One visit to Clos des Vignes du Maynes in southern Burgundy’s Mâconnais is all it takes to experience thousands of years of viticultural history. With remnants of an old Roman wall on the property, an 1100-year-old winemaking heritage dating back to the powerful medieval monks of Cluny, and nothing but selection massale to replant the vineyards (no clones), the Guillot family has every reason to believe that they are the oldest organically farmed winery in France. Julien Guillot is the contemporary steward of this land, worked by his family since 1954. That his grandfather was never seduced by the seemingly magical powers of chemical herbicides and pesticides at the height of their post-war popularity has allowed the Clos to be continuously run by nature’s good graces, abundant soil nutrients, and an ancient savoir faire passed down through generations of dutiful guardians.
Julien takes his role quite seriously. In 1998, he took the farming practices one step deeper into biodynamic viticulture, a much stricter approach to the science of organic farming that is thought to have been originally established by the Romans and perfected by the monks of Cluny. He is such an enthusiastic student of history that in 2009 and 2010, he reenacted a medieval harvest and the transportation of the barrels by oxcart to Cluny 9 months later. But as Julien notes, in those times, wines had an alcohol level of only 8%, which is one factor that led him to become interested in climate change.
With a legacy like Clos des Vignes du Maynes, in an area of Burgundy known for mass-produced, industrial wines, it’s easy to understand why Julien is such an advocate for tradition. The grapes are harvested by hand and fermented in old oak foudres. Fruit undergoes partial whole-cluster fermentation, without any additional sulfur or foreign yeast cultures, and Julien leaves the finished wines unfined and unfiltered to showcase the layers of fruit. With a few cuvees of Crémant de Bourgogne, a Bourgogne Rouge, a Chénas, and several cuvees of Mâcon-Cruzille Rouge and Blanc, the line-up at Clos des Vignes du Maynes goes deep and wide, offering a complex gustatory exploration of this special property and its uniquely preserved terroir.