Guide to the Loire regions


Grower Profiles

Denis Barbara

Domaine Grosbot-Barbara
Denis Barbera has the aire of a mis-placed 1970s aristocrat. He’s a first generation vigneron and lives with his wife (and inquisitive cat) in a modest, but quite lovely old maison Bourbonnais, set perpendicular to the busy Montluçon to Saint-Pourçain highway. They relocated here in 2001 as a permanent base and to erect a purpose built winery on the property. Prior to this, Denis had been working in the old cellar of Elie Grosbot in the hamlet of La Roche, just above Bransat. The association with Elie Grosbot came about following an evening in August 1995 when Denis was offered a partnership in the Grosbot domaine. Elie, who had been working with the family domaine since 1956 was on the verge of announcing his retirement and he saw the young, newly qualified Denis as a natural successor.  
There are eight hectares of vineyards, scattered over the five communes of Saint-Pourçain, Bransat, Cesset, Montord and Verneuil-en-Bourbonnais and these are planted to two hectares of Pinot Noir, three of Gamay and the remaining three hectares are split two-thirds Chardonnay to one-third Tressallier. In addition to this, Denis replanted, with the help of 17 friends and investors, an old lieu-dit called Quarteron on the property at Montjournal in 2006. At 400 metres altitude it is probably the highest vineyard in Saint-Pourçain, but unfortunately it falls outside of the appellation, so the wine is sold as a humble Vin de Table. The site is planted only to white varieties and encompasses Chardonnay, Tressallier and Pinot Gris. The first release is with the 2009 vintage. 

Since 2006, Denis has also been responsible for making the wine from the white grapes grown in the Conservatoire des Anciens Cépages planted on the slopes next to the Château in Chareil. This veritable large garden encompasses all the historic varieties grown in the region.

Denis doesn’t do Rosé and neither does he have any Sauvignon Blanc planted for inclusion within his white wines where vinification follow a classic Burgundy approach. La Vreladière takes its name from a parcel of Chardonnay and Tressallier planted on Bransat’s clay and limestone soils. The blend is around 85/15% with the wine fermented and raised in tank. Vin d’Alon is a blend of Chardonnay and Tressalier from vines planted in 1980/81 and aged in barrels of Tronçais and Jaligny oak coopered by Damy in Meursault. 

The wine produced from the Conservatoire des Anciens Cépages in Chareil seem the same oak treatment as the Vin d’Alon. Due to the miniscule quantities produced, the white wine is a blend of all the white varieties grown, so includes Tressallier, Meslier Saint-François, Saint-Pierre Doré, Pinot Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Melon, Romorantin, Pinot Gris and Aligoté. The result is obliged to be labelled as a humble Vin de Table and is marketed by the association that manages the Conservatoire. The 1,500 to 1,800 that have been produced each vintage to date have been sold to a list of subscribers, but can be found on some of the wine lists and gourmet shops around the region. It is certainly a curiosity worth seeking out.

There are two different red wines; one based on Pinot Noir and the other on Gamay. Neither see any wood ageing and are just fermented and raised in tank. The Grande Réserve is 60% Gamay whilst La Chambre d’Édouard corresponds to a 1.5 hectare vineyard of Pinot Noir, blended with 10% Gamay. It’s unusual name comes from the 2001 vintage, the first in the new cellar, when a Pinot Noir loving friend elected to spend the night sleeping in the tank (number seven, if you’re that interested) after it had been emptied. The name stuck.

Denis, an ex-president of the grower syndicate, is an intense character who speaks with conviction and a precise diction. His wines are equally focused and some of the best in the appellation. The whites are distinctly Burgundian in character, mindful of examples from the Maconnais or Chalonnaise. The two reds are equally good and at the same level of quality one would expect from a sound source of Bourgogne rouge.

Denis Barbara
Domaine Grosbot-Barbara
Route de Montluçon
T/F : + 33 4 70 45 39 92


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