VISIT AND TASTING AT CHAMPAGNE NICOLAS MAILLART
Conscientious winegrower, outstanding winemaker, Nicolas Maillart, representing the 9th generation on the estate, puts up a faultless performance in Ecueil perpetuating the incredible history of 3 centuries and the know-how of his family started in 1753. It is at the heart of Montagne de Reims in Ecueil – a village classified as 1er Cru located just south of Rheims – that we met with this creative winegrower. The opportunity to better understand the approach of this producer who has been able to make his estate evolve at the same time as keeping a record and a base of his inheritance. The occasion also to discover a little bit more his cuvées coming from 3 exceptional terroirs.
An atypical winegrower passionate about wines
Located in Ecueil, on the Montagne de Reims, Champagne Nicolas Maillart is a family domaine with 8.5 hectares of excellent Premier and Grand Cru vineyards, spread over 3 remarkable villages : Bouzy, Ecueil and Villers-Allerand. A family estate from 1753 of which Nicolas – 9th generation – has taken the reins since 2003 : at that time he is 26 years old and he decided to stop giving his grapes to the cooperative.
It is possible to track back the history of the family – 1533 – with a document suggesting that before Ecueil and even before the ancestors grew vines in Chamery, Pierre Maillart was already in the tradition of vines. Today, it is 16 hectares of vineyard management – 1/2 in Villers-Allerand, 1/4 in Bouzy inherited from his mother and 1/4 in Ecueil – however before the wedding of his parents, the vineyard was much smaller. At the same time and to this day, the family has been also in the agricultural industry.
Oenologist, agricultural engineer, globe-trotter and above all passionate about wines, Nicolas represents the 9th generation in charge of the estate. During his career, the winegrower traveled and worked abroad extensively – US, Oregon university, he studied the subject of rootstock ; South Africa: a project on a sorting machine – experiences that gave him a real opening and a fresh look on his work. As far as he can remember, he always wanted to be an agronomist or oenologist – already his career goal at his ninth grade test – and he always loved it. With each discovery of his job, the winemaker only confirmed his passion. For instance, his BTS certificate from his studies in Bordeaux allowed him to discover and better understand the red and white wines. That is to say, Nicolas is a true wine enthusiast – it is worth a look at his personal cellar full of treasures.
Convinced of the great potential of the terroirs of the family vineyard, Nicolas Maillart chose to leave the cooperative when he arrived at the head of the family business. However, the winegrower guards memories of the history of the estate – old machines, wicker baskets, … In this way, he keeps the domain in constant evolution while saving a trace and a base of his inheritance. Nicolas – very creative – even learned Illustrator to create his own visuals of the brand, a perfect blend of modernity and past whether in perpetuating the family know-how, through the logo or on the new labels …
History… revived also on the estate through one of the old grape varieties that the winegrower cultivates : Petit Meslier. The idea of replanting Petit Meslier – a grape variety abandoned for its maturity but making wines with a lot of freshness and nice finesse – comes from the fact that the climate change has a real impact on the harvest … Consequently, Nicolas decided to make a press of Petit Meslier to better understand this grape variety and to blend it or not in order to anticipate potential future evolution. It is also an extra rope to his winegrower’s bow.
Turned towards the future, the winemaker is whiling to go beyond his knowledge, always trying new things and methods using a comprehensive approach. Nicolas remains in constant reflection through his work : vines are for 40-50 years and what is planted today will serve tomorrow. His father for example has planted a plot with ungrafted vines which today is at the origin of one of the cuvées produced by Nicolas and a jewelry of the single plot range of Champagne Nicolas Maillart. What he has just planted will give in 6 years grapes and a cuvée that will be tasted within 20 years : winegrower is a profession that requires patience. Today, Nicolas is selling only his second vintage when he is in charge for 13 years now.
So then, Nicolas Maillart continues today to perpetuate almost 300 years of history of the estate while honoring his own philosophy : to give to the expression of wines the potential and the essence of their Champagne terroirs. A way to bring a new breath to Champagne Nicolas Maillart and to make his own contribution to the inheritance.
From the vines to the wines
The vineyard of Champagne Nicolas Maillart is exclusively located on the Montagne de Reims, all on Premier or Grand Crus, planted on south-facing hillside in the villages of Ecueil, Villars-Allerand and Bouzy. The grape varieties cultivated are Pinot Noir (64%), Pinot Meunier (10%), Chardonnay (24%) – the king grape varieties of the Champagne area – but also Petit Meslier replanted (around 2 to 3%). The average age of the vines is more than 30 years, with a large percentage of massal selection for a great authenticity and minerality.
The estate of the family is an highly spread vineyard allowing a great diversity of wines and terroirs – Bouzy : chalky with fine limestone clay ; Villers-Allerand : clay-limestone with chalk located a little deeper ; Ecueil : slopes with sand stratum deeper. Villers-Allerand also offers an East exposure and therefore brings a lot of structure and substance to the wines whereas the sandy soil of Ecueil brings lots of finesse for light and elegant wines with fruity character and Bouzy creates powerful and vibrant champagnes with a lot of personality and generosity.
Nicolas chose a viticulture as natural as possible : maintenance of a natural grass cover, all vineyard operations carried out by hand, no insecticide or weedkiller, organic fertilizers only and soil tilling… A conscientious and responsible philosophy that also guides the process in the winery where barrels share top billing with stainless steel vats. The vineyard is even certified HVE – High Environmental Valued – and has been one of the 50 first estates in Champagne. With a strong commitment to the environment, Nicolas also built 130 square meters of photovoltaic panels, representing a production equivalent to 60% of the consumption on the estate and reducing the carbon footprint. For the winemaker, each one of us must be responsible for his impact on the earth and this is the reason why through his work, he adapts to the seasons and uses means adapted to his terroirs. Indeed in search of natural balance, it is him who adapts his methods to the terroir and not the other way round. The ploughing for example, makes it possible to improve the balance of the vines.
For sure, the winegrower is not afraid to takes some risks like this year (2016) : a particularly difficult year in Champagne and in other wine-growing regions, but Nicolas treated as little as possible just like every other years, respecting his engagement to a sustainable viticulture in order to protect the environment and his terroir. The winegrower is passionate about quality, with a specific focus on viticulture : organic in his approach – if not in certification -, old vines, massal selection… he even maintains a rare ungrafted plot of Pinot Noir planted by his father.
The cellar of the estate is located in Ecueil – just south of Reims – and all the process after the harvest takes place internally there. Nicolas uses very gentle pressing of the grapes with 2 presses of 4000 kg. The process is a slow and gentle press using gravity for high quality juices followed by vinification either in stainless steel or in oak barrels to suit the terroir. As for the reserve wines, they follow a partial barrel-aging in order to produce concentrated champagnes with impressive power and length but also with a lot of finesse and elegance. Nicolas possesses not less than 150 barrels bought from a beautiful estate of Burgundy, a choice made for an optimal barrel quality. The winemaker does not use any new barrel to avoid to affect too much and to preserve the identity of the wines. An other important point regarding the vinification at Champagne Nicolas Maillart is that each terroir is separated making possible for the winemaker to work a la carte.
One day of settling of the musts before racking without enzyme for substantial impurities, low temperature in tanks, a long fermentation in barrels, no malolactic fermentation, no filtration before bottling, a, long breeding on lees for more fatty wines… Nicolas is a scientist when is comes to his approach to winemaking, sorting his grapes according to soil type and the age of the vines, vinification and aging each in different ways to get the very best from his grapes and his terroir in order to create refined cuvées and terroir wines.
In order to allow a beautiful maturity to develop itself and to let the wine become more refined, the champagnes are late bottled. As for the dosage, Nicolas chose them regarding their balance and the freshness of the wines. The champagnes rest in cellars between 3 and 4 years and are disgorged according to the sales.
In his work, Nicolas always has some strong thought in order to always take risks, to move forward and to improve himself. The winemaker always seeks to create something different … a pure Meunier and a pure Pinot Noir to come : Bouzy, heart of slopes for maturity and for the most powerful champagne of the range. The Meunier will have crispy, fruity notes with a beautiful structure and quite powerful… an atypical Meunier with interesting notes. And coming soon as well more single-plot cuvées.
The blending range is composed of 4 cuvées : Platine, Rosé, Extra-Brut and Zéro dosage ; technical champagnes easy to approach but always with a well present identity of the estate. The estate has also a wine archive with the oldest indexed : 1969 vintage.
Champagne Nicolas Maillart, an estate of Pinot Noir for sure, putting forward this grape variety that brings power, identity and maturity to the wines. Through his cuvées, Nicolas seeks different and emotional moments, searching individualities without intransigence on the terroir… emotion, identity, character, gastronomy and wine…
A tasting of individualities and emotion
As we enter the tasting room, we discover an ancient vehicle repair room from which Nicolas has kept the ceiling but transformed in a modern and design place. During starting the tasting, we asked Nicolas what he thought of the first tastings of the clear wines 2016. His first impressions : Pinot Noirs are very beautiful but Pinot Meuniers announces beautiful wines too…
NICOLAS MAILLART – PLATINE
«The perfect match between vinosity and elegance»
A blend with a dominance of Pinot Noir (66% ) balanced with the generosity of Pinot Meunier (11%) and the freshness of Chardonnay (23%). The blend includes 51% of reserve wines and a low dosage of 3gr/L. 38 % of the wines are matured in oak barrels and three years of aging on lees offer a generous expression of the aromas during the tasting.
The color is a light golden yellow with silver glints and elegant effervescence. The nose offers buttered and fresh citrus notes opening after few minutes. The palate is generous, round and elegant with a great structure. A champagne developing grilled and brioche notes with a touch of honey and black fruits. The great maturity of the wine balances beautifully the low dosage of this cuvée offering a beautiful freshness for a gourmet champagne. An easy access wine representative of the style of the estate : vinosity, elegance and generosity.
«Freshness and elegance»
Sourced from Bouzy, this rosé is the reflect of its terroir of origins. Made of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. The maceration is delicate generating this pale rosé and the maturation is partly in oak barrels (22%). A cuvée with a low dosage (5 gr/L) for a generous champagne with a lot of freshness.
The color is a pale orange pink almost transparent. The nose is fruity with red fruits notes. The refined palate brings an elegant vinosity. A subtle rosé with a lot of freshness and finesse with a nice tanic tightness on the finish. The identity of the estate is easily recognizable. A jovial, cheerful and appetizing wine.
«Minerality and gastronomy»
A single vintage made of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. For the vinification 40% of the blend is vinified in barrel and the rest in stainless steel vats. Dosed at 5gr/L, this 2008 vintage is an extra-brut.
The color is a light and delicate gold. The nose is rich and powerful offering buttered and undergrowth notes. The palate develops a sustained amplitude with a chalky structure. The finish is a bit on bitterness. A gourmet wine with a refined minerality.
BONUS : 2 single plot cuvées
Chaillots Gillis – A pure Chardonnay from Ecueil
A pur Chardonnay 1er Cru from Ecueil, sourced from nursery and old vines plot – Chaillot Gillis – of 50 years with a south exposure and with a massal selection. The wine is vinified only in barrels with regular battonage and with a long maturation. Disgorged by hand, this cuvée is a brut nature (0 gr/L) : a dosage to express the different characteristic of this terroir champagne. Laid down a minimum of three years in the cellar before released.
The color is a light but intense gold and the effervescence is light and elegant. The nose is fresh with citrus and fruity notes. The palate – fresh and vinous – is well-balanced with a graceful oxidation and brioche notes as well as white flowers aromas. The minerality is well present both at the nose and on the palate.
Les Francs de Pieds – The most unique cuvée of the Domaine
Les Francs de Pieds is made 100% of Pinot Noirs of a 0.26ha plot of sandy soil, massal selection and ungrafted vines planted in 1973 – very rare in Champagne. Ungrafted means that the vines are just like how the prephylloxeric vineyard was. A sandy terroir for the pure and original taste of Pinot Noir. This cuvée is produced only on exceptional years like the 2008 vintage tasted – an extra-brut with a 3gr of sugar dosage and unfiltered.
The color is a strong and deep gold. The Nose – expressive and ample – develops under wood, yellow pulp fruits and delicate roasting notes. The palate is precise, frank, and refined at the same time with a creamy and oily structure. A wine with a lot of richness and complexity for highly individual tastings…
Responsable : Nicolas Maillart
Location : Ecueil (Montagne de Reims)
Majority grape variety : Pinot Noir
Other grape varieties : Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier,
including an old variety : Petit Meslier
Vineyard surface : 16 ha
Viticulture : HVE
CHAMPAGNE NICOLAS MAILLART
5 rue de Villers,