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Domaine Alphonse Mellot

Biodynamic Sancerre from a Titan of the Loire Valley

If anyone doubted Sauvignon Blanc’s place in the pantheon of noble white grapes (and many do), a walk-through of Alphonse Mellot’s famed La Moussière vineyard, or a taste of any bottle of Mellot Sancerre should set matters straight. Mellot’s Sauvignons are capable of recalling great white Burgundy, sometimes Chablis, sometimes Côte d’Or. And they typically age better than most white Burgundies do these days! Jacqueline Friedrich summed it up perfectly when she wrote, “Each Sancerre [from Mellot] is at its most elegant: discreetly herbaceous, a beautiful weave of citrus, oak and minerals.”

For those of you new to the wines of Alphonse Mellot, some context is important. For much of its recent history, the Mellot family has crafted its miraculous Sauvignons in a highly popular region where standards were continuously dropping, and viticulture and winemaking were becoming more and more industrial. Alphonse Mellot was, and is, one of the beacons of quality in a region where today, some 98% of the fruit is machine-harvested. The terroir of Sancerre is beautiful, one of Europe’s great limestone propositions. Unfortunately, the region’s immense popularity has encouraged apathy and opportunism and Sancerre remains very much a case of ‘All this Useless Beauty’, as Elvis Costello put it – great terroir full of largely untapped potential.

Crafted from a high percentage of old vines and low yields, naturally fermented and then bottled without fining or filtration, Mellot’s whites are transcendent examples of their appellation.

La Moussière, where the estate’s most historic white wines are grown, is one of the most remarkable and best-kept vineyards in France. It is a beautiful, south-facing, rolling slope, with deep, limestone-rich, ploughed soils. The vines are densely planted (8,000-10,000 vines per hectare) and there is a large percentage of old vines. Incredibly, 40 people are employed to manage 47 hectares! If anyone can be said to be guardians of Sancerre terroir, it is these hardy souls, pruning through winter on the frigid slopes of La Moussière. Here, everything is done by hand, biodynamically, and to immaculate standards. The winery is full of the kind of equipment (sorting tables, conveyor belts, pneumatic presses, large wooden temperature-controlled fermentation tanks, etc.) that you only typically find in the finest Burgundy domaines – absolutely no expense has been spared.

If you like your whites from this part of France cast from the Dagueneau mould (Alphonse senior and Didier were so close that they often clashed like father and son)—chiselled, layered, mineral and with personalities reflecting a sense of place rather than being overtly varietal—then step this way. The single-site wines, in particular, are vibrant, stony titans with the kind of texture, energy and glacial purity that stacks up against the finest Rieslings and white Burgundies.

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Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussière 2021

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussière 2021

Biodynamic. La Moussière is one of the great vineyards of the Loire Valley. Cultivated with incredibly rocky, limestone-rich soils, this gently rolling vineyard lies on the ancient Saint-Doulchard marls, which form a part of the great Kimmeridgian chain (à la Chablis). Coupled with Mellot’s meticulous biodynamic farming and low yields, it’s a terroir responsible for some of Sancerre’s most striking and atypical wines. As usual, 50% of this wine underwent fermentation in huge wooden fermenters and was raised in oak casks—a fact that in no way compromises the fabulous purity and energy on offer. The balance of the wine was fermented and raised in traditional concrete vats before blending. All the wine was aged on fine lees for a period of roughly 12 months, further enhancing the wine’s famously deep and pulpy texture. Reminiscent of top-flight Chablis, those who crave flesh, purity and tension in their white wines can expect great company here. From a cooler year that harks back to the incisive 2017, it’s charged with vivid citrus flavours and chalky texture, expertly offset by electric acidity and mouth-watering salinity. The wine unfolds on the palate not unlike a coiled white Burgundy. A great Moussière.

Reminiscent of topflight Chablis, those who crave flesh, purity and tension in their white wines can expect great company here. From a cooler year that harks back to the incisive 2017, it’s charged with vivid citrus flavours and chalky texture, expertly offset by electric acidity and mouth-watering salinity. The wine unfolds on the palate not unlike a coiled white Burgundy. A great Moussière.

“An impressive 2021 with quite ripe, rich, mouth-filling fruit with notes of grapefruit. Currently it is a little tight in the well-balanced finish, but I expect the young 2021 will develop further in bottle. Around 50% of La Moussière is barrel fermented.”
91 points, Jim Budd, Decanter
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussière 2021
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf 2018

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf 2018

Biodynamic. Together with its sister-in-arms Cuvée Edmond, Dix-Neuf is the antithesis of modern, ‘textbook’ Sancerre. This jaw-dropping Sancerre is drawn from the oldest vines in the Moussière vineyard (approximately 100 years of age), cropped at Grand Cru Burgundy-level yields (in fact the lower end of this range). The wine was fermented and raised in 2,000-litre, tronconique wooden tanks for 12 months before a spell in steel on lees. Only 500 cases per year get to see the light of day. It’s an intense, arresting wine, unfolding in a dizzying array of citrus oil, hints of pepper, tonic, iodine, pear sorbet and spice. Yet these complex aromas play behind an almost otherworldly weightless structure and crackling energy. Imagine the intensity and texture of great white Burgundy, but with the racy core of acidity you find in great Riesling or Chenin Blanc. As difficult they are to describe, both this and the cuvée Edmond below stack up to the finest whites on the planet; both are intensely mineral Sancerres that make a bold statement about what Sauvignon Blanc can be.

It’s an intense, arresting wine, unfolding in a dizzying array of citrus oil, hints of pepper, tonic, iodine, pear sorbet and spice. Yet these complex aromas play behind an almost otherworldly weightless structure and crackling energy. Imagine the intensity and texture of great white Burgundy, but with the racy core of acidity you find in great Riesling or Chenin Blanc. As difficult they are to describe, both this and the cuvée Edmond below stack up to the finest whites on the planet; both are intensely mineral Sancerres that make a bold statement about what Sauvignon Blanc can be.

“The 2018 Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf (XIX) opens with a very clear, pure and, given the warm and dry vintage, beautifully fresh and mineral-scented bouquet with flinty and yeasty notes intermingled with white fruit aromas. Generously fruity but also salty, pure and tensioned on the palate, this is a full-bodied and elegant but thrilling 2018 Sancerre with a spectacularly long and iodine-laced finish.”
94 points, Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
“Tasted just before it was about to head to the bottling line, the 2018 Sancerre Generation XIX is a very convincing, top-drawer Sancerre. It caresses the palate yet remains floaty-light. The glacial purity of fruit is reminiscent of lemon meringue and pear. A hugely relaxed, tranquil style with fine length. While a mere pup, it's already gorgeous and will drink beautifully upon release and for a decade.”
94 points, 94-95 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf 2018
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Demoiselle Blanc 2020

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Demoiselle Blanc 2020

Biodynamic. La Demoiselle was established on a small, east-facing hillside in 1951, and is one of Sancerre’s easier vineyards to locate, just below the Panoramic Hotel on the edge of the village. The deep soils are a mix of flint and flinty clay, the town being situated over the fault that runs through the appellation. While the winemaking essentially mirrors that of La Moussière, the yields here are somewhat lower still.You can expect a more restrained aromatic profile than La Moussière, with scents of chalky, flinty minerality in the lead supported by citrus backing. It packs a serious punch on the palate with silky yellow fruits shot through with vibrant acidity, finishing with a tantalizing nip of grapefruit bitterness.

You can expect a more restrained aromatic profile than La Moussière, with scents of chalky, flinty minerality in the lead supported by citrus backing. It packs a serious punch on the palate with silky yellow fruits shot through with vibrant acidity, finishing with a tantalizing nip of grapefruit bitterness.

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Demoiselle Blanc 2020
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Edmond 2019

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Edmond 2019

Biodynamic. Like the Dix-Neuf, Edmond is hand-harvested from old vines in the Moussière vineyard. Here, the wine comes from a range of 50- to 90-year-old vines on the southerly slope of the site, where the Saint-Doulchard marls give way to a blanket of weathered limestone rocks that are locally called calcaires à astartes.Cropped even lower than the Dix-Neuf, Edmond’s fermentation and élevage took place in 600-litre barrels, with a portion raised in a 2,000-litre wooden, egg-shaped Taransaud ovum (the only other ovum we have encountered in the Loire is across the river, chez Dagueneau). It was aged on fine lees for around 12 months.As if carved from the stones themselves, this is a profound and structured white wine with an intense depth of white stone fruit, white flowers and all kinds of citrus. It has layers, aromatic complexity, tension, precision, profound minerality and striking length. These wines can live 20 to 30 years easily, and typically only start to peak after five to 10 years. With each sip, it extends the boundaries of what we understand Sauvignon (and Sancerre) to be capable of delivering.

As if carved from the stones themselves, this is a profound and structured white wine with an intense depth of white stone fruit, white flowers and all kinds of citrus. It has layers, aromatic complexity, tension, precision, profound minerality and striking length. These wines can live 20 to 30 years easily, and typically only start to peak after five to 10 years. With each sip, it extends the boundaries of what we understand Sauvignon (and Sancerre) to be capable of delivering.

“Compared to other whites, Mellot’s 2019 Sancerre Edmond is definitely from another world of thinking and winemaking. The nose indicates a more “natural” approach since it is more generous in its autumn-like fruit aromas (from dry old vines in fact) as well as more oxidative and phenolic. However, as it takes in more air, the purer and finer the wine becomes. On the palate, this is a pure and finessed as well as rich and intense Sancerre with a very long and complex finish. I wouldn't say this is enormously powerful, but it is pretty powerful and truly intense in all dimensions. The intensity and richness is combined with mineral structure, fine tannins and a sustainability coming from the soils. This wine has enormous energy and is, in the end, a great one and with lots of iodine.”
93 points, 93+ points, Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
“The 2019 Cuvée Edmond is a pure, precise expression of Sancerre, fermented entirely in oak of differing sizes and ages, yet the refined fruit soars with its fine nectarine and floral characters. While light in body, this has tender flesh built through the mid-palate, likely due to the vines hailing from Kimmeridgian limestone and the 10–14 months on lees. The long finish feels as if someone turned on a tap in your mouth, such is the effect of the acidity.”
94 points, 94 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Edmond 2019
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf 2018 (1500ml)

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf 2018 (1500ml)

Biodynamic. Together with its sister-in-arms Cuvée Edmond, Dix-Neuf is the antithesis of modern, ‘textbook’ Sancerre. This jaw-dropping Sancerre is drawn from the oldest vines in the Moussière vineyard (approximately 100 years of age), cropped at Grand Cru Burgundy-level yields (in fact the lower end of this range). The wine was fermented and raised in 2,000-litre, tronconique wooden tanks for 12 months before a spell in steel on lees. Only 500 cases per year get to see the light of day. It’s an intense, arresting wine, unfolding in a dizzying array of citrus oil, hints of pepper, tonic, iodine, pear sorbet and spice. Yet these complex aromas play behind an almost otherworldly weightless structure and crackling energy. Imagine the intensity and texture of great white Burgundy, but with the racy core of acidity you find in great Riesling or Chenin Blanc. As difficult they are to describe, both this and the cuvée Edmond below stack up to the finest whites on the planet; both are intensely mineral Sancerres that make a bold statement about what Sauvignon Blanc can be.

It’s an intense, arresting wine, unfolding in a dizzying array of citrus oil, hints of pepper, tonic, iodine, pear sorbet and spice. Yet these complex aromas play behind an almost otherworldly weightless structure and crackling energy. Imagine the intensity and texture of great white Burgundy, but with the racy core of acidity you find in great Riesling or Chenin Blanc. As difficult they are to describe, both this and the cuvée Edmond below stack up to the finest whites on the planet; both are intensely mineral Sancerres that make a bold statement about what Sauvignon Blanc can be.

“Tasted just before it was about to head to the bottling line, the 2018 Sancerre Generation XIX is a very convincing, top-drawer Sancerre. It caresses the palate yet remains floaty-light. The glacial purity of fruit is reminiscent of lemon meringue and pear. A hugely relaxed, tranquil style with fine length. While a mere pup, it's already gorgeous and will drink beautifully upon release and for a decade.”
94 points, 94-95 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
“The 2018 Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf (XIX) opens with a very clear, pure and, given the warm and dry vintage, beautifully fresh and mineral-scented bouquet with flinty and yeasty notes intermingled with white fruit aromas. Generously fruity but also salty, pure and tensioned on the palate, this is a full-bodied and elegant but thrilling 2018 Sancerre with a spectacularly long and iodine-laced finish.”
94 points, Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Génération Dix-Neuf 2018 (1500ml)
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Les Romains 2020 (1500ml)

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Les Romains 2020 (1500ml)

Biodynamic. Another Mellot cuvée from outside of La Moussière, the lieu-dit of Les Romains is named after the Roman road that led down to the Loire River crossing. It lies almost directly south of the town, over the fault line marking a vein of flint. While these soils may suggest a strong resemblance to the nearby terroir in Pouilly-Fumé, the vines don’t have to dig deep before hitting pure limestone. The vineyard covers 1.9 hectares and is planted to a density of 9,000 vines per hectare. Vacheron and Gitton Père also tend vines in this great vineyard. In general terms, from Les Romains you get racier acidity and more lime and citrus than the Mellot cuvées from La Moussière. Like all Mellot’s fruit, the grapes were hand-picked. Fermentation took place in 13-hectolitre tronconique casks and the wine was aged on fine lees for 12 months. It’s a striking, super-charged Sancerre, galloping with pristine and succulent white orchard fruit. Chalky textures entwine with limpid mineral freshness and it finishes with a note of grapefruit, and exceptional focus and length.

Like all Mellot’s fruit, the grapes were hand-picked. Fermentation took place in 13-hectolitre tronconique casks and the wine was aged on fine lees for 12 months. It’s a striking, super-charged Sancerre, galloping with pristine and succulent white orchard fruit. Chalky textures entwine with limpid mineral freshness and it finishes with a note of grapefruit, and exceptional focus and length.

Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Les Romains 2020 (1500ml)
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“The name of Alphonse Mellot has long been associated with some of the very finest examples of Sancerre, in both red and white.” Chris Kissack, The Wine Doctor thewinedoctor.com

“... [the Mellot family's] worthy aspirations have gradually raised them to the peaks of the great Sauvignons of the world. Alphonse Mellot's white Sancerres are amongst the most brilliant and pure illustrations of the genius of the Sauvignon grape."  Michel Bettane & Thierry Desseauve, The World's Greatest Wines

“A touch eccentric, and always boiling over with ideas, he [Alphonse Mellot] has taken the world of sauvignon blanc to new heights... [the domaine] is an orchestra conducted by a sometime delirious genius.” Joel B. Payne, Vinous.com

Country

France

Primary Region

Centre Loire

People

Winemaker: Alphonse Mellot Jr

Availability

National

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