I visited Champagne Nicolas Maillart on November 5th, 2018. When I arrived, there were a few men working in the front of the building on a driveway repair. It was a clear, cold, sunny day in Écueil, a 1er Cru village located in the Montagne de Reims region – about a 25 minute drive from either Reims or Épernay. I was shown inside and Nicolas Maillart came out to greet me with a welcoming smile.
Maillart’s family has roots in the Montagne de Reims dating back to 1753 with some documents going back even further to the mid-1500’s. Grape growing is in Maillart’s blood and he came back to the family estate in 2003 after graduating university, “When I completed my studies, I knew I wanted to create wine with my own identity.” Champagne Maillart is certified with the HVE (High Environmental Value) rating and uses both biodynamic and organic methods. To reduce their carbon footprint even further, Champagne Maillart has installed 130 square meters of solar panelling on the roof which provides 90% of their consumable energy.
What I appreciate about Maillart is his willingness to experiment. He spoke about some of his vineyard land that has been planted with Petit Meslier – a grape known to retain acidity and freshness during hot years, “I like what Petit Meslier does to a blend. It brings aromatics and good acid to the blend and it enables me to create the best expression for what I want. Every year, I try to experiment with a different part of the winemaking process. In 2019, we will be introducing a new champagne to our line up which is crafted with 100% Pinot Meunier.”
There is one very special plot of land Maillart wanted to tell me about, “In 1973, many vignerons were ripping out their vines and replanting with grafted stocks. My father noticed that the Pinot Noir plants that didn’t die had developed their own root system. So, he selected this site of Pinot Noir to plant entirely with the sélection massale system. They grow in sandy soils, halfway up a slope with southern exposure. I only make this wine in very good years. It is more of a Burgundian styled wine than a champagne – there is no blending. It is only made from Pinot Noir grapes from this vineyard plot – we call this wine ‘Francs de Pied’.
I was all too excited to sit down and get to tasting…
Champagne Nicolas Maillart Tasting Notes:
Platine Brut Premier Cru NV – comprised with 78% Pinot Noir and 16% Chardonnay and 6% Meunier, this excellent NV Brut boasts 40% of reserve wine. I enjoyed the balance of this champagne, its’ brightness and refreshing length. 25.50€
Rosé Brut Grand Cru NV – this elegant Rosé is crafted entirely with grapes from the Grand Cru village of Bouzy – 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. With 7% of still red wine blended in, it also adds delicate aromas of fresh raspberry and wild strawberry to the flavour profile. This champagne has hints of mandarin orange and lifted floral notes – a great tasting Rosé champagne. 29€
Platine Extra Brut Premier Cru NV – using the 2011 vintage as its base, this super-balanced and expressive champagne hits all the right points for me. It has a refined complexity and great length. The dosage on this champagne is only 1 gram. When I asked Maillart his thoughts on the trend for less sugar in champagne, he stated, “If I need to add 10 grams of sugar for dosage – I will. I want to make the perfect wine and if it needs sugar, I am going to add it.” Well said. 27€
Millésimé 2012 Brut Premier Cru – made with almost equal amounts of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this vintage displays the harmony of each grape variety perfectly. Structured yet elegant, great body and finesse – Maillart produces a fantastic expression of how incredible a well crafted Premier Cru champagne can be. 35€
Les Chaillots Gillis 2011 Extra Brut Premier Cru – this lovely Blanc de Blancs is crafted with old vine Chardonnay planted in 1963. This elegant wine is vinified and matured in oak barrel and does not go through malolactic fermentation. With zero dosage, it is fresh and bright with great minerality, notes of tropical fruits and freshly made brioche. 45€
Franc de Pied 2012 Extra Brut Écueil Premier Cru – this champagne is only crafted in excellent years, currently 2012, and is sourced from the plot of Pinot Noir that Maillart’s father developed in 1973 using ‘sélection massale’. Again, crafted with zero dosage, this Blanc de Noirs is powerful and structured with an excellent depth of palate. This is an outstanding terroir champagne. 69€