Although Menetou-Salon seems destined to live in the shadow of Sancerre and perhaps also Pouilly-Fumé for all time, this perhaps says more about our individual understandings of these appellations and their wines, and in particular a prejudice in favour of Sancerre, than it does about the intrinsic quality of the wines. This is especially true when we look to the leading domaines of the appellation, a group which undoubtedly includes Domaine Pellé. This domaine has been turning out wine under the Menetou-Salon appellation for as long as it has existed and, to some extent at least, the wines define what can be achieved in this appellation. They may not be able to write the name Sancerre on the label, but the two appellations are contiguous (only a couple of kilometres separate the villages of Morogues from Montigny, a Sancerre commune), the terroir is fundamentally the same, and I would defy anyone, in the case of the Domaine Pellé portfolio at least, to tell the difference when tasting blind.
The manner in which this domaine has evolved mirrors the histories of several leading domaines in Sancerre. As with the likes of Alphonse Mellot, Henri Bourgeois and Vincent Pinard, the Pellé family have been making wine here for hundreds of years. In each case, however, it was only during the 20th century that the commercially viable domaine we know today was born out of this earlier work. The domaine is currently run by Paul-Henry Pellé (pictured below), but its story seems to begin five generations ago (more history than quite a few famous Sancerre domaines can claim) with a vigneron named Paul Pellé.
The Pellé family hold documents which show that, in the early years of the 20th century, Paul Pellé was making wine and selling it on a commercial scale. His principal market was Bourges, a large town to the south of the Menetou-Salon vineyard. Bourges has played an important role in the development of viticulture in this region, not least because the cathedral that has stood here since at least the 12th century created a need for wine, ostensibly for religious services but no doubt also to quench the thirst of the curé and his associates. It was also to provide the cathedral with wine that monks first planted the slopes of the Cul de Beaujeu, in Chavignol, another indication of its significance. In Paul Pellé’s case his market was not the local clergy, however, but the town’s many bistros, who bought his wine by the barrel. He would transport the barrels down to Bourges by water, making use of the many streams and rivers that come off the ridge behind the vineyards of Menetou-Salon which run southwards and through Bourges into the Yèvre, a tributary of the Cher.