l’Allier, acting as the voice of the growers for all the issues that surround the appellation.

There are 18 hectares of vineyards and these are located in Saulcet, Bransat (where they have only red grapes), Verneuil-en-Bourbonnais, along with small parcels in each of Montord and Meillard. This is divided into one third each of Pinot Noir and Gamay, with the remaining six hectares of white grapes split 70% to Chardonnay, 25% to Tressallier (although they are replanting more) and 5% Sauvignon Blanc.

The Pinot Noir is a relatively new addition, only coming into production in the early 1990s, at a time when there were still working parcels of Aligoté, Meslier and Saint-Pierre Doré. These have now gone, along with the 100 year old Tressallier plantings and the Lenz Moser system of planting and trellising that Joseph had pioneered in the region in the 1960s (and now deemed illegal under the new appellation rules).

The purpose built warehouse that acts as the cellar was erected in 2005, which should comfort Rosemary George MW, who wrote in her 1990 book French Country Wines that ‘His (Joseph’s) methods seemed a little haphazard, albeit successful, and his cellar is a little disorganised’. Today, the cellar is simply functional, with each parcel of grapes being vinified separately or to correspond to its soil type. The Laurent’s were the first in the region to move back to fermenting and ageing some of their wines in barrel, Burgundian style, in 1987, and have a long standing relationship with the tonnellerie Damy in Meursault.

The wine range shows thought and focus in what the are trying to achieve and is of a very high standard throughout; from generic appellation through to the individual lieu-dit wines as well as the curiosities they produce that fall outside of the AC. Starting with the whites, the Blanc Tradition is based on 70% Tressallier and 30% Chardonnay, so is currently flaunting with the letter of the appellation law. It is clean, crisp and mineral. The ripe and exotic Calnite is 70% Chardonnay, 25% Tressallier and 5% Sauvignon Blanc which are all grown on granite and limestone. It displays excellent palate weight and focus. What once was called Éléve en fûts de chêne (and at one point was 100% Chardonnay, but now contains the obligatory Tressallier) is now sold as Puy Réal, after the two hectare lieu-dit of the same name. The wine receives a full malolactic fermentation in barrel and is usually aged for one year in the oak before release. Their Rosé production accounts for around 6% of the total cellar capacity. It is vinified using both pressurage direct and saignée.

For the reds, the Rouge Tradition is 80%/20% Gamay/Pinot Noir which are, in Corinne’s own words, ‘not on the best soils’. This receives a short eight day cuvaison and designed for relatively early drinking. The delicate but complex Calnite rouge has been produced since the 2005 vintage and is made up of 70% Gamay and 30% Pinot Noir which has been partly oak aged. The Puy Réal was again previously known as Éléve en fûts de chêne. This comes from the same lieu-dit as above and is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Gamay. It’s much firmer structured and needs a good five years to show at its best. Unlike many of the wines condemned to oak in the region, the influence of the wood is very discrete.

In addition, the domaine has created two wines which fall outside the appellation, but have created great interest from their customers. L’Indocile – Le Petit Frère is made from Pinot Noir harvested in November and vinified bone dry as a gris. It has an underlying note of chestnuts on both nose and palate. Until 2008 it was sold as a Vin de Table, but future releases will carry the new European terminology of Vin Sans Indication Géographic (V.S.I.G.) which will allow for both grape and vintage to be declared on the label for the first time. The second V.S.I.G. is the vin de glace Toussaint produced from the same Chardonnay parcel as the Puy Réal and picked between late November and early December. The first vintage was in 1997, but conditions don’t allow it to be produced every vintage (there was no 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004 or 2006). This is vinified sweet and retains between 60-70g/l residual sugar. It’s rich and sweet but with lovely balance with a persistent finish. There is also a bottle fermented sparkling wine, called Le 31.

Corinne and Jean-Pierre Laurent are probably the most active of all the independent growers in the appellation and are great ambassadors for their region. In addition, their wines are certainly at the pinnacle of quality within the appellation. Nice people too.

Corinne et Jean-Pierre Laurent
Montifaud
Saulcet
T : + 33 4 70 45 9041
F : + 33 4 70 45 90 42
Cave.laurent@wanadoo.fr

 

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