The terroir of Saint-Péray

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An original white! Bubbles and scents… The 75 hectares of the Saint-Péray vineyard flourish on the gentle slopes at the foot of Crussol Château, under the kind influence of the “Colline de Crussol”, the limestone spur from which it takes its name. On the right-bank of the Rhône, to the west of Valence in the Ardèche, Saint-Péray AOC is the southernmost of the northern Côtes du Rhônes appellations. And that is not all that makes them unique: One third of the wines produced in this appellation are… sparkling!

The limestone and granite terroir, the exceptional climate and the superb topography give Saint-Péray whites their unique character. The appellation’s sparkling wine is the only such wine in the Rhône Valley, and the appellation’s winemakers learned the “traditional” method in 1829.

Today, its pale, still wines are subtle and fresh, balanced and aromatic, and diffuse floral and mineral notes. Assembled from Marsanne – which is often the dominant grape – and Roussanne, sparkling Saint-Péray gives off notes of toast, honey, and almonds that seduce the palates of wine lovers the world over.

GRAPE VARIETIES

A genuine product of the Ardèche, Saint-Péray is made from two grape varieties: Marsanne and Roussanne. The still wines are light, not overly acidic, and offer aromas of dried apricots, acacia, beeswax, quince, spices, and nuts (almond, hazelnut, and walnut), fresh litchi, honey, peach, cooked apples, licorice, violet, and citrus…

Roussane, delicate and subtle, is a noble variety that makes fine wines of the highest quality, straw yellow in colour, with a remarkable nose and that age nicely. This variety’s original aromas evoke apricot, hawthorn, unroasted coffee, honeysuckle, honey, a hint of narcissus, and iris root…

HISTORY

In the 15th century, villagers ventured outside the walls of Crussol Château to settle the Mialan valley and cultivate vines. In the contemporary dialect, the village of Saint-Pierre-d’Ay became “Saint-Péray”. Already popular, Saint-Péray wines came to be enjoyed by royalty. However, after the Revolution it adopted a religiously neutral name: for a time Saint-Péray was known as “Péray white wine”.

Innovation was the watchword in 1826: Louis-Alexandre Faure, a wine maker in the appellation, produced the first sparkling wine. In 1829, inspired by the methods used in Champagne, the first “sparkling” Saint-Péray wine was bottled.

The 19th century marked the peak of Saint-Péray wines’ popularity: enjoyed throughout Europe, this still or sparking white wine was drank at the tables of the rulers of the day, from the Russian Tsars to Queen Victoria. It also inspired some of the greatest artists: Richard Wagner composed Parsifal having drunk Saint-Péray, and Lamartine, Daudet, Maupassant, and Baudelaire all mention the wine in their work. Pope Pius VII himself sang the wine’s praises.

The wine would receive official recognition in the 20th century: on 8th December 1936, Saint-Péray became one of the nine first wines to receive AOC status.