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With each new year, we bid adieu to winemakers who have decided to retire, with hopes that their legacies will be carried on, either by daughters and sons, or by talented apprentices and stagiaires who have absorbed the know-how and philosophy of their predecesors, and are comitted to continuing in a like-minded fashion. Sometimes we're lucky and the transition is seamless. Other times, not so, and we discover that old vines have been torn up to plant international varieties, or a new marketing director has been hired to change the direction of the estate and "modernize" production. Luckily, in the case of Domaine Jacques Maillet, it is the former. Maillet's apprentice, Florian Curtet, has been working full time at the domaine for the last four years, and his partner, Marie, joined last year, after spending a year working with another of our favorite Savoie producers, Gilles Berlioz. More on their wines later this year, but for now, we celebrate the last vintage from our friend, Jacques Maillet.
Maillet's history in the vines spans back to the early 90's, when he first decided to make wine. At the time, he didn't have enough money to start out on his own, so he joined the local co-op, and applied for a loan to get started. Though he was interested in organic and bio-dynamic farming from the start, the banks refused to give him a loan unless he worked conventionally (regular use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers), so he had no choice but to comply. Towards the end of the 90's, Maillet developed a debilitating illness - which he attributes to his exposure to chemicals, fungicides, and pesticides over a period of nearly 10 years - and it took him a full 3 years to recover. At that point, he vowed never to touch chemicals again, and decided to work on his own, with biodynamic principles at the core of his vineyard work. He began his new project with a small parcel of Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Mondeuse. Since he had very little money at the start, he worked out a deal with the co-op, allowing him use of their press, and one tank for fermentation and elevage (aging). He made his first wine as a red blend, and called it "Autrement," which is French for "in another way." Luckily it was a success, and Maillet was eventually able to acquire parcels of Jacquere, Altesse, and Mondeuse vines that are close to 100 years old. All of the vines are farmed without pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, are certified organic, and practicing biodynamic. Maillet pays close attention to the lunar calendar, and he uses tea and plant extracts to create treatments that help to naturally protect the vines from diseases and parasites. His winemaking is always with indigenous yeast and without filtration, and sulfur use is limited to a very small amount at the bottling, when necessary.
2015 was a great vintage for Maillet, maybe not for quantity, but surely for quality and longevity. Reds are ripe and structured - the Mondeuse is a baby! - and the whites are crisp, clean and mineral, but still exhibit a level of maturity to the fruit that is characteristic of the vintage. We're happy to offer the wines, along with some magnums for those special occasions or for aging, if you have the will power! Whenever you do open a bottle, raise a glass to Jacques, and his many years of hard work that helped to put natural wines from Savoie on the map!
Crispy, clean, fresh... a few adjectives that jump to mind when I think about this electric little Jacquere from Jacques Maillet. It's a joyful white wine, with subtle herbal undertones, and a touch of salinity that pair perfectly and keep us coming back for another glass. It's not a "simple" wine, but it is definitely simple to drink. Eben Lillie
A blend of Jacquere and Altesse. I think of this wine as the Muscadet of the Savoie. It's crisp and clean, with acidity that would definitely please fans of Loire Valley whites. Graceful and subtle citrus and white flower aromas, with stone fruit on the palate and a very mineral finish. It might be most suitable in the warmer months of the year, but fans of high-acid whites will surely beg to differ. Eben Lillie
We recently opened the 2014 and were pleased to find it's tasting better than ever! Classic white fruit, honeysuckle, and floral notes on the nose, and really nice balance between the acidity and the sun-kissed fruit that is now mellowing out and giving way to a drier and more mineral side of the wine. Maybe a touch softer than the 2015, so perhaps not as worthy of cellaring, but drinking now would be a treat, and I'm sure a few more years will do it well. Eben Lillie
This Roussette de Savoie is from a tiny parcel of old Altesse vines. The nose is expressive, with flowers and white fruits aplenty. On the palate there's ripe orchard fruit, and a pleasant roundness that balances out the fresh acidity. This is a wine that has great versatility. It's great for drinking now with a wide variety of foods, from spicy asian cuisines to local cheeses, and will reward your patience if you decide to put some bottles away. With the minerality, acidity and the ripeness of the fruit in 2015, this surely has a great life ahead of it. Eben Lillie
This is Maillet's blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Mondeuse (turns out, before the AOC was created for Savoie, reds in the region were often blended like this). The vines are around 50 years old on average, and yields are anywhere from 15 to 35 hl/ha (hecto-liters per hectare). Deep and dark on the nose with sultry blackberry and black licorice notes alongside more delicate aromas of strawberry seeds, pomegranate, and savory herbs. The palate is quite fresh and is a bit more straightforward than in years past, with dark berries, smoked meats, white pepper, and a juicy acidity. The finish leans towards the earthy, savory side, making me think that this would be perfect with gamier foods such as venison or lamb. Serve cool and decant. Tim Gagnon
Jacques Maillet is a "grower" in every sense of the word. In 2003, after suffering from a serious illness connected with conventional farming, he reduced the size of his already tiny domaine in order to stop selling his grapes to the local co-op and to begin farming organically. Years later, his wines seem to get better with every vintage. His 2015 Pinot Noir is simply gorgeous. The nose opens with bright, sappy cherry, strawberry liqueur, rose petal, tangerine, and a hint of underbrush. Lithe and lively on the palate, it offers sweet, juicy red raspberry, citrus, smoke, anchored by an intense mineral core. This is no doubt one of Jacques’ most serious wines; structured, long, a bit crunchy, and very elegant. I have a feeling that this would age well over the next 3-5 years, and it is certainly showing beautifully now. Tim Gagnon
It's almost as if it were meant to be that Maillet left us with this Mondeuse as his last! Typically the most structured and dark of Maillet's red offerings, 2015 provided ideal conditions to fully express the depth and potential of these selection massale vines (many of which are over 100 years old!). In the glass, it looks more like Syrah than anything we typically see from the Savoie. Vibrant wild blackberry aromas on the nose, with black cherry and cola notes on the palate, and a finish with notable tannic structure and mineral length. We'd recommend decanting a bit in advance or holding this wine for up to 10 years. Eben Lillie