eing a winemaker is about creating pleasure for other people. That's how Michel Mallard at Domaine Michel Mallard in Ladoix-Serrigny views his occupation. Having said that, he stresses that he makes the wines he likes himself. He does not go for a particular style just because people happen to like it. You can't please everyone, so the best thing you can do is to be true to yourself.
– I'm the third generation here, explains Michel Mallard. My grandfather started to bottle and my father started to export. I succeeded my father in 2005 and I am also working for Domaine Engel in Vosne-Romanée.
Today Domaine Michel Mallard covers 13 hectares and 16 appellations, mainly around the Corton hill. It was founded by Michel Mallard's grandfather, also named Michel Mallard, in 1952. The domaine is located along the D974 that runs straight through Ladoix-Serrigny. In recent years the cellars has been renovated and enlarged. The whole process is now done by the use of gravity; there is no pumping of the wine.
The wine portfolio of Domaine Michel Mallard ranges from the basics such as Bourgogne Aligoté and Bourgogne Blanc up to the four Cortons – Les Renardes, Le Rognet, Les Marechaudes and Corton-Charlemagne.
– We use 70 to 90 percent new oak for the grand crus, says Michel Mallard as he is walking around the cellars of the domaine. For the village wines we use 20 percent. For the barrels I prefer the medium toast. I don't like the heavy toast.
The majority of the wines are red. Apart from the regional whites there is a minuscule amount of Corton-Charlemagne and the not so often seen white Ladoix.
– We don't release the wines very quickly, which means that we store a lot of wine, says Michel Mallard. We have actually just released the 2003's.
– We make wines that are not very approachable when young. But we think that burgundies have a potential to age, so we prefer to make wines that will develop. It's like a person that goes from being a child, becoming an adult.
Michel Mallard is 31 years old. He has been in the cellars ever since he was a toddler. At a very tender age he was even "baptized" in wine as he fell into one of the vats.
– I thought I should start my career from the inside, he smiles.
– I studied for very long (in Bordeaux), until I was 27, he continues. I worked in Bordeaux for a year and a half. Then I went to Perpignan (in Roussillon) for four months and to Australia for four months. After that I returned home for the 2005 vintage, before I went back Australia again.
– I'm not sure I learnt so much there, he says about Australia. But it is always a good opportunity to open your mind. We all use the same techniques when we make wine, but people have to realize that you have to adopt to each vintage; use this technique this year and another one another year.
Still he thinks that the Australians are at the forefront when it comes to winemaking. They don't have any rules and are always willing to try new things. He stresses that, as a winemaker, you always have to question yourself and what you are doing. If you are not doing that you will not be able to move forward.
– What is good one year may not necessarily be good the next year, Michel Mallard explains.
For a long time Domaine Michel Mallard has been harvesting by machine. When the majority of the producers along the Côte d'Or pride themselves in harvesting by hand this domaine has decided to go the other way.
– We were the first in the Côte d'Or to do so, says Michel Mallard. That way we can pick the grapes whenever we want. At harvest time we can pick some grapes first, then stop and wait. Then we can continue picking and stop when it is necessary. We don't have 60 people in the courtyard that we have to ask to wait for three days.
He describes it as a nightmare, employing people for the harvest. Instead of the flexibility he wants he feels that he gets tied up in all the rules that come with being an employer. Harvesting by machine gives him the freedom to work early mornings, late nights and long days.
– If we are in a rush we can pick everything in three days, he says.
– That day you start to pick is the most important. When you start picking you have thrown the dice. After that the grapes will not ripen any more. If you start picking to early you will have to compensate for what you have lost once you start making the wine. Everything I do is aimed to make the next step easier.
For Burgundy as a region Michel Mallard is optimistic. There is a new generation of winemakers coming forward now that he thinks is interesting.
– But some of my friends are still doing what their grandfathers did, he says looking less optimistic.
There is also a need to promote Ladoix-Serrigny and its wines. Much is done, but more is needed. Michel Mallard says that many people don't even know that it is in Burgundy, not to mention at the foot of the Corton hill.
– My goal is to make Mallard a brand, to make it a proof of quality, he says. By doing that it will be easier to sell the wines from Ladoix.
© 2007 Ola Bergman