In the tiny village of Verzé, northwest of Mâcon, 4th generation winegrower Nicolas Maillet quietly plies his trade with very little fanfare and not much notoriety outside of France. Locally he has acquired huge respect as a mentor for many young, organically oriented winegrowers seeking to turn their dreams into reality. This hard-working, philosophical, man of the earth’s pedigree is evident when shaking his calloused hand, as he doesn’t spend much time in the office or on the road selling his wines, since they sell themselves. On a recent trip, this generosity with his time and tools became evident when a young neighbor happened by to return a piece of tractor equipment that Nicolas had lent him. Maillet has farmed organically since 2010 (certified by Ecocert) and he began implementing biodynamic practices in 2013. Particular attention is paid to the upkeep of the soil to ensure a vibrant and healthy micro-biome.
The century-old domaine consists of eight hectares of vines: six hectares of Chardonnay and two hectares split evenly between Aligoté, Pinot Noir and Gamay. Old vines are plentiful, the youngest of which are 50 years of age. The Verzé vineyards lie on chalky, limestone-centric, and generally eastern-facing slopes. This exposition combined with the mineral soils and surrounding microclimate produce some of the most mineral-driven, high-acid wines of the region (whereas the sun-drenched western slopes tend to produce rounder, richer wines). The land has been in the Maillet family for four generations, and in the early years wines were produced and bottled in the family cellars. However, from 1928 to 1998 fruit was sold to the local coop. When Nicolas took the reins in 1999, he had ambitious goals for the vineyards and believed that the work should be felt in the bottle. He proudly returned to the family’s early tradition of estate-bottled wines.
Maillet believes, like many great white wine producers, that cool fermentations are the key to making energetic, long-lived wines. The indigenous yeast fermentations last from 6-18 months depending on the wine and individual terroirs. The wines are aged in tank in order to best express the rocky terroir of Verzé. As a rule, no racking is done unless he senses reduction issues and SO2 levels tend to be low for the region.