Alphonse Mellot


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  Domaine Alphonse Mellot
Tasting notes by Bettane & Desseauve 29/12/2003


Domaine Alphonse Mellot covers 45 hectares of the best soil on the Sancerre upper and mid-slopes. 36 are planted with sauvignon, 9 with pinot noir, and all the vines are cultivated according to the principles of biodynamic agriculture, though no official certificate has been awarded. The members of the Mellot family love their work too much to apply for a legal certificate and, in any case, certification never guarantees the quality of the wine, only compliance with certain principles - and even they are not sacred! Here, quality is guaranteed by the extraordinary precision and discipline with which the estate is run; at least twice a week a detailed report on the condition of the vines in each plot is required of the estate's employees, leaving nothing to chance when it comes to working on the vines! Work is carried out by the rulebook, pruning is severe, which believe me is clearly visible in the rather permissive vineyard landscape of the appellation, and grapes are picked by hand at peak ripeness. All this care explains the remarkable look of the vines, which, in this difficult year of 2003 when many grapes short of water were toasted and dried by the sun, mostly produced more than fifty hectolitres per hectare!

Alphonse Mellot junior (the nineteenth to bear the name!), who is now responsible for the vinification, takes particular care with the pressing of the white grapes. The sauvignon grapes are partly fermented in tanks, partly in conical wooden barrels (Cuvée Génération XIX) and partly in newish barrels (cuvée Edmond). The reds are vinified in the Burgundy style in wooden tanks then aged in barrels. With the arrival of the 2002 vintage, surprised by the astonishing richness of its pinots noirs, the family decided to produce, beside their basic cuvée La Moussière, three "de luxe" wines: Demoiselles on siliceous clay, En Grands Champs on Buzançais limestone, to which were added the now famous cuvée Génération XIX on older vines on Saint-Doulchar marl.

I admit to having been stunned by the estate's current standard of production, white and red. A number of prestigious or fashionable French vineyards would do well to come here and see how it is possible to reconcile the utmost authenticity, while respecting soil, vine and environment, with a faultless virtuosity in the winemaking itself. You won't find fuzzy noses in these sancerres or bouquets flirting dangerously with oxidation or vinegar, but surprisingly complex and transparent expressions of the great terroirs, which, I confess to my great shame, I have underestimated for too long, as I had never tasted wines of this calibre! In terms of white wines, with the exception of a few elite Alsatian producers, nothing in our current winemaking approaches such perfection of production over such a large number of bottles. Hats off!


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