2011 Sancerre Domaine La Moussiere Alphonse Mellot

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Average critic rating : 87.0 points



Juicy pink grapefruit and ripe Persian melon effusively scent and saturate the broad, satiny palate of Mellot’s 2011 Sancerre La Moussiere, which however lacks the primary juiciness that – before bottling, anyway – characterized its single-site siblings. A suggestion of chalkiness adds interest to the sustained if slightly diffuse finish of this Sancerre likely to please those for whom the appellation is generally too prominently acidic, and to be best drunk within the next couple of years. ||I finally got to meet the two current (“Generation XVIII” and “... XIX”) Alphonse Mellots (all comments, intentions, or opinions I refer to as Mellot’s in what follows being attributable to the latter), whose roughly 130 acre estate – supplemented since 2005 by a more than 40 acre outpost, Les Penitents, in the Coteaux Charitois (also officially known as “Cotes de la Charite”) – has been farmed biodynamically since 1999, “before it was fashionable,” as Mellot points out. The estate boasts a high percentage of old vines, and those being replanted are selection massale, in recent instances planted to extremely dense (tighter than meter-by-meter spacing), which presupposes the estate norm of hand-harvest. In matters of vinification, too, no expense or attention to detail is spared, and I have seldom if ever before seen such a collection of the most expensive equipment and new wooden fermentors, foudres, and assorted smaller casks as fill the labyrinthine, multi-chambered –above as well as below-ground and in part art-bedecked – “cellars” chez Mellot. The Mellot name – having already some half century ago become associated with Sancerre across France and abroad thanks to negociant activities – has in the course of the past two decades gained a reputation in connection with estate bottlings that permit these to sell for prices scarcely any other Sancerres (and no Pouillys other than Dagueneau’s) can command. In the recent past I have found these wines very good and occasionally excellent, if often rather too obviously oaky, or opulent at the expense of refinement, not to mention – speaking of “expense” – overpriced. But the manifestly increased use of larger capacity barrels – along, perhaps, with other factors of vinification and elevage that I have not have fully grasped – seem in the two most recent vintages I tasted to have engendered in the Mellot Sauvignons a clarity, nuance, and preservation of primary juiciness to accompany the seamless richness that they have for some years displayed. Past Pinots – for which Mellot has an especially strong reputation – have also often struck me as exhibiting unfortunate manifestations of overreach, but here too, I was largely impressed with the 2010s I tasted this April. (Time precluded my tasting Mellot’s 2009 reds.) Picking of Sauvignon in 2011 began here already on August 20, with Pinots following already in the first days of September; in 2010, the start was in the second week of September; but none of the resultant wines could in the least be considered less than fully ripe. A bit more than half of the Mellots’ Sancerre acreage consists of – in fact, their estate is alternately named for – La Moussiere, a largely south-facing, ultra-stony Kimmeridgian site located just west of chalk-and-flint Les Romains – to which Mellots also dedicate a bottling – and equidistant from Sancerre and Bue. (Due to its volume, La Moussiere is the only Mellot Sauvignon that isn’t entirely fermented in wooden vessels of one or another sort, but instead ferments in stainless steel tanks before half of it is diverted to barrel.) The estate’s Edmond and Generation XIX bottlings originate in progressively older vines from prime portions of La Moussiere, the latter 87 years of age; and in red, a separate bottling is dedicated to the lieu-dit immediately above Moussiere – En Grands Champs – with its allegedly unique variation on Kimmeridgian limestone. Other holdings to which Mellots dedicate bottlings include La Demoiselle – flint-rich and steep; under the northwestern ramparts of Sancerre and very near their cellars – and Monts Damnes, whose fruits they combine with that of two other Chavignol lieux-dits in a bottling labeled “Satellite.” Although most Sancerre lovers consider Chavignol’s top sites hallowed ground, and although the Mellots have had their parcels of now old vines there for three generations, their first Chavignol-dedicated bottling was the 2008 Satellite that I praised in issue 190. And speaking of satellites, Emmanuelle Mellot has since 2007 farmed ten calcareous acres in appellation Pouilly-Fume, which are vinified at the family facilities in Sancerre and which I have previously reviewed under the “Alphonse Mellot” heading, but unfortunately did not get chance to taste from 2011 or 2010. (Incidentally, from 2008 Mellot essayed an experiment allegedly just for internal enjoyment in late harvest and Jura-style sous-voile elevage, which from cask – after having been racked once last year – was nothing short of fantastically complex and irresistible, blowing past any of the numerous attempts at this sort of thing – or attempts to turn accident into good fortune through oxidation – that I have previously encountered.)||Various importers including Domaine Select, New York, NY; tel. (212) 279-0799; Boutique Wine Collection, Philadelphia, PA (914) 954-6583; and Elite Wines, Lorton, VA; tel. (703) 339-8150 Wine Advocate.June, 2012


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