Guide to the Loire regions


Grower Profiles

Julien Nebout  

Domaine Nebout
It was Julien and Charles Nebout’s great-grandfather who first made wine in the ancient vaulted cellar at the family owned grange in 1881. At this time, the family were primarily cereal farmers, but like so many others around this period, they also had some vines. From four hectares the domaine had increased its holdings to 14 ha by 1982, the year before Julien was born. It was at this point that Serge, the brothers father, decided to put all their efforts into becoming vignerons. By 2003 the vineyard area had grown to 30 hectares and today it stands at 47ha, making the Nebouts the single largest independent grower in the appellation.

Serge, who had started working with his father, Guy, in 1980 has recently handed over the keys of the cellar to his sons and has decided to go back into cereal farming. Both Julien and Charles studied oeneology at Dijon, and having finished the course Julien went off to gain work experience elsewhere, working for three years with Henri Pellé in Menetou-Salon before spending a further year in New Zealand, making wine and brushing up his English skills at Clos Henri, the Domaine Henri Bourgeois venture in Marlborough. Meanwhile Charles remained in the cellar, although he is due to take over the vines of his uncle, Lionel Vernois, in 2012.

Despite their extensive holdings, 32 hectares are under location, rented vines from either retired vignerons or other polyculturalists, stretching over six communes and extending as far as Besson in the north. They harvest 95% mechanically, the remaining 5% being unsuitable for harvesters due to the vines being too young, but also because some of their oldest Gamay and Tressallier are planted at densities of 10,000 vines per hectare, suitable more for working by horse rather than by machine.

Since 1992, the wines have been made in a purpose built facility on the farm, although wines raised in barrel are still stored in the original vaulted cellar below the house. In terms of sales, about half is sold directly from the farm, an admirable achievement given their size, but their location on the main highway between Saint-Pourçain and Montluçon ensures steady business by way of all the passing trade.

The range of wines produced is relatively complex and offers lessons in how to fairly openly ignore the cahier des charges that was drawn up ready for accession to AC status in 2009. Keep in mind that some of the vintages tasted in the cellar (in February 2010) are on the cusp of being recognised within the new appellation.

The range starts with Blanc Tradition, and early release, tank aged blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Tressallier. A replica model of this assemblage is available in a barrel aged version called Insolite. The wine also undergoes malo-lactic fermentation, which give it a completely different profile to the other whites produced here. The Tressallier des Gravières is already controversial with other vignerons on the basis that the cépage is mentioned on the label. Raised in tank and although officially marketed as a 70/30% blend, the wine has often been exclusively produced from Tressallier. In its defense, the 2009 wine tasted in tank illustrates how the variety, if handled sensitively, could justify its case within the appellation as a single variety wine.

The light, clean and proper Opale Rosé is 50/50% saignée and pressurage direct. Demand has grown over the past few years with sales now accounting for 15% of their total production.

Of the five reds, the Rouge Tradition is raised in cuve and is dominated by Gamay with around 20% Pinot Noir making up the total. Cuvée de la Malgarnie takes its name from a 2.5 hectare lieu-dit in Louchy-Montfand and is an equal blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir. Harmonie is pure (and therefore techincally illegal) Gamay grown on granite soils. Éléve en Barrique is again marketed as a 60/40% Pinot Noir/Gamay blend, but the 2007 vintage is a mono-cépage Pinot Noir, as is Classe N. First produced in 2007, it spends 12 months in new Damy oak barrels.

To finish the range, there is Nobles Perles, a Champagne method sparkling wine.

Of the wines tasted from the current releases (in February 2010) these are something of a mixed bag. The wines aged in oak lack any real sense of origin with the sense that any character the wines might have exhibited has been lost behind the wood. The most successful wines are the 2008 Tressallier des Gravières, which demonstrates great freshness and minerality that proves the worth of the Tressallier grape, and the 2007 Cuvée de la Malgarnie which also displays a taut, mineral edge, but also a lovely expression of Pinot Noir (even though it is half Gamay). Overall the wines are good but there is room for improvement and a little more refinement. 

Julien Nebout
Domaine Nebout / Domaine du Pavé
Les Champions
Route de Montluçon
T : + 33 4 70 45 31 70
F : + 33 4 70 45 12 54
P : + 33 6 18 65 44 99


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