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Back in 2015, while I was making my way through a wine show in France, I noticed the dark blue label of a wine I'd had the pleasure of enjoying many years ago . I pointed at the wine, and looked up to find the proud smile of Jacques Maillet - a man whom I had never met, but whose wines were some of the first from the Savoie to make a lasting impression on me. "I love that wine!," I exclaimed, and he smiled knowingly and simply nodded his head. As I tasted with Maillet, I was delighted to find that his wines were just as focused and vibrant as I remembered, and was excited to reunite with these classic expressions of the Savoie. Whether you've had them in the past, or you're curious to try them for the first time, we invite you to acquaint yourself with the wines of Jacques Maillet!
Domaine Jacques Maillet is a project that is now a little over 10 years old, but 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 (in 2003), 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 other parcels in the Savoie, and he now has a little over 4 hectares of vines, including 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. 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
The cuvée that started it all! 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). On the nose, it's ever so slightly "barnyardy" (in a good way), and the mouth is dense and mineral, with lovely dark fruit and medium body. There's definitely some suppleness and concentration, which I attribute to the quality of the fruit from Maillet's old vines (the Mondeuse vines are over 100 years old!), but there is also great minerality and lift thanks to the limestone soils. It's a wine that is satisfying, and at the same time, very easy to drink. Eben Lillie