A tasting of Le Soula (Roussillon) & Joseph Mellot (Central Loire)
All images by Robin Goldsmith.
Catherine Corbeau-Mellot (Owner) and Olivier Rivain (Sales Director) of Joseph Mellot
Le Soula, whose biodynamic vineyards are some of the highest in Le Roussillon (350-600m), is located in the foothills of the Pyrénées in the Fenouillèdes region. Granitic soil and a large diurnal range thanks to the hot summer sun and the cooler, wetter mountain conditions help to create wines with character, full of fresh acidity and a wide flavour profile. Owner Mark Walford showed off vintages of Le Soula Blanc and Le Soula Rouge, alongside their La Macération du Soula orange wine.
From the off, it was clear that these are amazing wines. Starting on reds with vintages from 2012, 2005 and 2003, the beauty and balance that old-vine Carignan can bring to a wine was immediately evident. A fresh, pure fruit profile with background softening nuances of old oak plus a gentle spicy character make these wines so elegant and drinkable. Who could have guessed that the 2003, let alone the 2005, was over 10 years old? Fresh and clean with a lovely balance of tannin and acidity overlaying the bramble fruit notes - what's not to like? Blackcurrant and red fruit flavours were present in the 2003 blend of Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, but like the Carignan influences in the other vintages, freshness of fruit was a primary characteristic.
Moving on to the whites, from the vitality and fruit-driven brightness of the aromatic Le Soula Blanc 2013 to the richer, fuller 2006 with its deeper, cooked apple notes, via the 2012 with its pineapple and gently spicy stone fruit edge, these were all delightful. Mark explained how the biodynamic method enables their grapes to reach phenolic and sugar ripeness together, leading to wines with finer texture, vitality and purity. There was certainly no denying the clarity of fruit, fresh well-balanced acidity and 'electric energy' of all these wines. At 12.5%-13.5% ABV (apart from the 14.5% ABV orange wine), the alcohol level is not evident and if you could ever describe wines as having a subtle 'melt-in-the-mouth' fruit quality, these wines have it!
… and then there's the orange wine! A style not to everyone's taste, this was fabulous - a rich, fruity, savoury, well-balanced example that could stand up to most types of food, including spicy flavours. Delicious!
Joseph Mellot, deeply rooted in the heart of Loire, is a family-owned wine estate with a history spanning over 500 years. One of Sancerre's largest and most prestigious Domaines, they produce wine from several Loire subregions and export to over 40 countries worldwide. Owner Catherine Corbeau-Mellot led us through an informal tasting of the estate's wines.
With terroir variations throughout the Loire valley, this was a wonderful opportunity to taste wines made from Sauvignon Blanc grown on different soil types including chalky clay, limestone, silex (flinty) and sand. I loved the elegance, balance and finesse in all these wines and the Quincy Le Rimonet 2015 (sandy and gravelly soil) was a shining example. A particularly warm vintage, ripe aromatics, fresh citrus and tropical fruit notes teased the senses and led to a lovely long finish with perhaps a little touch of spice. The Pouilly Fumé Le Chant des Vignes 2016 (clay-limestone soil) had that characteristic flintiness with a rich, citrus and tropical fruit concentration. Both these wines were delicious with Crottin de Chavignol, the creaminess of this delicious goat's cheese marrying beautifully to the fruit and acidity of the Sauvignon.
If ever there existed a rosé that could convince non-pink drinkers to give up their prejudices, the Joseph Mellot Sancerre Le Rabault Rosé 2015 made from 100% Pinot Noir grown on flint-rich soils could be the one! Crisp and delicate, yet full of flavour with fresh red fruits and a savoury hint, this wine undergoes a light pressing to avoid extracting any bitterness from the grape pips. Le Rabault Rouge 2014 is similarly notable for its complete absence of astringency. Soft, delicate and juicy, but without huge fruit extraction, this showed light cherry and berry notes plus a little hint of earthy spice and supple tannins. At around 12.5% ABV, all these fabulous Loire wines could certainly be described as punching above their weight!
Joseph Mellot wines are available in the UK from Hatch Mansfield, while Le Soula wines are available in a number of the world's leading restaurants, as well as many independent retailers and are distributed through Fields, Morris & Verdin.