Located directly southwest of Sancerre, this relatively small appellation produces a brilliant range of high-quality white, red and rosé wines that offer excellent value. Sauvignon Blanc is the predominant grape here with some Pinot Noir now being cultivated too.The vines are mostly planted in upper Jurassic Kimmeridgian limestone sediment, exactly the same as in Chablis, and the wine style is definitely terroir driven.
The appellation covers an area of 10 communes, one of which is Menetou-Salon itself. Menetou-Salon is an ancient wine-producing area if old writings and documents about the lordship of Menetou are to be believed. Documents from the years 1063, 1097 and 1100 have been recovered, where the Lord of Menetou gave a donation to different religious orders in the region, most particularly to the Saint-Sulpice-lès-Bourges Abbey, with vines located close to Davet.
Domaine Henry Pelle
“But Menetou-Salon remained the ‘little sister’ appellation to Sancerre – younger, less well known and less called for at the table.”
“Tragically Eric, Anne’s husband died in an accident in 1995. Anne and son Henry were fortunate enough to find Julien Zernott, a young oenology graduate at the time, to take over Eric’s work. Together they continued the work. 1996 saw the appearance of the Vignes de Ratier and Les Cris wines. Julien’s work on the reds in particular enabled the Domaine to remain at the forefront of the appellation.”
“For ageing, each terroir identity and each vintage require different methods. The action we take is designed to bring out the expressions, but never to transform them into something else.”
The visit and wine tasting
We had chosen to visit the Domaine Henry Pelle and had written to the owner, Anne Pelle, about a visit from our base for the week near Saumur, a 2.5 hour drive away. Their Vignes de Ratier was on my Wines 101 Bucket List and I was keen to add it to my other wine from this Domaine I had bought previously from The Wine Society (UK).
We were met and hosted by Serge before Anne arrived, and he gave us a quick tour around the winery before lining up 8 wines to taste; three red Pinot Noir and 5 white Sauvignon Blanc.
The Pinot Noir were deep red in colour, much more so than Volnay and Pommard from the same grape. In aroma and taste they were similar to Irancy which is at the extreme northern end of Burgundy and between Sancerre and Chablis so most similar in overall terroir including the climate.
The white wines, all from Sauvignon Blanc, were absolutely typical of the Sancerre style and completely devoid of the regular gooseberry and cats pee aromas. These aromas are a bi product of yeasts and fermentation and certainly put a lot of people off Sauvignon Blanc based wines, though they are a natural presence.
I decided to buy a couple of cases of each, a bargain at €18 and €14 for each bottle of red and white respectively.
When Anne joined us she seemed genuinely pleased that a member of The Wine Society had travelled so, far to visit their winery and taste their wines. She told me that The Wine Society was their first big client and that their association goes back around 40 years. If that isn’t an endorsement of quality, I don’t know what is! And …. another on my Wines 101 Bucket List ticked off.
Paul-Henry Pelle was born in 1985. He was raised in Morogues – like his great-grandfather, grandfather and father, and just like them, he chose to become a wine grower. He did his training at the lycée viticole in Beaune and through internships with Olivier Lamy in St-Aubin and Benjamin Leroux at Clos des
Epeneaux. With the first of these, he learned how to appreciate the distinct identity of each terroir and the appropriate use of the different containers (vats, barrels, etc.) in the winery; with the second, he learned the importance of ploughing the soils to respect the plant.
The wine estate’s first vintages were 2006 and 2007, crafted under the expert eye of Julien Zernott, who has overseen the winemaking process since 1995.
In 2007, aged 22, Paul-Henry took charge of the vineyards and the winery, accompanied by Anne (his mother) who has managed the office since the end of the 1980’s. Following on from three generations who created, established and perpetuated the wine estate, he is guiding it towards finesse and consistent quality.
Since his return, the progressive work in the vineyards and the winery has resulted in the production of “precise” wines with each vintage. Each bottle represents the terroir and year that brought it to fruition.
His aim – the simple expression of the terroir.