Q&A with Mischief and Mayhem
Michael Ragg and Fiona Traill-Stevenson, a husband-and-wife team from England, moved to Burgundy almost 20 years ago. Their passion for wine, and Burgundy in particular, led them to found Mischief & Mayhem, a winery, estate and micro-négociant.
Michael and Fiona taste many base wines from barrel every single year and select them based on quality and value. In addition, their selections are terroir-specific, reflecting the true characteristics of their respective vineyard sites. The concept of Mischief & Mayhem is to produce excellent wines from a broad variety of vineyard sites throughout Burgundy. The small size of many of the top vineyards from which Fiona and Michael source fruit means that M&M wines can only be produced in modest quantity. This guarantees great quality, from their Cellar Door in Aloxe-Corton to our Members in Canada. Read on to learn about about this new Opimian producer.
How did you get started in the wine business? Did you encounter roadblocks on your journey?
M: I entered the wine business in the time-honoured way as a junior apprentice in a commercial wine cellar, specifically the renowned London merchant Berry Bros and Rudd (BB&R). It was a phenomenal place to work and learn, with virtually unrivalled opportunities to taste many of the world’s great wines. While Bordeaux was a cornerstone of the company’s business, it was Burgundy that became my passion. After nearly 10 years with BB&R I decided to move to Burgundy and start my own business from scratch. Nearly everyone I have encountered throughout my career in the wine business has always been encouraging, and more than happy to pass on their knowledge and experience, especially our friends and neighbours here in the region.
What attracted you to Burgundy in the first place?
M & F: The world’s greatest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards. Not a particularly original answer but critically important. The beauty of the region itself. The people also – my (MLR) experience of visiting many Burgundy producers for a number of years left me with a deep impression of how open, knowledgeable, generous and passionate most growers here are.
Where does the name Mischief & Mayhem come from?
M: It reflects the character of two English winemakers who perhaps caused a little bit of a stir arriving in a traditional region and unashamedly aiming to emulate some of the established superstars by creating their own label. It is also reflective of the journey. If Fiona and I had thought too hard about this and analysed all of the pitfalls and risks of setting up a winery in Burgundy then we would never have moved here at all! So there is an element of what I might call constructive anarchy to the name. Irrespective of that, we have the greatest possible respect for the region and its vineyards and consider it a privilege to do what we do.
Tell us about your favourite AOC/AOPs and what make them special?
M & F: That’s too big a question! Just a few…the general stylistic profile of the various Puligny-Montrachet sites, and the balance of the resultant wines, specifically the acidic core and minerality – that I find really special. The sheer complexity of these sites too – our own Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts would be a case in point. I have a soft spot for Aloxe-Corton too. Not only have we lived here for 18 years, but the delicious wines are still relatively under the radar. Likewise, Savigny-les-Beaune, although over the last 10 years people have been waking up to the fact that there are some outstanding wines from the village. Our own Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru Aux Gravains is a wonderful site. Certain parts of the Corton-Charlemagne vineyard and Clos de la Roche are also really special.
How many people work on the estate? Which winemaking techniques do you use?
F: We have a small team and Michael is in charge! We deploy organic and biodynamic winemaking techniques in the vineyards and in the cuverie. We always get our hands (and feet!) involved in the process. We try to use less new oak for our wines as well as experimenting with more stainless steel.
What do you enjoy most about being a winemaker?
F: I have always thought the most wonderful gift was a patch of land… both feet on the earth and your head in the stars. Also, the pleasure derived from creating something unique, and knowing that many different people, most of whom we will never meet, have enjoyed the wines that we have put so much love, time and effort into making.
Which winemaking traditions, if any, are most important to you?
F: Respecting the soil, respecting the vines, while maintaining the classic Burgundian principles; searching for harmony, purity, and elegance.
What bottle is open in your kitchen right now?
M & F: Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2019.
What are Mischief & Mayhem’s core values?
M & F: To strive for quality in all aspects of our work. Brilliance simplified.