Jean Maupertuis along with several winemakers brought a new impulse in the Auvergne wines, which were until then mostly centered on the Coopérative de Saint Verny (which is co-owned by Limagrain, an agro-industrial giant of the seeds sector). The Coop will no doubt remain the heavyweight in Auvergne in terms of volumes but that's with people like Jean Maupertuis that the region's wines were noticed across France and abroad.
Jean Maupertuis was working in the computer sector in his previous life when he took a small vineyard with a friend in nearby Mirefleurs, this vineyard and winemaking thing pleased him, so he quit his IT job and went to Macon-Davayé in the Beaujolais for a degree in the wine school. While there, he met another student, Eric Macé who was already aware of the burgeoning culture of what we call the natural wines. Eric was already sommelier at the time (he opened since a string of wine shops/wine bars, la Cave du Sommelier in Brittany) but he had still decided to follow a training at Davaillé. This was in 1992, 1993, and Eric, who was already friend with several inspirators of this new wave including Marcel Lapierre and Pierre Overnoy, opened a window on new perspectives for Jean Maupertuis in tems of winemaking. They often visited some of these vignerons, especially Lapierre where they dropped all the time, sometimes with 4 or 5 people and this would be hours of good time tasting the wines in the cellar and discussing winemaking issues... When they visited Lapierre for the décuvage (when the grape are emptied manually from the carbonic-maceration vats and filled into the vertical press), that was also an experience, he remembers a 8-hour visit with the press being activated a bit tighter every 15 minutes, with good wine and some pâté de tête (pork head meat pie) at hand...
For the history, Jean also took part later to the adventures of the Domaine de Peyra, which was the result of the collaboration of several winemakes including himself. There was Eric Garnier who was beginning to farm a vineyard in the vicinity at the same time and whom he saw often, plus Stéphane Majeune who came regularly to help in the vineyard. Jean tipped them about a long barn near his facility which was available and where they could do something in common. There was also Jacques Néauport (dubbed bidasse in the milieu) who came here several times then, he had worked with Jules Chauvet and had given some advices to Marcel Lapierre. Once, they were having dinner, the four of them around the table, and they sort of decided to start something. Stéphane went to Davaillé (the wine school) in the Beaujolais to complete his training and they opened the Domaine Peyra in 1999. This was a separate estate from Jean's own winery, and it worked from purchased grapes coming from the partners. Peyra which closed down some time ago (2006) has produced beautiful wines and still shines with an aura among the wine lovers.
On Guillame, the soil is quite poor with limestone and marls. On Pierres Noires, the slope sits on clays with volcanic stones and basaltic debris resulting from the inversion of the geologic layers in a distant past.
The press on the picture above is an old Vaslin press which was in there when he took over this winery. It does a good job, he says, if you don't rack too much the must and the grape clusters during the pressing. Also, he avoids pushing up the pressure on this press because it would yield too much extraction.
That's for the reds, but this year he put the Chardonnay in casks.
The white is easier to get clear of its turbidity in the casks, but you'll also see some turbidity in the bottles, albeit a lighter one.
About the sulfites, Jean Maupertuis says that he never used any SO2 during the vinification. At the beginning when he started this winery, he added some sulfur either at racking or at bottling. Then in 1997 he began to make some sulfur-free cuvées and he later generalized this SO2-free winemaking as there hadn't been any backlash from this. When they had the Peyra winery running, they also had totally sulfur-free cuvées and others with a bit of SO2. From 2000 he says, either at Peyra or in his own production, there hasn't been any SO2 added in the red wines. For the rosé, the gris, he may use some, not sure yet. Last year, he also didn't add any in the rosé. It depends if the malo gets completed or not. If the wine for some reason doesn't make its malolactic fermentation, he would add some SO2 so that this malo doesn't try to start untimely. Until 1999 they had also some filtration at Peyra and here, a service company cale with a filtration system with clay, but this was long time ago.
We tasted a few wines of course during this visit:
__ Jean Maupertuis Gamay 2010, strait from the maceration vat (picture below). From the Guillaume vineyard. The nose has acidulous aromas. Mouth very candy like, fruit with sugar. Remains 20 grams of sugar he says. The harvest began october 8th and lasted until oct 18th. Jean says that he'll press these whole-culstered grapes next monday when the juice will be at 1000, now it's 1005, it'll have made 17 days of maceration.
__ Jean Maupertuis Pierres Noires, from a cement vat too. Took one week to begin to ferment. He'll de-vat these grapes after all saints' day (this visit took place late october) after 23 days of maceration. He weighs the wine in front of us (see a previous picture), it makes 1047.
__ Jean Maupertuis Gamay 2008, from a cask. It's rare, he says, that he keeps the wine two years in a cask. He had 3 or 4 casks of this Gamay and he decided to keep one of them longer. In there, there are a few Pinot Noir grapes and a few Mirefleurien grapes, a darker type of local variety. The mouth is tannic with acidity. He plans to bottle that soon.
__ Jean Maupertuis Pierres Noires. Gamay 2008, from a bottle. Labelled as Vin de France (table wine). 5/6000 bottles a year of this. Jammy nose (strawberries), the mouth is still tannic with a peppery side. Jean says that it's the typical result of Gamay growing on volcanic soil. This was bottled end of march 2010. It fermented in cement vat, then élevage in fiber vat.
__ Jean Maupertuis Guillaume 2005, Gamay. 3/4000 bottles a year. Quite good. Gentle nose and nice peppery feel, I swallow. Turbid with color on the salmon side. Never saw any SO2, like the other reds.
__ Jean Maupertuis Pink Bulles Vin de France 2009. Natural sparkling. Gamay rosé. Surary but nice drink, remains 10 grams maybe. He'll try to make 2500/3000 bottles of this this year.
Jean Maupertuis takes part to a couple wine fairs, Vin Nature en Nord in Lille every march, les Dix Vins Cochons in Chateldon (very soon, dec 2nd) and Vini Circus near Rennes.
Otherwise, he sells to a good number of cavistes and wine bars in Paris : le Baratin, Caves Augé, le Verre Volé, Autour d'Un Verre, Bistrot Paul Bert, au Tonneau des Halles, le Chateaubriand, les Fines Gueules, le Bistral, le Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, le Vin en Tête, L'Amuse Vin, Cave Au Bon Plaisir, Crus et Découvertes, Que du Bon, La Robe et le Palais and a few others...
Jean Maupertuis exports his wines to Canada (Quebec - Plan Vin, British Columbia - Racine Wine Imports), the United States (Dressner Selections), the United Kingdom (Caves de Pyrène), Belgium (Troca Vins Naturels), Holland (Wijnvriend and Vleck), Japan (eno-connexion), Spain (Bodega Cigalena - Santander). His wine is also served at the Bistrot de la Poste in Brussels. The guy there was the chief sommelier of the French presidential palace (l'Elisée) under Jacques Chirac and he introduced many natural wines in the wine list of the Palais de l'Elysée....
Picture on the left : the church (made partly with volcanic stones) at Saint Georges sur Allier.
Here is a page with satellite view of the village. You can click and enlarge, Jean's facility is in the middle of the village (hard to guess when you're not aware), just north of a sandy square where a red car and a white car are parked (with the shadow of the church tower on the lower right of the parking lot)...