We head out for our two o’clock appointment, a visit with Mélanie and Aymeric of Domaine Melaric, a small domaine that these two young oenologist/viticultural engineers established together in 2006. We arrive to discover a parcel of vines enclosed by a stone wall that surrounds a château and its grounds, a beautifully kept fairy-tale castle.
Aymeric, who we recognize from a photo on his website, welcomes us and continues labeling bottles of wine while we wait for a few others who are to join us. We chat in the dimly lit cellar. He seems casual, open, curious… They have been without electricity for almost four months. A long cord from I’m not sure where allows them to keep working. They have embarked on a grand adventure and seem happy to share.
Aymeric is quick to inform us that none of this belongs to them. The château is privately owned and they rent the cellar and vines around it. In 2008 they acquired their own vines as well, on the vineyard of Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame, a short drive from the cellar.
The vines of Melaric do not undergo chemical treatments. In the fall, the grapes are harvested by hand and placed into small boxes that will keep them in the best possible condition for their trip to the cellar. In the cellar the different grape varieties will be vinified separately, (chenin for the whites, cabernet franc and grolleau for the reds), without additives. For example, there will be no added yeasts. These grapes ferment thanks to the yeasts that are found naturally covering grape skins. These are just a few of the details that contribute to making the wines of Melaric unique and exciting.
Shortly after setting foot in the vines, the looming clouds overhead decide to fall, cutting short our walk in the vineyard. We head for the cellar used for aging their wines in oak barrels to take cover and taste.
We walk down a little path and into a sort of courtyard cut into the earth. To our surprise, the aging cellar is actually a natural cave that must be as old as wine-making itself.
The electricity doesn’t work here either, but we take a quick walk through with a flashlight. The atmosphere is cool and just a little humid. Aymeric chooses a number of barrels and we taste the whites and reds that are currently being aged. The wines are cool and fresh. They have bite, complexity, elegance, and soul. You might imagine a ballerina dancing to jazz.
The marriage of nature and man-made is beautiful, in both the place and the wine. There is a profound respect here… not a blind nod to history, but a living celebration of good living and good wine.We head back to the first cellar where we taste the bottled wines and meet Mélanie, who seems very much like Aymeric, passionate about wine with a certain determination or confidence in her regard.
After a rich afternoon full of stories and tasting, we hit the road under the sprinkling sky.
We found ourselves lost quite quickly and asked a very old man walking by the road for directions. “Could you tell us which way to get to Montreuil-Bellay?” The man took a breath, and responded, “Where are you coming from?” This seemingly irrelevant question seemed wise at the same time, and I still don’t know why. After a long pause the man explained in length how to get to where we wanted to go. Before saying goodbye, he told us a little story about traveling in Italy many years ago without a map or a word of Italian. Wearing a warm smile he let us know that he was tickled to see a young couple lost just as he and his wife had found themselves back in the day. It was a funny moment between generations, and his directions were perfect.
Tasting of Billes de Roche 2010: Mineral, sharp attack, rich mouthfeel, just slightly buttery, more like silk than butter…
We opened this bottle with a fennel and goat cheese salad, which was not the best choice as the salad was too rustic for this wine that has some finesse. We recommend it with a more elaborated meal, fish or poultry, cream sauces… or simply by itself.Domaine Mélaric
25, rue du Château
49 700 – Les Verchers sur Layon
Tél : 02 41 50 70 96 – 06 64 81 23 27 http://www.vins-melaric.com/