Domaine Pellé Menetou-Salon Morogues Rouge
Le Carroir 2014
The focus when it comes to the red wines of the Loire Valley is almost exclusively on Cabernet Franc. Of course, Grolleau, Pineau d’Aunis and naturally Gamay also get a look in from time to time, as well as Côt and Cabernet Sauvignon and one or two others (a glass of Négrette, or maybe Abouriou, anyone?). But there is one other noble variety grown here which should not be overlooked. In the Loire Valley it is subservient to the dominant Cabernet Franc, but on the world stage it would perhaps (I’m trying to hedge my bets) eclipse its Cabernet counterpart. The variety I have in mind is, as you probably already realise, is Syrah. No, only joking (although you can find Syrah growing in one corner of the Anjou region). Of course I am thinking of Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir’s origins are long lost (it is related to Savagnin, but it is not certain if it is its parent or its offspring) and thus our knowledge of where it first grew, and how it spread throughout Europe, are limited. Having said that, it seems likely that the variety came to the Loire Valley by land from Burgundy or the Auvergne, the variety cropping up in literature (sometimes under one of its many aliases such as Morillon, Noirien and Auvernat) which pertains to these regions during the 13th and 14th centuries. Coming overland in this manner (as opposed to migrating up the river, as Cabernet Franc may have done) would help explain why the variety is most prominent in the Central Vineyards, most obviously in Sancerre but also in Reuilly, the Coteaux du Giennois and Châteaumeillant (blended here with Gamay, another variety forever linked to Burgundy) and, as we see in today’s Weekend Wine selection, Menetou-Salon. It can be found further downstream, in Cheverny and various Touraine vineyards, but here it is often blended, and it is only in Menetou-Salon, Reuilly and Sancerre will you regularly find it vinified in isolation.
The cultivation of the vine on the Kimmeridgian limestone slopes around the settlement of Menetou-Salon can be traced back nearly a thousand years, to the 11th century, as evidenced by documents pertaining to the granting of the Clos de Davet to the famed Abbaye Saint-Sulpice de Bourges. The subsequent development of the region’s vineyards was later bolstered by Jacques Coeur (c.1395 – 1456), a successful and wealthy merchant who as seigneur of the region ensured the wines were poured at the table of Charles VII (1403 – 1461). In more recent times we should look instead to the region’s most notable lineages of vignerons; Philippe Gilbert can trace his family’s presence here back to 1768; the Clément family of Domaine de Chatenoy have been here since 1884; and the Pellé family have been active here since the early 20th century. Many of these historical references relate to Pinot Noir, which once dominated the region ahead of Sauvignon Blanc; even today, one-third of the Menetou-Salon vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir.
The vines in Le Carroir, both red and white, were planted by Henry Pellé (born 1930) in 1976, the vines propagated by sélection massale. The soils are sand and flint, as opposed to the majority of the Pellé vineyards which naturally feature clay and limestone. There are 0.75 hectares planted to Pinot Noir, this cuvée fermented in wooden cuves between 50 and 80 hectolitres in size, with élevage half in stainless steel, and half in 400-litre barrels. The 2014 Menetou-Salon Morogues Rouge from Domaine Pellé displays a bright, translucent and pure cherry hue in the glass. It feels delightfully fresh on the nose, with primary Pinot fruit particularly notes of sweet peppered cherry, laced with a little black olive and liquorice. The structure on the palate feels cool and incisive, supporting a core of sour cherry and punchy peppered fruits. There is a gentle lick of tannin, and bright acidity. A good result, with some charm, and it shows that Pinot Noir can have a valuable role in the region. For a more serious expression of Pinot Noir in the region, however, I suggest readers check out Paul-Henry Pellé’s Le Cris cuvée as well as this one. 92/100 (19/8/19)
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