When studying a topic, I’m often drawn to quirky, fringe bits of information rather than the meat of the topic at hand. For instance, when reviewing Chianti for the Santa Margherita post, I was far more interested to learn that the classic straw covered bottle of the region is called a fiasco than I was about various limits on yields in the vineyard. I know the latter would be more important on an exam, but the former would be just the sort of smarmy detail to amuse at a wine tasting. Hence my attraction to this wine, the Domaine de la Cadette Melon 2011.
This is a white wine from Burgundy, which means Chardonnay would be a good guess as to the grape, but wrong. Failing that, Aligoté is another fairly well known but much less popular white grape of Burgundy, and long time readers of this site will recall there are plantings of Sauvignon Blanc in Saint Bris. It turns out this is none of the above, and is in fact Melon de Bourgogne.
Melon de Bourgogne certainly has a history in Burgundy, though these days it is more commonly referred to as Muscadet, reflecting its near complete migration to the area of the western Loire around Nantes. There it is made into Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, an example of this we saw from Guy Bossard. So even more than I like finding a new example of an unusual variety in the New World, I love finding examples of grapes in unexpected places in the Old World.
While Burgundy is a hugely important region and I’ve only dipped into it here and there, the classification of wine in particular is worth a quick note. Burgundy values specificity, in that the most sought after wines are from very small areas, often individual, tiny vineyards, and typically from an individual variety. At the other end of the spectrum is the classification of this wine, Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, which essentially can be made from any permitted Burgundian grapes, anywhere in the region. Ordinaire is the operative work, ordinary, and grand refers more to the size of the region rather than the quality level of the wine.
However, it can be quite an interesting classification for at least two reasons. First, it can represent a good value proposition, in that the wine in question will be of Burgundy and possibly of a reasonable level of quality, but without the price tag that accompanies more specific geography. The other reason though is that the classification is sometimes used for wines such as this, a permitted but lesser known grape. So if you’re looking for a Burgundian César, Tressot or Sacy, Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire is likely how it will be bottled.
And so while this wine is officially of no particular place within Burgundy, in truth it’s from somewhere rather special, Bourgogne Vézelay. While located not far to the south of Chablis, Vézelay has a cooler climate and its soils contain less clay and more limestone. It is an area with a long history of grape growing, but largely of no great distinction and most of the results have been destined for use in a co-operative. However, toward the end of the 20th century a number of producers raised their standards and through their efforts the area was granted appellation status for Chardonnay based white wine in 1997. Pinot Noir and Melon de Bourgogne produced there remain classified as Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire but they represent only a fraction of production.
That timeline coincides with the founding of Domaine de la Cadette. Jean and Catherine Montanet established the domaine over the course of a decade of vine clearing and replanting from 1987 through to 1997. Their holdings consists of 13.5HA, mostly Chardonnay with a quarter Pinot Noir / César and a tiny patch of this Melon de Bourgogne.
They work them organically and were certified such in 2002. Grapes are hand picked, and their winemaking involves as little intervention as possible. The produce three different Bourgogne Vézelay varietal Chardonnays, a varietal Pinot Noir and a Pinot Noir / César blend as Bourgogne Rouge and this Melon.
In the glass this wine is clean and bright with a pale lemon yellow colour and slow legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium intensity and notes of candle wax, lemon, and vanilla custard. On the palate it’s dry with medium minus acidity, medium plus body, medium intensity, medium minus alcohol and medium length. There are notes of lemon, a little asparagus, and some ginger.
I rate this wine as good, possibly very good. It’s unfamiliar but intriguing. There are interesting notes across a wide range of flavours – some of which I don’t typically associate with wine – which I find very appealing. It certainly has complexity though I don’t think the descriptors do it justice.