Midway between the Ardeche and the Atlantic Ocean, along the River Loire, you will find the home of the Joseph Mellot family. The family winemaking history spans a period of over five centuries and remains family owned and operated today.
Recent history begins with Alexandre Mellot who took over the estate in 1984. He had a pioneering spirit, investing in the vineyards and wineries alike, with a view to expand and maximise export sales. In 1987, his wife Catherine Corbeau joined Alexandre and they worked hand in hand until Alexandre sadly passed away in 2005. Catherine took over the business whilst looking after her two young sons. Today their sons are studying to join the business and carry on the family tradition of making some of the most iconic wines in the Loire Valley.
The family has always had the drive to grow the business both locally and abroad. Back in 1882, they opened a restaurant in the village of Sancerre. Ran by the women of the family, “Auberge Joseph Mellot” in recent times has been under the guidance of Alexandre's sister. The restaurant offers traditional French cuisine and hospitality along with the families wines. In 1960 the towns wine shop, “La Vigne et Le Vin” opened to further promote the Mellot wines within the local economy.
Today Catherine oversees Mellot vineyards across the Central Valley. The family is the only single Domain to hold plots in every appellation throughout the Centre Loire. Although Sancerre has always been at the businesses core. Joseph Mellot currently holds around 55 hectares in Sancerre, half of that in Pouilly Fume and vineyards in Menetou-Salon, Quincy and Pouilly Sur Loire.
The prime concerns are Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume as that’s where the wine volume sits. That said, it's great to experiment with the neighbouring areas and the great value wines from the Touraine and Jardin de la France denominations. The dominant grapes here are Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, but there is plenty more going on in the region.
In Sancerre, there are three main soil types which give the grapes and thus the wines quite different characters. To the East, we find Siliceous Clay (Flint.) and to the West, we have the “Terres Blanches” or white clay and limestone. The third soil type is “Caillottes” which contains an abundance of white stones, holding the heat of the midday sun and helping the grapes to ripen. The family make several wines here. From specific Domaine wines to blends from across the area.
My favourite wine is their most awarded. In the heart of Sancerre itself is a tiny cellar where the “Sancerre Blanc, La Grande Chatelaine Cuvee Prestige” is maturing in barrel. The team harvest grapes from small plots of “Caillottes” vineyards and divide the juice after pressing into 3 lots. The first third is aged in new, locally sourced oak barrels. The second third goes into second use barrels, and the last third into oak. Having the privilege to sample these wines from the barrel was mind-blowing. However, the art of the winemaker is in the final blend – and the balance in this well-crafted wine is amazing.
If you think you know Sancerre – book a visit to this beautiful place, the home of French Sauvignon Blanc and be prepared to learn all over again.