April 15, 2011 Domaine Pellé
Domaine Pellé Menetou-Salon Morogues “Les Blanchais”
The small Loire appellation of Menetou-Salon lies a short distance west of Sancerre, and is largely overshadowed by its high-profile neighbour. Yet word is emerging that the finest of the Menetou-Salon domaines is producing sauvignon blanc that rivals Sancerre, and is coming to market at considerably more affordable prices. I love these discoveries, of an honest wine in an underappreciated region, unclouded by the misguided hype that sometimes accompanies the most well-known appellations.
Menetou-Salon’s best wines come from Domaine Pellé, 40 hectares just outside the village of Morogues, representing about a quarter of the total production of the appellation. Members of the Pellé family have been winemakers here for generations, long before 1959 when the appellation was established. It is blessed with ‘terre blanche’, the same limestone soils, rich in marine fossils, that one finds in Sancerre and Chablis. The wines are defined by their concentration, strong mineral sense, and staunch acidity.
The domaine is run organically, with green harvesting to lower the yields, and soils worked by hand to control weeds. Grapes (with stems intact) are gravity fed into pneumatic presses, the thinking being that the stems allow for a gentler release of the juice, the channels of pressed stems directing the juice into the stainless steel tanks. Here temperature-controlled fermentation, using only indigenous yeasts, takes place.
The winemaker is the youthful Paul-Henri Pellé, grandson of the domaine’s founder, Henri Pellé. Paul-Henri’s mother, Anne, took control of the estate following the accidental death of her husband, the founder’s son, Eric, in 1995. Anne handles the business end, while her son spends his time in the vineyards and the domaine’s ultra-modern cellars, when need be with advice from oenologist Julien Zernott.
Paul-Henri is particularly proud of the domaine’s premier cuvée, the single-vineyard “les Blanchais,” made from relatively isolated, steep-sloped vines that date back fifty years. It is the domaine’s most complex offering. Whereas Paul-Henri suggests drinking his other wines in their youth, he proposes that les Blanchais be cellared for up to ten years.
Unfortunately, Paul-Henri, I don’t have that option. Sometimes, sacrifices just have to be made. A wine blogger’s life can be a rough one.
Domaine Pellé Menetou-Salon Morogues “Les Blanchais” 2008
From this bright straw hue (with a hint of green) emerges one of the most pleasurable white wine aromas to come my way in recent months. Freshly cut green vegetable dances about in a mineral pool. Feels so entirely good-natured and healthy. In the mouth the acidity cuts through a collection of citrusy herbs. Rich yet lively, with a distinctive zest for life. $