Denis Barbara

The appellation of Saint-Pourçain is situated in the center of France, in the Allier department and is considered part of the Centre-Loire.This region is better known to wine professionals for its forests of prized oak trees used in barrel production than for its wines. The appellation, ranging approximately 5 kilometers in width and 30 kilometers in length, spreads throughout 19 communes with vineyards planted on a series of hillsides to the west of the Allier River. The history of vineyards in this area dates back to before the Romans, when the Phoenicians settled here and planted vines. In fact, they claimed to have civilized the barbarians with wine. During the 13th and 14th centuries the wines of Saint-Pourçain were highly esteemed. They traveled up to Paris via the Allier and Loire rivers and were favored by Popes, royalty and the aristocracy alike. By the end of the 18th century the vineyards of Saint-Pourçain covered more than 8,000 hectares. Today the vineyards total 600 hectares. The appellation received AOC status in 2009.

Denis Barbara farms several separate parcels of land totaling 8 hectares. Two thirds of his production is in red wine. He works alone except for the harvest and does much of the vineyard work by hand. He keeps his yields very low by bud pruning “ebourgeonnage” in the spring and green harvesting in the summer after “veraison”. He cultivates grasses between all the rows and does not use insecticides, pesticides or chemical fertilizer in his vineyards. All of his wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts.

Read Denis’ comments in the Loire Vintage Reports

Saint-Pourçain Rouge “Chambre D’Edouard”

M. Barbara grows both Gamay and Pinot Noir, according to the mandate of the Saint-Pourcain AOC regulations. However, not liking the results of blending these two varieties, he produces a separate wine from each variety. His Pinot Noir is called “Chambre D’Edouard”, a reference to his friend Edouard who once spent a night in the empty fermentation tank. The cuvée “Chambre D’Edouard” is produced from two parcels, both located just south of the village of Saint Pourçain; “Montord”, which has a very chalky soil, and “La Burelle” which has a richer clay/limestone soil. Denis harvests as late as possible, sometimes a month after his neighbors. After harvest, the Pinot Noir grapes are destemmed and rest in a chilled tank for up to 8 days. This type of pre-fermentation maceration is often seen in the production of white wines and allows Denis to have a slow start to the fermentation. Once the tanks warm up and fermentation begins, the maceration continues for about thirty days with very gentle methods of extraction being employed daily. The prolonged maceration enriches the wine and creates a somewhat reductive state. M. Barbara is employing techniques designed to bring out in his wine the fresh fruit characteristics of his grapes. Total SO2 is 25mg/L.

Saint-Pourçain Blanc “Vin D’Alon”

The “lieu-dit” Vin D’Alon is a derivation of the word “vallon” and is a vineyard whose reputation was established in the time of Henry IV. The distinguishing local grape variety is the Sacy, known in Saint-Pourçain as Tressallier. The variety is associated with the Yonne where it was at one time widely planted and rivaled the Chardonnay grape. Interestingly, historical references mention that the Sacy grape produced far better results in Saint-Pourçain than elsewhere. As in the Yonne, the Tressallier has been eclipsed in Saint-Pourçain by Chardonnay and today, only 53 hectares of Tressallier remain. Denis Barbara produces his “Vin D’Alon” cuvée from a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Tressallier. The Tressallier vines, which are naturally quite productive, are pruned to 7 or 8 bunches per vine and yield an average of 30h per hectare. Fermentation of both varietals is carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel vats at very low temperatures. All the wines remain on their lees until the blending and bottling is done in the spring.

VDF Blanc "Quarteron”

The “lieu-dit” Quarteron” is associated with the land on which Denis and Monique live and where the winery is located. It was recently planted by Denis and a wide circle of friends most of whom not only helped prepare the land but also invested a small sum of money to pay for the plants. Denis Barbara produces his “Quarteron” cuvée from a blend of 80% Chardonnay, 15% Tressallier and 5% Sauvignon. The Tressallier vines, which are naturally quite productive, are pruned to 7 or 8 bunches per vine and yield an average of 30h per hectare. Fermentation and maturation is carried out is barrel. All of the wines remain on their lees until blending and bottling in the spring.

Vintage Brut 0

Denis first produced a sparkling wine from Gamay in 2010. The fruit is harvested early and the grapes are gently pressed to obtain a Blanc de Noir. The juice is fermented in stainless steel and after the “prise de mousse” rests for 15 months “sur lattes” before disgorgement. The sparkling wine is finished without a dosage. – thus the name Brut 0. The Gamay comes from a single parcel of vines called "Les Ferneaux" which produces a "tranquil" wine that inspired Denis to make this cuvée. Denis is the only producer in Saint Pourçain to make a méthode traditionelle as a Blanc de Noir. Production is about 4000 bottles.


Denis Barbara, of Domaine Grosbot-Barbara, shares a photo diary of one of his many ongoing projects, the reclamation and replanting of an abandoned historic vineyard.

"Beginning in 2018, we banded together a group of wine-growers, to be able to collectively purchase a large slope of land located in Bransat. Once covered in terraced vines, over time it was abandoned and became a vast wasteland."

"A beautiful exposition, very steep and sunny all day long, we have done enormous work to lay bare this slope and prepare it for planting vines. The desire and the objective of our group is to revive this côte, replanting it to terraced vineyards: through a sustainable development, it will be a showcase that will reclaim the history and techniques of previous generations, a restoration of forgotten vineyards of this part of our region."

Constructing terracing walls


to be continued.....

Saint Pourçain, an appellation in the Allier department, in the eastern part of the Loire, was once a flourishing wine region that rivaled Burgundy as the favorite of kings and clergy of the Middle Ages. Today Saint Pourçain's vineyards are a fraction of their former size, with fewer than 600 ha of vines in production, down from 8,000 ha at its prime. Yet St. Pourcain is experiencing a renaissance: having received AOC status in 2009, the appelation's winemakers are working cooperatively in a shared effort to revitalize and expand its vineyards.

At the heart of this group of winegrowers is Denis Barbara. He is a major contributor to the revitalization and future of the Saint Pourçain vignoble through what he calls his work ethic of total engagement: respect for terroir, intensive work in the vines, focused harvest of the fruit, a passion for the craft and a philosophy of cooperation.

Please tell us the origins of Domaine Grosbot-Barbara, what was your vision and how did you create the Domaine that it is today?

I am the grand-son of a winemaker in Saint Pourçain, but circumstances did not allow me to assume responsibilities at his domain. After finishing my studies in Burgundy, then an additional training in Beaujolais, followed by a year in Macon, I still didn’t know what I was going to do, what my next job would be or even where. Having a companion and a child, I didn’t want to be far away from them. By luck one evening I received a call from M Grosbot, a winemaker (of a family domain passed on from father to son since 1910) in the commune of Bransat in the appellation Saint Pourçain, He was soon to retire and did not want to sell his domain, or his vines. We were mutual aquaintances, it was an easy decision for both of us to agree to work together.

We partnered in 1996, thus the domain name Grosbot-Barbara (the elder with years of wine making experience and the savoir-faire passed along by generations, and the younger with a scientific knowledge of plant cultivation and methods of work in the vines to achieve better quality with more precise and pointed technologies.) The goal was to continue work and insure the future production of the domain, to create a plan to work better and more efficiently, and to create a newfound recognition and appreciation for the appellation St Pourçain beyond its region of origin, to make wines that express from where they come (their terroir and the Bourbon region), and to differentiate among parcels and thus offer a wider and more distinctive selection of wines.

Today, we have achieved these objectives, however each day it is essential to continue this work, this qualitative approach in order to preserve the history and continue the life of these vineyards. With the help of three commercial agents, covering a large part of France, and with the exporting of our wines to the USA (thanks to Wine Traditions, Ltd.) and in Canada (thanks to Vini-Vins) we are very happy with the recognition of our work, permitting the discovery of our vineyards and our wines.


St Pourcain is a wine growing region with an important history; what inspires you about Saint Pourçain, its history, its terroir, its local culture?

The vineyards of St Pourçain are situated geographically in the department of the Allier, in central France. Saint Pourçain has some of the oldest vineyards in France, and also the famous Tronçais forest, known nationally (and internationally) for the quality of its wood, established in 1669 by Colbert, minister to Louis XIV.

Historically, in our region of the Bourbonnais, so named because it was the place of origin of the Bourbon family, the wine of Saint Pourçain had its time of glory. In the era of the Bourbon Kings of France, connoisseurs drank St Pourçain as they did Burgundy! But while Burgundy continued to expand in vineyards as well as reputation, St Pourçain lost a considerable part of its planted surface (from 8000 ha to 598 ha) and thus, slowly, over a long period of time, lost its fame and importance as a wine producing region.

For too long in our region, the commercialization and professionalization of wine was not an economic priority. This resulted in great damage to the vineyards. And although for several years now Saint Pourçain’s notoriety has seen considerable development, it is absolutely necessary for us to continue to envision and believe in its future. We must work diligently to maintain our vines at standards that allow us to produce wines of quality and then be prepared and able to pass on the properties to the next generation so that we continue to strengthen the reputation of the appellation.

Geologically the vines are grown on 3 types of soil situated along the Allier river: sandy, clay-limestone and granite. As far as grape varieties, we grow gamay and pinot noir for the reds and for whites we have chardonnay and tresallier, a cousin of SACY found in the vineyards of CHABLIS, used mostly for making sparkling wines.


You are a guardian of patrimony. In fact you are the winemaker at Le Conservatoire des Anciens Cépages, a vineyard planted to the historic grapes of the region. Can you tell us a about that?

I am neither the initiator, nor the creator nor the guardian of the Conservatoire des Anciens Cepages. However, it seemed unthinkable to me not to produce wine from the grapes grown there, this patrimony of old varieties that were collected from vineyards and garden plots throughout the appellation. After many meetings, year after year, approaching different winemakers, proposing to share this desire to make a wine from these heritage grapes, without finding any willing partners, I finally committed to vinifiying by myself a white wine which belongs to the conservatory. The production ranges between 1,000 and 2,000 bottles according to the climactic vagaries of the year. The wine is made from several white varieties and matured in Tronçais barrels, making it a wine that is quite special and unique. The wine is sold only at the CAC and at a wine shop in St Pourçain, Qui l’Eut Cru


At Domaine Grosbot-Barbara, you have a single vineyard, "Quarteron", that you planted along with your friends as a cooperative project. Please describe the vineyard and your ideas that inspired it?

Ahhh, yes, le Quarteron!...... passionate about my profession, I wanted to share my experiences with interested wine lovers, both novice and sophisticated. Having many such aquaintances, I chose a group of willing participants and proposed that we plant a vineyard together on a parcel of land at the Domaine called "Le Quarteron". This was for them to see how much easier it is to discover a wine then it is to carry out the work in the vines and the cellar throughout the year in order to produce a wine and then to be able to savor it.

Le Quarteron was planted in 2006. Of course all those original participants in the planting of it were not, and often are not able to be present to work in the vineyard. The calendar of work in Nature is difficult to program, and does not align with the schedules of those who do not work in professions related to her. Yet, this vineyard exists and thrives, giving each year a new vintage for all participants to share. Members of many varied professions have become ambassadors, and through their own words speak to those around them of this vineyard, of the wine and of the winemaking region of St Pourçain.

This wine can be found on the table of J. DECORET, the sole Michelin starred restaurant of the Allier and is sold at our Domaine with a label that changes each year, chosen by the members of Quarteron. It is a blend of chardonnay and tresallier grown on granite soil, also with a bit of Sauvignon, fermented and matured in barrels, always of oak from the Tronçais forest.


How do you see the future of winemaking in Saint Pourçain?

Saint Pourçain could have a great future if we make available the means required and if we believe in it. Wine consumption has decreased in France over recent years, while globally people are drinking more wines. In France, increasingly, comsumers have grown tired of the standardized styles of certain appellations and are unwilling to pay the prices for those wines when they cannot be sure of their quality. As a result they are turning toward smaller, lesser known appellations and producers, seeking out contact with the winemakers and discovery of their wines.

Certain restaurateurs are taking the same approach, seeking to discover wines from vineyards that are less or little known, and making them part of the attraction to their tables. This is a great advantage for us. It is in our interest to be present and stand up for our vineyards, our production, and so in doing refine our own savoir-faire.

Enotourism is a recent concept, but we must not think that it takes a lot of means; it is enough to be present, to understand how to welcome guests warmly and how to share our knowledge, expertise and to offer the keys, the the pathways to discovering what is a region, a terroir, what man brings to it. This requires a lot of personal investment, presence and time, but this is the only way that we can renew interest and make our wines desirable once again. It’s necessary that every winemaker understands that we must all be actors in maintaining our vineyards and making them prosper. And we must act as ambassadors of our region. It is equally necessary that there be more winemakers in the future to ensure the long life of our vineyards.

We must not confuse « savoir-faire » and « faire-savoir ». « Savoir-faire » is , above all, the responsibility of the winemaker. The « faire-savoir » requires that the vineyard work be authentic and consistant in order to advance the vineyard. Uniformization and standardization must be banned in order to honestly propose to wine consumers and future clients an approach that many of them expect and want. That is to say a reasoning and philosophy of the craft, along with a conscious production which favors quality and the criteria of belonging to a place, a plant, a person, in order to reveal St Pourçain’s unique qualities.


Region: Loire

The Loire River runs a course of 1,000 kilometers. This grandest of French rivers rises in the volcanic Auvergne mountains at 1551 meters in the village of Mont Gerbier de Jonc. It takes its course flowing north through the center of France and then westward to the city of Nantes, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Along its way, the Loire River passes through thirteen departments and together with its tributaries, provides the setting for seventy-three different appellations. These seventy-three appellations fall within five viticultural regions: Auvergne, Centre-Loire, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur and Nantais...

The most concentrated areas of wine production are found in these last three regions all situated on the upper half of the river and centered around the towns of Tours, Angers and Nantes.

The Auvergne mountains give birth to the Loire and present a rugged landscape quite different from the bucolic countryside of the upper Loire between Blois and Angers. The Auvergne vineyards divide into four appellations : Côtes du Forez, Côtes Roannaise, Côtes d’Auvergne and Saint Pourçain. Today they are little known beyond their borders but wine has been made there for over a thousand years and historically they enjoyed widespread recognition. The vineyards of Saint Pourçain were among the most favored in the Middle Ages, rivaling those of Beaune and Chablis and gracing the tables of the Royal Court and the Papacy at Avignon. The overall area under vine is much smaller today than it was centuries ago. Côtes Roannaise is the smallest with 170 hectares of vines and Saint Pourçain is the largest with 600. All four taken together would be half the size of the Sancerre vineyards.

The Auvergne mountains are challenging to the viticulteur from the standpoint of topography and climate. The few vineyards that exist today are planted in the most favorable micro-climates. When the wines are well made they are extremely expressive and flavorful and give the impression of being rich in minerals and restorative, much like some of the “eaux de source” from the region.

The vineyards of Centre-Loire include the appellations of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Pouilly-sur-Loire, Coteaux du Giennois, Menetou Salon, Quincy, Reuilly and Chateaumeillant. This is the land of Sauvignon Blanc; only the appellation of Pouilly sur Loire produces wine from a different white grape, Chasselas. The Centre-Loire has the city of Bourges at its center. Historically it is a mercantile city, and from where originates the word “bourgeois.”

The vineyards of the Touraine extend in all directions from the town of Tours and are organized into thirteen appellations. Additionally, to the north of Tours is the Vignoble du Loir where the appellations of Jasnières, Coteaux du Loir and Coteaux du Vendomois straddle the Loir River (what’s an “e” among rivers?).

The vineyards are spread along the Loire’s many small tributaries such as the Cher, Indre and Vienne on the south side and the Cisse and Brenne on the north. These smaller river valleys render landscapes of human scale and infinite variety, perfectly mirrored by the wines. Wines labeled as Touraine can be produced from a long list of grape types. The authorized white grapes include Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Romorantin and Arbois; the red grapes include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Cot (Malbec), Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Four sub-appellations of Touraine, each spread about a particular village and named for that village, such as Touraine-Amboise, produce wines with a stricter set of mandates from the I.N.A.O. The wines of Touraine bring to mind the old Arlo Guthrie tune, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant….”

The Touraine is followed down river by the wine regions of Saumur and Anjou. The vineyards here extend for many kilometers and are found primarily on the southern side of the river. Saumur is well known for its sparkling wine made primarily from Chenin Blanc. The natural and manmade chalk caves are like those in Champagne and provide the perfect repository for the maturing of the sparkling wine bottles. The separate appellation of Saumur-Champigny produces Cabernet Franc along the lines of Chinon and Bourgueil.

The Pays Nantais has its viticultural roots in the Roman era during which its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean provided commercial advantage to the region. However, invasions and political instability during the middle ages hindered the vineyards from flourishing. Not until the 17th century did the vineyards begin to prosper and expand thanks to the Dutch who used Nantais white wine to make Eau de Vie. The main grape of the area is the white wine grape Melon de Bourgogne, called locally Muscadet. Muscadet was widely planted in the early 18th century after the severe frost of 1709 wiped out most of the Nantais vineyards and showed Muscadet to be one of the only varieties to withstand the cold. Sharing the same viticultural zone as Muscadet in the Pays Nantais is the VDQS appellation Gros Plant which produces wine from the grape type, Folle Blanche.