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Burgundian Influence in the Loire Valley: Pinot Noir from Alphonse Mellot

The way that wine lovers revere Pinot Noir from Burgundy, you’d think that grape was found only there and nowhere else in all of France. If Burgundy is home to Pinot Noir’s Greatest Hits, there are thrilling and largely undiscovered B-sides in regions further afield, and we’re incredibly pleased to share one of our newest findings with you today.

Outstanding wines made from Pinot Noir are found in the Jura, Champagne, Alsace and in Loire Valley appellations like Sancerre or Menetou-Salon, but today we venture even deeper into the heart of the L’Hexagone to a place unknown to even the most studious oenophile, the Côtes de la Charité.

The region might be unknown, but the winemaker certainly isn’t. It’s made by Sancerre’s Alphonse Mellot (the 19th of his name!), easily one of the most talented winemakers in that appellation, and the rare winemaker equally talented at crafting red and white wines. In 2005, the Mellots were able to purchase 18 hectares in this region roughly equidistant from the Loire Valley’s Tours and Dijon, Burgundy’s metropolitan hub.

The Côtes de la Charité was founded by the same religious groups that began planting grapes on the famed Côte d’Or, and was part of the Duchy of Burgundy. Unsurprisingly, then, the trademark varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Its vineyards were famous — beloved by the aristocracy and fashionable Parisians alike — from the Middle Ages up to the devastation wreaked by phylloxera in the late-19th century.

The vines lay largely dormant during the 20th century, but we aren’t exactly sure why. The limestone-rich terroir is similar to that of both Sancerre and Burgundy. The mix of Oxford and Bathonian limestone is, according to Alphonse Mellot XVIII (our current winemaker’s father), exactly the same soil found in the grand cru monopole vineyard of Clos de Tart.

We knew the Mellots had a deft hand with Pinot — their red Sancerres are exemplary — but it’s nice to be reminded that even now, in 2023, there’s so much to learn and so much to taste. In a better-known region, a wine of this caliber would cost so much more than Charité’s obscurity allows. 

Alphonse Mellot, Côtes de la Charité Pinot Noir, 2020 | $34.99

This story was originally featured in our newsletter, where it was offered at a special subscribers-only discount. Subscribers get special offers, the first look at new discoveries, invites to events, and stories about wines and the artisans that make them.