Introducing Champagne Nicolas Maillart

“Nicolas Maillart with K&L’s first order, March 20th 2019

“Nicolas Maillart with K&L’s first order, March 20th 2019

It takes a lot longer than I would like to get Champagne from France, across the Atlantic and back up the Pacific coast. I think that the Champagnes from Nicolas Maillart have been well worth the wait. Those of you who are in the Champagne Club may have already tried his fantastic Extra Brut, but there is a lot to say about these- our latest addition to our direct import Champagne portfolio.

Calling Maillart a new producer would be silly; Nicolas is the 9th generation grower from this estate, located in Ecuiel on the “little” mountain of Reims. The Maillarts have records of the family growing grapes here since 1753, and he took over from his father in 2003. The average age of the vines on their 21-acre estate is 30 years and 60% of those vines are massal selected. That number is growing, as all the new plantations going forward will be propagated from their old massals. The estate is spread out across the premier crus of Ecuiel and Villers-Allerand and the grand cru of Bouzy. The production is about 130,000 bottles per year, and the family has a half million bottles in stock at any given time. The average ageing time is over four years on the lees. Nicolas loves to work with old oak, and this spring we tasted many 2018 vins clairs from barrel. Even his entry level Champagne is 40% barrel fermented.

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The Maillart style is terroir driven, and very much to the Pinot Noir side. Long ageing gives the wines a good frame of leesy toast, but the concentration of the wine underneath is the main interest. They are full bodied, charged with chalky minerality, and dry. If you have enjoyed the wines of Tarlant, Bollinger and, Pierre Paillard, trying Maillart is a must.

The start of Nicholas’ range is at a high level. The Nicolas Maillart Brut "Platine" Champagne is an outstanding example of modern, terroir-driven grower Champagne at a very modest price. It is composed of 78% Pinot Noir, 16% Chardonnay, and 6% Meunier and finished with just 6 grams per liter of dosage. He uses all three of his villages in this wine, 40% is fermented in barrel, and 35% of the bottle is reserve wines. Of the four wines, this is the one that I would call a must try for all Champagne fans; the aromas and flavors are kaleidoscopic with a nut-filled, panatone-toast quality, as well as dried cherry and cream notes. It struck me immediately that this level of complexity rarely comes in such a light package. Naturally, the bead is perfect after four years of ageing, and the finish is drier than most brut Champagne, with a great chalky snap. This is the place to start!

The 2012 Nicolas Maillart Vintage Champagne is the most vinous of the bunch, with a lot of hazelnut, brioche, and Devon cream. I couldn’t believe that the dosage was only 4 grams per liter, since this struck me as almost Charles Heidsieck-like in its broad, textural mouthfeel. It is composed of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay from Bouzy and Ecueil, and treated to 60% barrel fermentation. This is in the decadent gourmand style!

I have a feeling that the limited production, 100% Bouzy Grand Cru Nicolas Maillart Brut Rose Champagne will be the hardest thing for us to keep in stock once the word gets out. This ethereal rosé has an almost negroni like orange pith note, which compliments the red cherry savor of the 7% red wine in the blend perfectly. The back end is extremely long and fine, with the chalk and presence that the best grand cru wines offer. It is composed of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay with 25% reserve wines. The red wine comes from an old-vine, mid-slope plantation called the Haie-la-Luc and is the limiting factor in the production.

Nicolas is very interested in isolating the best plots of his estate and bottling them separately. I am hoping that we will be able to secure a small allocation of some of his single vineyard wines on our next order. He even has one bottling, called Franc de Pied which is from an un-grafted plot planted on sandy soil in Ecuiel in 1973. Watch these pages for more news on this!

If you can make it to Redwood City this Friday, June 28th 2019, I will be pouring all four of his cuvée’s and talking about the wines for Champagne Friday. You can find out more on our local tasting page.

A toast to you!

—Gary Westby

Gary Westby