Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Blanc Edmond 2012
Alphonse Mellot Senior is a copywriter’s dream, eye-raising quotes tumbling from his lips like the proverbial lemmings over a cliff. I tried my best to catch them as they came, but as I did so I soon became aware that I simply couldn’t grab every single one. Some I had to let slip through the net. Those I managed to write down I mentally subdivided, producing a list of quotes that were usable as they stood, and those which required a touch of censorship or which were just too choice for publication. The second list, I have to confess, was somewhat longer than the first, Alphonse not holding back with his opinions of other vignerons in Sancerre, wine writers and the world in general. His comments on one of his peers in Bué were typical. The subject of Alphonse’s judgement will, I think, have to remain nameless.
“Him. Yes, I tasted his wines many years ago, when he was a young man. They were shit. I told him so. But, you know, to his credit, he took that opinion on, put it in his pocket, filed it away. He changed things, and he improved. Today his wines are very good”.
As we spoke we had just finished off a marathon tasting of Alphonse Mellot wines, and as if to celebrate we shared a couple of glasses of his 2014 Edmond. My tasting note for this cuvée in this vintage starts with the word ‘wow’ – it was one of many striking wines I tasted during my two hours with Alphonse – and so it was no hardship to return to it at the end. Today, however, I am looking back to a slightly earlier vintage.
The Edmond cuvée is, as always, sourced from the same parcel of vines in La Moussière, the principle Alphonse Mellot vineyard. These vines range in age, but the oldest must be knocking on 100 years by now, and they are picked at a rather restrained yield (for Sauvignon Blanc) of about 40 hl/ha. Other cuvées, such as Génération XIX, come from the same vineyard and old vines (indeed, several of these old-vine parcels are very close to one another) and they are differentiated by the nuances of the vinification. In the case of Edmond, the juice is fermented in new oak for 60% of the crop, the remainder split evenly between one year- and two year-old casks. The wine then rests on its lees for up to fourteen months, before bottling.
Edmond, by the way, relates to Alphonse-Edmond, the father of Alphonse Senior. I could write that he was instrumental in creating the domaine as it stands today, but in truth I believe all of the recent generations have made their mark on the domaine and the region. Alphonse Senior was responsible for the creation of this cuvée, among others, and he has helped shape the Sancerre appellation that we have today, while Alphonse Junior took the domaine into biodynamics, and he also added the Génération XIX cuvée to the portfolio.
I am happy to report I bought some 2014 Edmond that day. But before I get around to that, here is the 2012 Edmond, also recently acquired. It has been in bottle for between two and three years, so it is still only a baby, and it has a rich, pure, lemon-gold hue in the glass. Aromatically it has great confidence and complexity, with a lemon-sorbet-like intensity, intertwined with notes of peach, mint and green apple. The oak lends a little touch of honey and apricot to the periphery, but the minerality wrapped up within is no less significant. It leads to a palate that is richly endowed, vinous and succulent, broad, and rather grippy, with real depth and energy. The fruit shows a greater degree of ripeness and character here, with notes of tangerine dotted among the other flavours coming through from the nose. It has a long, oak-wrapped substance and very fine grip, as well as an intense, minerally direction. Overall, this is stunning – it’s another ‘wow’ from me – but it really needs time to show its best. This will certainly improve over a decade in the cellar, if not longer. 18.5/20 (22/8/16)