Savoie, Autrement: 2015s from Jacques Maillet

2/27/17 -

Jacques Maillet

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! - Eben Lillie

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