Alphonse Mellot Retrospective, 2019

I once read somewhere – of course I have forgotten where, exactly – that while a wine drinker may start their journey with Bordeaux, they are more likely to end it in Burgundy. Sadly these days the idea that anybody might cut their teeth on cru classé Bordeaux seems faintly ridiculous. Indeed, the notion that the highly-priced classed growth wines of this most famous of regions might still serve as a gateway to wine seems really rather quaint, if not ignorant.

Having said that, while the specifics may have fallen foul of Bordeaux’s modern-day price strategy, the idea expressed is still fundamentally correct; wine has to have an entry point, one that is easily grasped by neophytes and within the financial reach of the young, who then as the years pass develop new tastes and acquire new knowledge, in time with the greying of their hair and the failing of their eyesight (I am speaking from personal experience here, obviously). It is just that today this role surely no longer falls to Bordeaux. And while more experienced wine drinkers may have once gravitated to the cerebrally challenging complexities of Burgundy, I suspect this too is also no longer true. These days new wine drinkers are just as likely to start out on Prosecco or the sweetened red Apothic than a bottle of Château Latour from their father’s cellar, and they will perhaps end up drinking quevri-fermented Saperavi or trying to get to grips with the intricacies of the Savennières Roche-aux-Moines appellation. Nevertheless, in wine, we all have to start somewhere, and as we discover and develop our palates we are all also heading towards a drinking terminus, even if at the moment we have no idea where this destination might lie.

Alphonse Mellot Retrospective

Is there, found myself wondering recently, is a parallel evolution in taste and attitude when it comes to certain regions or appellations? I recall when I first visited Sancerre, a little over 25 years ago now (I did say I had grey hair), that I based myself in the town and explored on foot. It was a good grounding in the appellation, its varieties and its wines, but on reflection I realise now that I was blinkered, like a new drinker who knows only classed growths of Bordeaux (or where to get the cheapest Prosecco). It was only as I explored further and understood more, with the passing of the years, that I was drawn to other corners of the appellation, such as Maimbray and Sury-en-Vaux, Crézancy, Bué and, of course, Chavignol. And I wonder, for many drinkers of Sancerre, is Chavignol their final destination? It is certainly very easy to succumb to the ageworthy wines of this village’s Kimmeridgian slopes, to the exclusion of all other styles.

I hope it isn’t though.

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