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Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Rouge Génération XIX 2005

Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Rouge Génération XIX 2005

After a brief canter through the underground corridors of the Alphonse Mellot cellars, Alphonse Senior and I eventually came to a stop in a room filled with vats.

“Edmond”, said Alphonse, referring to the wine he was filling our glasses with, “was my creation. Génération XIX, however, was my son’s creation”.

Alphonse Senior seemed to be in a mischievous mood (although I think this might be his default setting) and I had the feeling that he wanted to say something more, but that he stopped himself before he went too far. Was he itching to tell me that, of the two, he thought Edmond the better wine?

No, I am sure I just imagined it.

Of course, in comparing Edmond to Génération XIX, we are talking about the two top white cuvées chez Alphonse Mellot. But there is another side to the Génération XIX coin, one with which Edmond certainly cannot compete, because Génération XIX comes in red as well as white. I have long thought the red wines of this domaine to be superior to many others (perhaps all others?) in the region. Although this belief was cemented in place by a tasting of the 2006s shortly after release, as they were wines of mind-blowing quality (apologies for the hyperbole; this is a descriptor I generally refrain from using, so I hope you will forgive me this once), but my familiarity with the wines goes back much further than that.

Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Génération XIX Rouge 2005

Many of the Mellot white wines, even the aforementioned upper-class cuvées, are sourced from various parcels within La Moussière, the expansive vineyard close to Sancerre owned and farmed by the Mellot family. What distinguishes the various parcels is partly the terroir, but also the age of the vines. The red wines, however, hail from a more diverse array of terroirs. The red Génération XIX is sourced from a 1-hectare plot of older vines on Saint-Doulchard marls in the Chambratte and Paradis lieux-dits, which lie southwest of Sancerre. Yields are very restricted, 20 hl/ha being not atypical (and the vines are planted at 10,000 vines per hectare), and following a cold soak for up to twelve days the fermentation takes place in oak. Afterwards the wine is pressed and then transferred back into oak for the malolactic fermentation. The élevage lasts at least a year, and the volume of production is, as you might imagine, quite tiny.

Having tasted both white and red versions from recent vintages with Alphonse Senior I decided, on returning home, that I should take a look at some older vintages. The 2005 Sancerre Génération XIX is not the oldest vintage in my cellar, but it is one of the more convincing. In the glass it has a quite enticing dark and concentrated hue, and the aromatics are confidently expressed, with notes of rose petal and smoke, with dark roasted fruits, especially black plum, blackcurrant and blackberries. Searching harder, I can also pick out little nuances of greater complexity too, including black olive and black truffle, and also a little hint of bright balsamic. The palate is poised and vibrant, with a slightly sour cherry fruit to it, yet it is softly textured and ripe. With lots of energy and grip underpinning it all, and a chalky edge to the tannins, this is a composed yet bright and crunchy style which still has some development to do. This is one that would benefit from being left in the cellar a while longer I think. 17.5/20 (26/9/16)

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