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Julien et Clément Raimbault

Julien et Clément Raimbault

I was never quite sure how long I spent tasting in the cellars with Alphonse Mellot Senior that day. I know it was early morning and the sun was still low in the sky when I passed through the doorway set into a rather anonymous wall just around the corner from the Rue Porte César, the road surely named for César Mellot, an ancestor. And I know when I emerged the sun had passed overhead and was heading down once again. It had been a joyous morning in the company of Alphonse, one which had passed too quickly; we had scurried about in the warren of the Alphonse Mellot cellars, tasting everything we could find, from just-fermented reds and whites straight from the vat, to wines resting in barrique and foudre, and more than a handful of bottles pulled by Alphonse from a secret wine cooler.

It wasn’t merely because Alphonse was pulling so many great bottles for tasting that I was so entranced, he also just happened to be brilliantly entertaining, so much so that this visit was one of the most memorable I have ever had the good fortune to enjoy. He told me about his desire, as a youth, to take up bank robbery as a career. The thing is, I think he was serious. And about his skill as a pilot. His views on religion. Indeed, Alphonse let rip on a wide variety of subjects.

Julien et Clément Raimbault

Including, as it happens, his peers and neighbours. Nobody was spared that day, as he rattled off a list of names, vignerons who in Alphonse’s eyes made deficient wines which he described using a variety of insults, everything from the obvious “vin de merde” to some more esoteric descriptions which I can’t bring myself to repeat for fear of causing offence. There seemed to be quite a lot of them for him to get through (perhaps this is why the sun had travelled so far overhead when we finally parted company). Then as if to restore some balance, Alphonse went on to tell me who he respected in the region, although this was a somewhat quicker job. The late Didier Dagueneau was one, Vincent Pinard another. And then there was Clément Raimbault.

“Who?”

“Clément Raimbault. He is in Sury-en-Vaux, at Domaine du Pré Semelé. He worked here, with us, for a while. A very good guy. He makes good wines. You should see.”

And so here we are.

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