Profile: Maison Mischief & Mayhem (Aloxe-Corton)

Update 23.9.2011(1.8.2006)billn

ragg & twelftree

Mischief and Mayhem – M&M – the creation of two Michaels; to the left Ragg and to the right Twelftree.

Australian, Michael Twelftree, was drawn to the wine industry despite a background in construction; he had spent years collecting and enjoying wines so in 1998 he decided to establish his own wine export company to send Australian wine to the US. Three years, and not a little success, prompted Michael to start, together with a partner, his own wine-making operation in the Barossa: Two Hands Wines

Brit, Michael Ragg, entered the wine business direct from university in 1995. He applied for, and achieved a position in Berry Bros & Rudd, wine-merchants to royalty. He was a little surprised to be chosen for the position at their London St.James store, but being a clever chap he did eventually work out what his advantage was – fresh from university, he was cheap!

First steps…

It’s not yet apparent to me which Michael is ‘mischief’ and which is ‘mayhem’ – but I’m sure I’ll work it out eventually. The two had been long-time acquaintances, and in September 2004 decided that, following the path trodden by Two Hands, why not do something just as exciting in Burgundy. The business was registered in January 2005 and is entirely driven by the two partner’s contacts; Michael(T)’s trade and distribution contacts – particularly for the US – and Michael(R)’s producer contacts. Although he’s based in Australia, Twelftree spends and inordinate amount of time at 36,000 feet, but it is Ragg, 100% based in Aloxe-Corton, that is the main contact maker with growers and the man who sources the barrels.

back labelThe concept was not just to sell and perhaps eventually to make wines, but in the process, and from a novice consumer’s perspective, try to make a complex region a little easier to understand. To start with, it’s rare to find back-labels on bottles of Burgundy, so labels with good information about the wine and where it comes from (etc.) are pretty much a novelty – this was to be M&M’s starting-point. Certainly it’s a little simplistic, particularly when you find exactly the same text on two different Puligny 1ers – but you have to start somewhere – so credit where credit’s due.

Whilst Burgundy (aided by an unprecedented run of fine vintages) slowly – and sometimes painfully – starts to shrug off its ‘minefield’ image, the boys at M&M still hope to take away some of the perceived Burgundy-buying lottery; reasonably priced bottles of consistent quality is an admirable aim – particularly when sourced 2-3 barrels at a time from a small producer – but, in practice, that’s quite a challenge when Michael(R) says the aim is also to ‘over-deliver’ (quality-wise) with the village appellations. Interestingly, it turns out that the challenge is not just the quality of the wine; without recourse to a bottling facility, you end up with all sorts of shapes, sizes and weights of bottles (as used by each domaine), Michael(R) conceded that finding a label size that would fit all options was an unexpectedly time-consuming project! Interestingly those first released bottles also showed the name of the producer, but that only served to advertise who was selling the barrels and increasing competition for the following vintage! Talking of those first vintages; good wine was hard to come by – most of the better 2002’s were already sold and the 2003’s were in very short supply – still the 2004’s are going well, and M&M’s Bourgogne Blanc is already long-since sold-out.

Next steps…

With the 2004’s, for the first time M&M were able to use a new bottling facility in Beaune – out were the different bottle shapes, in were better economics and full control for selecting corks etc.! In 2004 there were 12 different cuvées – even (apparently) by popular demand a Chablis. 2005 could see 15-20 cuvées, though not all may be exported.

Both M’s are now looking to bring a little of Australia to the Côte d’Or – or maybe I should say ‘Cellar d’Or’. At the time of my visit in May, a cellar door facility was being constructed – hopefully to open in the late summer. The plan is to serve and sell wines in good condition and in comfortable surroundings to the passing Aloxe tourists. There is one additional benefit too; new relationships with new growers does not always, at the start, bring multiple barrels. For export the business really requires 2-3 barrel lots, here is a ready-made outlet for those ‘early relationship’ wines. Further ahead, who knows, they might even start buying grapes… Did I mention the wines?

The wines

These wines are exactly my preferred style; clean and aromatic with a lovely core of acidity and little overt barrel influence – as Michael(R) says about their oak philosophy; ‘it’s like salt in cooking, we all know it’s there, but we don’t want to taste it‘. The important thing about these bottles is that they are interesting – each bottle tells a different story. If they are destined mainly for the restaurant trade they are a safe bet – at least in 2004. Most bottles are destined for the US and Canada, but Australia and the UK also see a few bottles.

2004 Mischief & Mayhem, Puligny-Montrachet
A fresh, interesting and rounded nose. In the mouth the overall impression is also one of roundness, well-textured, with well-endowed concentration that bursts through on the mid-palate. Tasty and interesting.
2004 Mischief & Mayhem, Meursault
Pear fruit plus an extra density on the nose vs the villages Puligny – though perhaps a little tighter. Lovely, wide fresh palate. The acidity is much more forward, indeed racy vs the Puligny, giving the impression of extra length, but without that wine’s late kick of concentration. The acidity masks the weight of this a little.
2004 Mischief & Mayhem, Puligny-Montrachet 1er La Garenne
Ebullient, wide and interesting nose that’s wide in perspective and shows a hint of mint. It does, unfortunately, become a little more diffuse as it sits in the glass – I should have come back to it, as others that did this also tightened-up again. In the mouth I’m very impressed, concentrated, linear and very mineral – wow. Good acidity and long too, a sleek and super wine.
2004 Mischief & Mayhem, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Refferts
A much deeper nose of exotic hardwood that also becomes diffuse, but then tightens again to show a creamy edge. Weightier and less mineral than the Garenne, the presentation is rounder – again a creamy edge but with ‘just right’ acidity. The action for this wine is all at the front-end – particularly as the nose tightens and becomes more interesting – super – but completely different to the Garenne
2004 Mischief & Mayhem, Meursault 1er Genevrières
It’s a ‘warm’ concentrated and ripe nose that starts wide rather than deep. Time in the glass shows a little baked bread and even a little caramel. Soft and well-textured palate, there’s fat, but it’s well-cut by the acidity – acidity that pushes the admirable finish even longer. A very nice wine.
2004 Mischief & Mayhem, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Cazetiers
Medium cherry-red. The nose starts a little tight and mineral, under-pinned by faint but gradually intensifying sweet-edged red fruit – eventually it shows as quite focused red cherry and even a little redcurrant and cream – super. Good concentration, the tannins are relatively fine-grained. There is plenty of dimension to the fruit and nice acidity that helps to etch the flavours into your palate – finishes well. The overall effect is of a quite savoury wine – unlike the sea of sweetness from 2003 – well done.

Mischief and Mayhem
10 Impasse du Puits
21420 Aloxe-Corton, France
Tel : (33) 380 26 46 35
Fax : (33) 380 20 70 62

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