The Joseph Mellot estate in the Central Loire region of France has a history that spans more than 500 years yet it is one of the most-forward looking wine groups in the country in terms of protecting the environment. It also makes lovely wine.
In 2009 Mellot was the first winery in Central Loire to attain ISO 14001 certification for environmental management. That same year it was the first French vineyard to join the 10:10 climate change campaign.
Photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand launched the 10:10 campaign against global warming via the Good Planet Foundation in 2010, based around the idea that everyone can do something for the planet. In essence, 10:10 invites people and businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent a year.
Mellot has achieved this goal through reducing the weight of its glass bottles and adopting the PET bottle for some wines. PET is an abbreviation for polyethylene terephthalate, a polymer that makes light bottles and which can be easily recycled. Wines in PET bottles are exported to Scandinavia because of that region’s support for environmental issues.
The Mellot web site proudly notes that the cut in packaging costs was equivalent to a reduction of 150,000 km of car travel last year.
The company, founded by Pierre Etienne Mellot in 1513, has been a leader in France in a range of wine-related areas including wine tourism. In support of 10:10, all tours of Mellot estates are done in small electric cars. It is also the only producer to own vines in all of the key Central Loire appellations.
The commitment to quality shows in the wines, from the three entry-level Destinea range to the single vineyard flagship wines. Destinea is named after the boats that used to carry goods on the Loire, and these are very good wines at their price point, full of flavour and speaking fondly of terroir.
Mellot wines come from six Central Loire appellations in Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly and Coteaux de Giennois. A benchmark blend showcases the key characteristics of each appellation. As well, a flagship wine is made in each area.
Tasting a dozen of their wines was like receiving a masterclass of Loire terroir to highlight the influence of different soils.
Sancerre is the largest appellation in Central Loire and the spiritual home of sauvignon blanc. But this is not the cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush style so common in New Zealand. These are elegant and refined wines with wondrous length and a pronounced sense of minerality.
The 2013 Sancerre La Graveliere is grown on limestone and has restrained acids and amazing length, and would be perfect with a range of fried Asian foods. It won a gold medal at the Sommelier Wine Awards held in May, where judges choose wines based on their capacity to pair with food.
The 2013 Sancerre La Chatellenie is grown on flint and is an entirely different creature, more delicate and linear compared with the way the previous wine echoes and flows through one’s mouth. Imagine the sensation of gunflint and river stones in the mouth.
Winemaker and chef de caves Frederic Jacquet notes that white grapes are pressed in pneumatic devices to extract as pure a juice as possible. “Vinification methods vary depending on the terroir.”
Also from Sancerre, the Le Rabault 2013 rose is made from pinot noir and tastes delicious, again with an elegant hint of mineral. It is bright salmon pink in colour, with a delicate floral nose, zingy acid and a sensation of fresh raspberries and sour cherries in the mouth.
Rosé from Sancerre tends to be dry with low residual sugars. Crisp acidity makes it feel refreshing. It would be a fine match for light fish dishes and dumplings.
One of my favourites was the 2013 Le Rimonet from Quincy. This sauvignon blanc is grown on sand and gravel and offers zingy, clean acid with exceptional length and a range of citrus flavours. It is the kind of wine that would perform a fine duet with oysters because of the sense of “minerality” in the wine.
About four in five bottles produced at Mellot are made from sauvignon blanc. They are masters of this grape. Another exceptional sauvignon blanc was the 2013 Les Thureaux from Menetou-Salon. The soil is Kimmeridgian limestone, the same as in Chablis and southern England. The wine continues that sense of minerality and displays an intensity and length that is quite profound.
Mellot has been using screwcap closures for all wines sold outside France since 2006, making it an early pioneer with this technology. It still uses cork for wines consumed in France because that is what locals prefer.
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