Domaine de Bel Air
In my search for interesting native varietals, I found an excellent and very minerally Chasselas from this producer in the Upper Loire. The village of Pouilly sur Loire is not as well known as the town of Sancerre which is about five miles to the northwest and on the opposite side of the river but, in my opinion produces, the village produces better wines from its better vineyard locations on the north side of the Loire. Aside from Chasselas, however, Sauvignon Blanc is by far the dominant varietal in the area and I have also selected an excellent (and very small production) Pouilly Fume from this producer.
The family which owns the Domaine is now on to its 13th generation (since 1635!) of producing its very expressive wines. The current head of the Domaine is Katia Mauroy who along with her brother Cedric manages all of the farming and wine making. The farming is effectively organic although the Domaine, similar to many others in Europe who recognize the increasing challenges with much more volatile weather patterns, chooses to not certify as being completely organic. Soil health is the ultimate focus, however, with diligent cover crop management and natural fertilizers being used.
From the ongoing attention to farming throughout the growing season, the family has a deep understanding of then how to make very expressive wines during the winemaking process. Cellar technology is completely advanced with precise temperature controls in all the of stainless steel and concrete tanks. Wines are typically matured on their lees for more complexity.
Chasselas now is unfortunately a bit of a rarity in the area but the family continues to farm a little over one acre of vines and produces a delightful wine. Pouilly Fume, which is always 100% Sauvignon Blanc, is the main wine of the estate and I was offered the opportunity to import a very limited production cuvee (Les Pierres Blanches - the white rocks) that is normally only served in top restaurants in France. The name is from its ridge top vineyard location where the "soil" is mainly broken limestone and that is what accounts for its very refreshing minerality.
Chunks of limestone in the soil
Wind swept Pouilly Fume vineyard
A gnarled old Chasselas vine
Spotlessly clean cellar (for fresher tasting wines!)
Pouilly-sur-Loire (Chasselas) 2017
Aromas are of acacia, linden, and wildflower honey along with hints of almonds and apricots. Flavors are of honeydew melon, white peaches, almonds, and cashews. There is a perfectly balanced medium to light body but which feels like it has more “weight” as it flows across your palate. The wine has mild acidity but which will still complement food well and an interesting “nutty” finish with hints of walnuts.
Food pairings would include crab, shrimp, sea bass, halibut, steamed mussels and clams, smoked salmon, white seafood chowders, seafood pasta, creamy pasta dishes, veal marsala, veal chops, roast chicken, Asian vegetable salads, sesame noodles, mild curries, creamy vegetable dishes, and hard cheeses.
Pouilly Fume “Les Pierres Blanches” 2018
As opposed to the “Silex” (flint) minerality in the area, this is pure expression of limestone terrain (Les Pierres Blanches: white rocks). Aromas are subtle and include mild lemon, white flowers, citrus blossoms, and hints of acacia and honeysuckle. Flavors include white peaches, apricot, pear, green apple, and clover honey. There is good balance, medium body, refreshing acidity, and a slightly nutty finish.
Food pairings would include crab, scallops, oysters, clams, sea bass, grilled and braised tuna, lobster bisque, seafood salads,shrimp Louis, wienerschnitzel, pork tenderloin, grilled chicken, creamy chicken and vegetable curries, grilled vegetables, and rich and hard cheeses.