It is nevertheless a winegrower amidst turmoil who speaks to us now. The ups and downs of the appellation and current criteria that dictate wine’s taste are likely to get the better of his 20 hectare estate, cultivated using organic methods since 1970 with the greatest respect for the consumer. We are going to take a close look at a resistant of the Bordeaux winegrowing area who, for several years now, has been raising the alarm about the dangers of standardisation in the wine world and the survival of small producers…. Paying tribute to the values of the past that established the grandeur of Bordeaux wines, Jean-Marc Maugey, quoting Alain Marty (author of “Ils vont tuer le vin français” (they are going to kill French wine), published by Ramsay in 2004), calls for an acknowledgement of existence for noble, original, authentic wines: in a nutshell, those that possess true character.
Organic growing: a fashionable subject?
Jean-Marc Maugey did not wait for the relatively recent trend of organic growing methods to set his standards of production at a very high level! For Jean-Marc Maugey, wine represents life; it is a source of nourishment which, in order to provide its benefits, must be comprised of perfectly wholesome elements produced by healthy soils. This seems quite evident, but not if we judge by some areas cultivated in France and the real convictions that underlie producers’ activities. “It’s an attitude which must guide our way of life and the way we eat and drink, our love of nature and our respect for others” asserts this former biodynamics expert. And he proves it: for all his wines (his Table wine, “Vin de la Liberté”, as well as for Château Busqueyron and Château Maugey, both produced in red and white), no use of ascorbic or sorbic acid is allowed. By spraying solely ‘Bordeaux mixture’, he nevertheless produces exceptional, silky wines of tremendous character, which impress you right from the first sip with their minerality and they plainly reveal the flavour of naturally grown fruit.
A type of logic that is running out of steam
Nonetheless, he knows that organic growing implies a higher cost price, lower yields and it also means that the fruit must retain its essential qualities; authentic, not enriched, these wines clearly reflect what has been bestowed by weather conditions and the terroir.
It is a frankness which has difficulty in aligning itself with the demands of the INAO (National Institute of Appellations of Origin) and the ‘Maison de la Qualité’ (Appellation Wine House), whose standards of quality track down any signs of harshness, herby, vegetal hints or drying characteristics on the palate…
Two perceptions of quality which are at times conflicting… “People’s palates have changed” Jean-Marc Maugey thinks. Influenced by a particular rating system and certain methods too, “wine-making has evolved too quickly” he regrets. In a world of uniform taste, what place is there for a wine that tastes earthy and has hints of undergrowth?
Is it a case of one against all?
Jean-Marc Maugey is a member of ‘CIVAM Bio 33’, a centre for creating new developments to promote agriculture and the rural environment. This estate is fairly recent: having taken over the family business in 1987, he set up Château Maugey in 1996, motivated by Hardy Rodenstock, a well-known and extravagant German wine collector. It was during one of the large tasting events organised by Hardy Rodenstock that Jean-Marc Maugey was able to taste some Margaux 1900, Chatêau Latour 1965 and wines from Château Lafitte… “These absolutely rare bottles were magical” Jean-Marc Maugey remembers. Since that memorable time, he has set himself the goal of producing long-ageing wines, potentially for a hundred years, made as they were at the beginning of the last century. Does he feel like a complete oddity in the modern world of French winegrowing? “Wine represents an art of living, it should inspire confidence, reflect respect for others; I want to make wines that express their true character” he replies simply. Determined to prove this to readers of SommelierS International, he organised a vertical tasting for us!