Following a dream to make wines from Pinot Noir, specifically in its spiritual home of Burgundy, is a relatively common afflication. Several British, American and Australian winemakers have set up shop on the famous golden slopes, to see if they can capture the magic of Pinot – and Chardonnay – grown on these soils.
Success has varied, and some inevitably fall by the wayside. Although Burgundy’s wines can demand high prices, it is also an extremely expensive wine region in which to buy land, or quality grapes, and accessing either is complex and difficult. Pinot in particular is also notoriously fickle, so it can be difficult to make great wines vintage after vintage. Add to that, that many of these dream-followers are working on a micro-scale, producing just hundreds of bottles of each cuvée, and there are many dangers lurking.
One UK ex-pat with already 14 years under his belt is Michael Ragg. Michael had been gainfully employed for a decade by London wine merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd, when in 2003 he shipped himself off to Burgundy with the idea of making wine. His soon to be wife, Fiona, had also spent time working with BBR, and together the couple set up home in the village of Aloxe-Corton
They founded Mischief and Mayhem as a tiny négociant operation, buying, maturing and bottling young wines, but the couple have since acquired vineyards of their own, gradually pieced together over the past 15 years. A parcel on home turf in Aloxe-Corton came first, to be followed over the years with small plots in Savigny-lès-Beaune Premier Cru Aux Gravains, and more recently, a small site in Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Referts. Now, as both micro-négoce and domaine, there is a large and ever-chaging portfolio, largely dependent on the quality of fruit they can source.
The couple practice sustainable and organic viticulture, using little brand new oak, and emphasising attention to detail. They describe Mischief and Mayhem as “A gradual process, a labour of love – indeed a lifetime’s work.”
Please note that Mischief and Mayhem do not have retail distribution in the UK at time of this review, but will sell direct from the domaine. I have given approximate indicative prices. Contact sales director Joss Fowler via mischiefandmayhem.com/contact.
(2019) We rarely see Aligoté - Burgundy's 'other' white grape - on the shelves very often, and that's a great pity when it is as delicious as this. With only 12% alcohol I guess it was picked fairly early, and that has given it terrific vim and vigour, despite a certain creamy leesiness on the nose and a generous breadth of fruit on the palate. But it tightens up smartly, saline and citrus peel pushing through, into a long and balanced finish in a very moreish wine - especially with richer seafood dishes, fish pies and the like.
(2019) Like the Bourgogne Pinot, the oak treatment here is very light, and the vines are old again, on average 40 years old. It has a creamy and lightly nutty nose, a touch of almond or oatmeal to ripe, mellow apple fruit. On the palate the acidity gives tension and freshness, the oak a little nutty underpinning, but the savoury and sweet fruit on the mid-palate is very moreish and approachable, in a lovely Chardonnay similar to good examples from the Mâconnaise perhaps.
(2019) Moving south of the Côte d'Or and into Beaujolais for this Cru Brouilly wine, 100% Gamay and from a very good year, and made in stainless steel tanks. Beautifully expressive nose, all violets and lifted rose and cherry scents, there's a sense of real ripeness here, even touching on blackcurrant, and something gently spicy or smoky. In the mouth plenty of bouyant fruit, lithe and fresh with pert acidity and a nice rasp of tannins to show its more serious side, this is lovely and savoury Beaujolais of excellent quality. It finishes with a lick of spice and good fruit concentration.
(2019) Even in this Bourgogne Pinot, the average vine age is 45 years. The wine had a "light barrel treatment." The colour is pale garnet, the nose offering briar and brushwood, some rose hip and delicate cherryish fruit. The pure, sweet, ripeness of the fruit as it strikes the palate is remarkable, a silky, almost confiture red berry fruit, but some more earthy and a savoury acid edge cuts through, tannin and a bit of spice too, in a very good and quite complex Bourgogne of high qualty.
(2019) Les Bas Liards is a lieux-dit, a named parcel of vines within the village of Savigny-lès-Beaune, in this case 46-year-old vines and fermented in open-top fermenters with partial whole bunches before a year in second-fill oak. There's a ripeness here, a touch of blackcurrant and kirsch, and a woody twang of something briary and spicy. Quite an exotic background note of Sandalwood too, a touch of earthiness, in a complex picture. The palate has a clear, pure juiciness of fruit, nimble and sprightly due to the crisp and tangy acids and neatly-framed tannins. It is mouth-filling nevertheless with its rounded mid-palate fruit, and satisfyingly long finish.
(2019) Pinot Noir really is 'Vieilles Vignes' for this wine, with an average vine age of 50 years. Aged 16 months in barrel and coming from a very good vintage, there is solidity and concentration here, but no lack of charm, as indeed the perfume of the wine is lovely, suggestions of old roses and violet, a touch of red liquorice and composed berry fruit. In the mouth this has some weight and again, obvious concentration, there is a nice rasp of plum-skin tannin and acidity, but good fruit sweetness, the dry finish still tannic and youthful, but finishing on fruit and tangy acidity. Should develop nicely over the next decade. Note the price and stockist given at time of review are for the 2015 vintage.