The largest segment of Menetou-Salon wine is white, but the appellation also produces red and rosé wines.
Southwest of Sancerre, Menetou Salon sits in the Cher department and covers 586 hectares (1448 acres). The appellation extends into 10 villages: Menetou-Salon, Aubinges, Morogues, Parassy, Pigny, Quantilly, Saint-Céols, Soulangis, Vignoux-sous-les-Aix and Humbligny. The sedimentary limestone soil in this appellation dates to the upper Jurassic period.
Evidence of vineyards in Menetou-Salon is found in writings from 1063, 1097 and 1100, in which the Lord of Menetou gave properties to various religious orders. Most notably, he gave the vineyards located in Clos de Davet to the famous abbey of St-Sulpice-Les-Bourges.
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The history of Menetou-Salon is closely linked with Jacques Coeur, Steward of the Royal Expenditures and Banker of the Court of King Charles VII. Writings from 1450 show that wines of Menetou-Salon graced the table of Jacques Coeur. It is also believed that the king’s favorite, Agnes Sorel, would visit Menetou-Salon, where she’d rest under the ancient lime wood trees near the castle drinking the wine of Close de la Dame. Some 400 years later, the wine tradition continued with the first producers’ syndicate established around 1890, followed by a wine production revival occurring in the 1970s.
The Vendanges (grape harvest) in Centre-Loire begin between the last week of September and the first week of October, ending the last two weeks of October. Some grapes are still harvested by hand, particularly red grapes, though most are picked with mechanical grape harvesters. The grapes are sent to the modern wine storehouses for processing. In the Centre-Loire, three winemaking methods are employed.
At its most ripe, the harvest is pressed as soon as the grapes arrive. For 12 to 24 hours, the must is racked, before it's placed into a fermentation tank, where it will ferment at a temperature of 64°F. Temperature control allows for longer fermentations, which gives more intense and delicate aromas. Once fermentation is complete, a racking is made to remove the first layer of lees. The wine matures in tanks with a thin layer of lees. The first vintages are bottled between March and September, with some waiting more than a year before being bottled.
After the stems from the ripe grapes are partially or completely removed, the fruit passes through a crusher, and is then placed into maceration and fermentation tanks. The maceration allows contact with the grape juice and skins, which contain the coloring pigments. Temperatures of 77 °F to 86 °F must be reached in order to fully extract the color. Should there be a cooler-than-normal autumn, the grapes are heated in order to trigger the fermentation process.
To ensure homogeneity and optimum contact of the grape juice and skins, pumping and treading of the must is performed once or twice per day. When the desired color and body have been obtained, the must is drawn off and pressed. The press and free-run juices are then put into tanks or barrels. Once the alcoholic fermentation is complete, the malolactic fermentation begins, which results in a natural loss of acidity. Maturing begins, with several rackings occurring during the various phases of clarification. The first wines are bottled in spring, while wines matured in oak barrels wait one year before bottling.
Rosé wines are created using two different methods:
The first method is known as rosé de pressée. It consists of pressing of the grapes as soon as they are harvested, just as for white wines. There is a short time of contact between the grape juice and the skin, and as a result, the color is lighter. The second method is called rosé de saignée. It begins with maceration, followed by racking until the desired color is obtained. This wine is stronger and more full-bodied.
The methods of maturing, stabilization and clarification are the same as those used for white wines.