On Friday I reported on the latest 2012 crop of Sauvignon Blancs from across the Loire, which I tasted last month. On the same day, I tasted top end 2011 and 2010 releases – powerhouse Sauvignons – from two of the Central Vineyard’s top estates, Domaine Alphonse Mellot and Domaine Didier Dagueneau. A museum treat too – Dagueneau’s 2002 Silex (pictured).
Below you’ll find my tasting notes, preceded by a quick update on each domaine.
Domaine Alphonse Mellot (Sancerre)
I knew that the Mellot family had a long and distinguished history of working with wine (César Mellot was Wine Advisor to Louis XIV in 1698), but I hadn’t realised it could be traced back 500 hundred years! Apparently local records dating from 1513 mention the Mellot family and wine in the same breath. And so this year, which marks the retirement of Alphonse “senior,” has been designated the 500th anniversary of the domaine. No doubt the cellar’s museum stock will be much depleted this year. From 52 hecatres of biodynamically tended vines, Alphonse Mellot’s concentrated, intense Sancerres (white and red) certainly benefit from time in bottle.
Made by Alphonse junior, the wines were shown by his sister, Emmanuelle. The first two cuvees were fermented and aged in 50:50 steel or cement vats/new oak and aged on fine lees for several months. Satelitte was 100% fermented in wood (60% new 300L barrels/40% in 20hl wooden vats) and aged on the lees for between 8 to 12 months).
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussière 2011 – from a single, south-facing, densely planted 30ha vineyard on Kimmeridgien limestone (with up to 10, 000 vines/ha versus the stipulated 6,666 vines/ha). This cuvee is produced from young and old vines (10-40 years old) and shows ripe, round, concentrated fruit with lifted elderflower and blackcurrant bud notes. A piquant, savoury, earthy undertow of horse radish lends intensity and depth to a long, powerful finish. Very good. This seems to be the only one of the three cuvees available in the UK. £28.75 at The Wineman or £184/case ex duty and VAT at Fine & Rare.
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Les Romains Sancerre 2011 – the fifth release from a small parcel – a little over 1 hectare, again densely planted (8 000 to 10 000 plants per hectare) and located on the Les Romains vineyard’s higher, flinty slopes. It shows this vineyard’s classic flinty nose and powerful, steely grapefruit, broader white stone fruits too. Great breath and balance, with a long, tapering, mineral finish.
Domaine Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Satelitte 2011
This is another relatively new cuvee from densely planted parcels in Chavignol on caillottes (stony limestone). It is the broadest of the three, ample yet muscular, with a long, supple, rolling palate and great purity of expression to its citrus and white orchard fruits, which are delicately underscored by chalky minerality. Lovely balance. So tempting to drink it now, but has more to give with a few years in bottle. (Note to self, must open my 2007).
Domaine Didier Dagueneau
Dagueneau’s wines were presented by his daughter Charlotte who, with her brother winemaker Louis-Benjamin, has run the estate since her father’s death in 2008. Though the domaine’s reputation was forged on its Pouilly-Fumé, like Alphonse Mellot, more recently (since 2005) Dagueneau have also made a Chavignol Sancerre from a small parcel on the precipitous slopes of the ever so aptly named Monts Damnés. And from even further afield, a super intense sweet Jurançon from South West France too.
As for the domaine’s densely concentrated, tight knit and muscular Sauvignons, they are all fermented and matured in oak (whether elongated cigare pipes, barriques, 600l demi-muids or foudres), before “marrying” in vat for 6-10 months.
In addition to the stockists below, the wines are stocked by Justerinis.
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly 2010 – made from younger vines, this is a blend of two parcels, one on clay, the other limestone. Though ample with concentrated ripe applely fruit this is a dry, dense, savoury style with a long, extended finish racily carried by steely grapefruity acidity. £51.95 (10% off 6, 15% off 12) at Roberson Wine, P.O.A at H2Vin.
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly Buisson Renard 2010 – From flint over clay soils, this single vineyard mid-slope Sauvignon from the southwest side of Saint Andelain rachets up the complexity and concentration a notch. Powerful as it is, it’s also wonderfully expressive with elderflower and iodine lift and levity to its dense but intense juicy apple fruit. Palpable bone structure – cheekbones to die for – lend great length. Terrific. £60.95 at Roberson Wine, P.O.A at H2Vin.
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly Pur Sang 2010 – typically sourced mostly from La Folie, a south/southeast-facing vineyard north of Saint Andelain with deep clay, flinty, sandy soils. The oak is more evident in this weighty, muscular, tightly drawn cuvee, which fair takes your breath away, such is its firmness and trammelled power. A long and pointy, tapering finish sports steely grapefruit with a piquant saline edge. Vim and vigour! A keeper. P.O.A at H2Vin.
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly Silex 2010 – the clue is in the name – silex, meaning flinty. Compared with Pur Sang from deep clay soils, one might have expected it to be super-austere. In fact it shows a terrific concentration of fresh, bright appley fruit of crystalline purity. Really powerful, long and shimmering, it’s the most complete of the wines – quite beautiful – with the balance to age ever so gracefully. P.O.A at H2Vin, £650 ex duty & VAT at Farr Vintners.
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly Silex 2002 – yellow/gold in hue, with powerful tertiary notes – vanilla, spice and honey – on a weighty but poised palate from this terrific vintage for whites. Well-structured and spicily scented, it’s deliciously long, spicy and lingering, with absolutely no sign of fading.
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Monts Damné Sancerre 2010 – from these slope’s famous Kimmeridgian (clay/limestone soils), this deep, leesy, savoury wine shows great girth and density, well supported by oak. Building through the finish, there’s a lift to its blackcurrant bud/heady cassis, citrus-fuelled tail. Impressive of stature – a shapely Sauvignon with plenty of heft and structure for the long-haul.
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Jurançon Jardins de Babylone 2009 - Charlotte was quite insistent I came back to taste this wine after I’d finished tasting the dry wines. I’m glad I did. It’s a fabulously characterful, super-animated sweetie; wonderfully perfumed/floral too. A zippy, zesty, pithy, enlivening streak of acidity brings great balance and definition to its honeyed grapefruit and orange peel palate. A very long, persistent and fine finish is layered with smoke, steely/mineral grapefruit and nougat. A trilling, quite thrilling Petit Manseng! £89.95 (50cl) at Roberson Wines (2008 vintage).