Guide to the Loire regions


Grower Profiles

Alain Pagnon          

Cave de la Causerie / Brest Père et Fils 
In his book, ‘Drilling for Wine’ (1988), Robin Yapp devotes a chapter to his first visit to St-Pourçain in the early 1970s and being fleeced by a wily grower called Elie Pagnon whose wines were served in the restaurant of the Hotel Le Chêne Vert in the town. The domaine in question was the Caves de la Causerie. Sadly Pagnon died in 1974 at the age of 52, but according to Alain, one of Elie’s two sons, Yapp used to return to Causerie every year to buy a tonneau of wine.

Alain Pagnon, with his almost impossibly broad patois, represents the last of a very long line of Pagnon’s in the Saint-Pourçain appellation. In the cellar he points to awards on the wall dated from 1895 and 1914 of Bronze Medals won at concours in Moulins. His grandfather was the first to bottle wine in the region, starting just after the Second World War, in 1946/7. But with no natural successor, he recently put the domaine for sale and attracted Gill Brest, a grower in Champagne ’s Côte de Blancs.

Time spent with Alain Pagnon, touring the vines in his tiny car (which doubles up as a his poubelle – I think my car often resembles a dustbin, but this was a thousand times worse) with his black spaniel puppy, AoC (named in recognition of the May 2009 accession) became a lesson in living history; undocumented knowledge and understanding that will inevitably be lost as this generation disappears. I probably learnt more about the Saint-Pourçain of the past hundred years in the hour that I spent with Pagnon that in the rest of my research trip put together. 

This untidy looking parcel contains mixed plantings of vines over 100 years of age - possibly the oldest in the AC

The domaine is a relatively large one. With 13 hectares planted over the five communes of Louchy-Montfand, Bransat, Cesset, Saulcet and Monétay-sur-Allier. History lesson Number One: plant your vines in different places to reduce your exposure to hail damage. The varieties are split three ways with four hectares each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay, with the additional one hectare planted to Tressallier. Pagnon then drove me to a 0.45ha parcel of vineyard in Montfand, believed to be the oldest still planted in the appellation where he showed me a succession of old and now illegal varieties, all of which had been interplanted, and systematically identified them, vine by vine, solely on the colour and shape of the unpruned wood. Meslier, Saint-Pierre Doré, Aligoté, Tressallier… The parcel is still in use, although not within the appellation, of course, but as base wine for the excellent sparkling wines that come with the expertise of having a Champagne grower as your new patron.   

It has to be said that the table wines, those that make up the Saint-Pourçain appellation, are nothing more than ordinary. The two whites are actually the same wine, made up of an 80%/20% Chardonnay/Tressallier blend, with one part simply being condemned to oak. The tariff in the cellar offers you the choice: Blanc or Blanc Fût. The Gris is produced from the free run juice of Gamay and is somewhat dilute. The reds which follow the same ‘two-wine’ principle of the whites, Rouge and Rouge Fût, are both rustic.

So the attraction here lies outside of the wines of the appellation, with the sparkling wines. The Bulles de la Causerie makes use of the tiny parcel of now prohibited vines, but is essentially a Chardonnay/Tressallier blend, with the wines being aged on their lees for a year. A pink version also exists, made from a base of Pinot Noir. Not surprisingly, these are the best selling wines in the cellar. Following through with the Champenoise influence, there is also a perfectly decent Ratafia and a Marc produced. 

Caves de la Causerie
Brest Père et Fils
4 rue du Lavoir
P : + 33 6 11 71 04 74
P : + 33 6 29 91 37 65
P : + 33 6 58 38 22 50
T : + 33 4 70 47 09 23
F : + 33 3 26 19 14 30


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