There’s a wonderful bouquet, a natural crispness and an ineffable curiosity that connects your palate to the story behind the winemaker and the vineyard.

There’s a saga of an ancient vineyard that since first planting, 1100 years ago, completely side-stepped industrialized farming and modern winemaking techniques.

And there’s a tale of a family estate and the prodigal son who, late in his 20s, gave up his acting career and followed cultural gravity back to his roots to make wine with his father.

All three come together in these remarkable and delicious natural reds from Alain and Julien Guillot’s Clos des vignes du Maynes vineyard.

Sure…the natural wine geek in me is gaga over the winemaking approach, but the wine is so wonderful, so interesting and yes, so natural, that it shushes the pundits, quiets the critics and just pleases.

Alain and Julien’s vineyard, Clos des vignes du Maynes, is in Macon Cruzille, outside the village of Cruzille in the southern portion of Burgundy. A tiny, 16-acre enclosed estate originally planted by the Benedictines of the Abbey of Cluny around 900 AD, it was purchased by Julien’s grandfather in 1954. Julien is now the principal winemaker and manager of the estate.

Rumored to be France’s oldest organic vineyard, this land has never had any chemical treatment. Ever. No chemical sprays or fertilizers or pesticides. Most of the vines are ancient, some 50 to 100 years old, planted on high elevation slopes of crystallized limestone and thin clay. Ancient methods of agriculture have been used here consistently since ancient times.

Since the 10th century, replanting has been done with the classic selection massale method. No modern clone has ever been introduced. New vines are grown from in-vineyard cuttings. The entire estate was certified Biodynamic in 1998.

Clos des vignes du Maynes makes wine naturally from the vineyard to the cave. All harvesting is done by hand, fermentation in ancient oak vats and barrels. Nothing is added, enhanced or filtered out between fermentation and bottling.

This is nature’s way all the way.

Ahh…but the wine itself is the storyteller here. Not how it is made.

I tasted multiple bottles of Julian’s quite brilliant reds over the last month. The 2010 Clos des vignes du Maynes Cuvee Rouge 910 and the 2009 Macon Cruzille Manganite.

The Cuvee Rouge 910 is my kind of warm weather wine. Light and lively and lovely. It’s a true field blend of Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Noir where the grapes are grown, harvested and vinified together.  910 refers to the year of the  first harvest on the domaine. The methods were probably not dissimilar 1100 years ago. Hand harvested and bottled, pressed by foot, vinified and aged without sulfur.

This is a light and vivacious bottle of wine. Reminds me of the intense aromatics and long finishes that I find in the very best Trousseau from the Jura. Silky smooth and refreshing. It feels just right with the Chardonnay as an x factor. I’ve served this many times to friends and always met with an aha of pleasure and an empty glass smile for a refill. Available from Chambers Street Wines in TriBeCa  for $23.99

The Macon Cruzille Manganite, produced from 60 year-old Gamay vines has that unlikely combination of both rich fruit and of deep minerality. I’m an unabashed Gamay enthusiast and this bottle has real chutzpah.

Deeply rich flavors, intensely aromatic and an insanely long finish. Julien employs a nine-day true carbonic maceration followed by fermentation in old vats. But the tannins are still tight and you get the sense that this bottle will evolve continuously over time.  It is extremely low alcohol, 12.5%, for such a powerful red wine.

And like all of the reds from the vineyard, there are zero sulfites added.

Julien Guillot’s field blend was a bottle to drink and savor now and tomorrow. The Manganite is delicious but still in motion to my palate. There is pleasure in enjoying this bottle today; there is gravitas that will surface over time.

The 2009 Manganite is a bit pricey at $33.90 from Chambers Street Wines but well worth the plunge. I’m already looking forward to uncorking a few bottles from my cellar at Thanksgiving.

Check out the wines of Alain and Julian Guillot.

Don’t buy them because they are Biodynamic or natural but because they are delicious and a pleasure to drink. They are also as natural as wine can be.


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