Michael & Fiona Ragg
Michael & Fiona's Wines
- 3 wines
- 2 styles
Talented English émigrés who broke into the exclusive Burgundy club with their super-high-quality, artisan wines
The Raggs have been producing super-posh Burgundy kit since 2004, when they first crossed the channel to turn this famous French region into their home away from home.
Burgundy is one of the most celebrated yet traditional wine regions on the planet, which can make it very tough for outsiders like Michael and Fiona to break through. But having started from square one, they’ve now grown their Mischief and Mayhem winery into a fully-fledged Domaine with some of the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the world. They're practically honorary French at this point.
While the locals might scratch their heads at some of the new and exotic approaches this English pair take in the vineyard, one thing they definitely recognise is the quality of the wines they’re making - it’s truly artisan, hand-crafted, world-class stuff.
Michael & Fiona Ragg's Story
Michael and Fiona's Story
Mischief and Mayhem is a winery, micro-négociant and Domaine, created from scratch, and now with 18 vintages under its belt. Fiona and Michael have lived permanently in the village of Aloxe-Corton since their move here in 2003. Little by little, over the intervening years, they have established a progressive, artisanal winery, dedicated to producing wines of the highest quality from across the Côte d'Or, encompassing many of the world's greatest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards.
Starting as a micro-négociant, producing a small number of wines from key villages, they have gradually grown, and developed an increasing number of close relationships with growers across the region. This has allowed them to produce a broader range of wines from both fabled, and lesser-known villages, and gain a greater understanding of these individual plots and vines.
The company achieved full Domaine status in 2012 with the purchase of a small plot in Aloxe-Corton Les Caillettes. An additional vineyard in Savigny-lès-Beaune Premier Cru Aux Gravains was added to the portfolio in 2013 and more recently, a small but exceptional site in Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Referts. They practice sustainable and organic viticulture, keep yields low in the vineyards, hand pick all grapes, and be as precise, delicate, and non-interventionalist as possible in the winery. They use very little new oak for élevage, and most recently have begun experimenting more with stainless steel and ceramic vessels, so as to better preserve the true characteristics of the fruit that they work with.These components all combine together and contribute to the creation of wines that are truly natural, pure and individual expressions of both grape variety and vineyard site.
Michael - 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. Whilst 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 so our friends and neighbours here in the region.
Fiona - A love of the outdoors and farming. A combination of science ( the biological sciences ) and art ( all aspects of the winemaking ). It is such a varied and invigorating métier. One is working with nature and striving to protect it. One is creating something unique that, one day, another human will consume. That is both exciting, stimulating and a responsibility. Quite an achievement for a girl from Essex !
We have always felt that the most wonderful aspect of the job, indeed way of life, stems from the parcels of land that we are able to work with. One feels a deep sense of humility and responsibility, inherent in cultivating vines in the world’s greatest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this to us personally. There is also that feeling of pleasure that is derived from creating something unique, and knowing that many different people, most of whom we will never hear of or meet, have enjoyed the wines that we have put so much love, time and effort into making.
What makes our wines special? In equal importance, soils, grapes and the winemaking itself. This might not seem an especially revelatory answer, but it is these three components that make the wines special. Clearly the three are inter-related. We have already referenced that the vineyards ( soils ) are the greatest in the world for the two varietals with which we work, namely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We strive to improve the soils in the way that we care for them, and this in turn translates into the character and quality of the fruit. The individual parcels, which produce fruit for each wine, have their own unique character and energy.
Attention to detail, bordering on the fanatical, is also of relevance when one considers the winemaking. Producing small volumes of individual wines allows for this approach. The detail and care that goes into each wine would be impossible to replicate for larger commercial batches. The purity of each wine is also special, and we strive to make sure that each is as clear a reflection of its respective vineyard site as possible.
It has become almost a cliché to refer to wines as hand-made, but our wines truly are. One sees brands that are referenced in the wine press, with a production volume in the tens of thousands of cases, referenced as “ small-production “ or “ hand-crafted “, which is largely meaningless. Large volume does not have to mean poor quality, that’s for sure but ( big but ) the question is “ what makes your wines special “ and one of the principal parts of any answer to that has to be the truly artisanal way in which we make them. We often use culinary analogies. Bulk wines can be equated to ready meals – easy to prepare and really pretty good. Our wines, and truly artisanal wines in general, can be equated to baking a souflée – a lot of risk, extremely challenging, no safety net, but outstanding when executed perfectly.
Our passion is for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Predominantly for reasons of breadth of style, purity and complexity. Our preferred style would generally be lean, clean, pure and mineral for our whites, with a huge focus on acidity – so important. Not dis-similar attributes for the reds actually, ripe but not confected with good definition and minerality too. Why ? Well because these components, in the right balance, will give the most pleasure and also reflect the characteristics of both the varietal and vineyard.
Many tales of joy and sorry! Each vintage brings joy, albeit in different ways.
One vivid memory, dates to 14th July 2009 ( Bastille Day ). From a commercial standpoint the year had been pretty appalling – the midst of the global financial crisis – and together we had come to the conclusion, stated out loud that…” things can’t really get much worse “. 15 minutes later the house was hit by lightning ! Not exactly sorrow, but a reminder to be grateful for what one has at any given time.
We don’t feel like strangers in our region. We have felt welcome and indeed settled from spring of 2003 when we first moved here. However, no getting away from it, we are English, in an extremely traditional and conservative French region. We have become used to much mystified shaking of the head when we meet our friends and neighbours in vineyards and explain, or try to, the rationale of what we are doing.
Many memorable moments, some exciting and some scary ! We recently tasted all of our 2020 wines in barrel with our winemaking mentor a well-known local superstar, who shall go unnamed. At the conclusion of the tasting he turned to Fiona, nodded, and said that the wines were “ pas mal “, meaning “ not bad “ ! Massive moment.