Walking through Julien Guillot's vineyards is like taking a trip back in time. The vines are all incredibly old, surrounded by an ancient Clos above which is a magical forest of old growth and stone dwellings. During our first visit Julien took us on an hour-long tour of the maze of vines and trees. It was another world. The Clos des Vignes du Maynes was first recorded on cadastral maps by Burgundian monks. Its origin dates back to 910, the year Cluny Abbey was founded by the Duke of Aquitaine. The domaine was originally owned by the seigneurs of the Château of Cruzille, and then belonged to a farming family for five generations before being bought by Pierre and Jeanne Guillot in 1952. The vineyard has never had any chemicals used on it and has always been farmed with the greatest respect for the earth. From the very outset, Pierre and Jeanne decided to make wine organically, without any chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, and minimal sulphur. Their son Alain later took over the domaine, continuing the same philosophy. As President of the French national federation of organic agriculture (FNAB), he was responsible for getting the AB (agriculture biologique) organic logo and standards recognized by the then Minister of Agriculture, Philippe Vasseur. His son Julien joined the domaine in 1998 and introduced the first biodynamic preparations. Julien officially took over in 2001 and decided to convert the entire vineyard of seven hectares to biodynamic farming.
Julien makes pure, terroir-driven wines that are meant to be shared and enjoyed. His wines reflect terroir as authentically as possible, so that the geology shows in each wine, whether it is granite, limestone or white clay. He considers the grape variety less important, because for him it simply acts as a vector for the terroir.
Julien vinifies as simply possible: native yeasts, no sulphur, no enzymes and no chemical additives. The wooden vats are cleaned thoroughly beforehand, and they are scrubbed with Marc de Bourgogne to stimulate the yeasts. During the harvest, which is all done by hand and placed in small containers, the team sorts the grapes meticulously in order not to damage them during their journey to the winery.
The reds undergo semi-carbonic maceration, using a very precise method that the Guillot's have perfected over three generations. The basic principle is to create a multi-layered ‘cake’ built up of alternate layers of whole clusters and destemmed grapes. The latter will produce the first juice, which will flow out, start fermenting, and thus activate the natural yeasts (with the sugars), which gives the body and smoothness that they are looking for in their wines. At the same time, because the vat is saturated with CO2, an intracellular fermentation also takes place, which brings the elegant floral aromas (rose and peony) that are typical of Pinot Noir. All red wines are then matured in barrels or wooden vats and left untouched until Easter. The racking is done when the moon is both waning and descending, in order for the wine to be as calm as possible and to avoid having to filter the wines. The wines are then assembled in one vat per cuvée and left to rest for two full moons. Unless absolutely necessary, they do not add any SO2 to the reds before bottling. The white wines are matured in large vats in order to maintain their freshness and the CO2 level and to avoid overpowering by oak notes.