Friday, July 12, 2013

Tasting 3 Red Paul Mas Wines from the Languedoc in the South of France

Picture: The 3 Paul Mas Wines I tasted

Domaines Paul Mas is one of the main estates in the South of France. The Mas family has been cultivating grapes in Languedoc since 1892. In 2000, Jean-Claude Mas, the current owner and winemaker, took over. Jean-Claude Mas: “While respecting our rural roots and preserving our environment, we highlight our exceptional and diverse terroirs, we craft our wines with creativity, authenticity, and refinement, with the goal of making great wines that will give you a unique moment, rich in emotions: this is real luxury!”

Over the last decade, Jean-Claude Mas has significantly grown and enhanced Domaines Paul Mas with the acquisition of several properties throughout the Languedoc. Today, Domaines Paul Mas is made up of 320 hectares of owned vineyards and 800 ha of contracted vineyards.

The 3 Wines

I tasted 3 wines.

2011 Paul Mas Estate, Malbec, Guardemiel Vineyard 

IGP Pays d’Oc
100% Malbec

A generous, fruit-driven single vineyard wine, deep red in color with intense purple hues. This wine has an excellent structure, velvety texture, and a nice acidity combined with softness and flavors of ripe berries, thyme, rosemary, and juniper berry bushes. Bold and delicious, this is a Malbec which is Frenchly exotic!

2011 Paul Mas Estate, Pinot Noir St. Hilaire Vineyard 

IGP d’Aude
100% Pinot Noir

Elegant aromas of red berries, strawberry, cherry and soft spices with a hint of vanilla. A medium-bodied wine with ripe tannins and acidity, flavors of redcurrant and plum and a long lasting finish of clove and vanilla.

2011 Domaines Paul Mas, Château Paul Mas - Clos de Savignac 

Coteaux du Languedoc AOP
Mourvèdre (50%), Syrah (30%) and Grenache (20%)

A generous, fruit-driven single vineyard wine, garnet red in color with intense purple hues. Infused with complex aromas of violet, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and notes of blackberry. Well structured and opulent with rich tannins. Its strong fruity mouthfeel leads to a complex, full bodied finish.

Nick Goodway, London Evening Standard (19 May 2011)

“I witnessed a revolution this week in the South of France, where the Old World is fighting back against the New World of wine. It's a revolution that is being firmly supported by Majestic Wine, where chief executive Steve Lewis and his team of buyers are convinced that a new breed of vignerons in the Languedoc has successfully taken the fight not only to their better-known northern compatriots in Burgundy and Bordeaux but also to the New World.

In less than 24 hours, I sampled or drank no fewer than 43 different wines (somebody has to do it). These ranged from simple quaffing clean whites to highly complex reds with real legs. They bore no relationship to the wines of Languedoc I remembered from the 1980s and 1990s when Corbière, Pays de l'Hérault and Pays d'Oc were thin, cheap and pretty nasty.

Today, there are men on a mission to restore the wines of the region and put them back where they belong. These are the likes of Gérard Bertrand, a former French international rugby player, and Jean Claude Mas who studied for his MBA at Aston University in Birmingham.

Both are the sons of vignerons, but in the few years they have run their businesses they have taken them from small local winemakers to medal-winning estates with numerous vineyards. They produce many different varieties, and export much of their production. Unlike their forebears, they make most of their wines specifically for the international market.

"My father used to say their were 1001 details to get from the terroir to the bottle," says Bertrand. "Nowadays, there are 1001 details to get from the bottle to the consumer."

Bertrand and Mas have embraced New World technologies such as stainless-steel vats, oak barrels for maturing wines and - crucially for an area where the night-time temperature rarely drops below 18 degrees C - temperature controls during the early fermentation. The latter has been vital in allowing them to produce high-class white wines. At the same time they have gone big on branding and marketing. Bernard, 46, has little problem using himself, the former rugby player, as the brand while Mas, who has an impressive knowledge of the English vernacular, named his domaines after his father Paul.

Mas, who in a decade has gone from making 100,000 cases a year to one million, exports 96% of his production. He says: "Trying to sell our wine to the French is like trying to sell hamburgers to Americans. "

Both are hard businessmen who stay in touch with their bankers on a regular basis as they buy up more vineyards or invest in expensive new equipment. They also keep close to Majestic, which sells proportionately three times as much French wine as anyone else. Their products retail there for between £8 and £25 a bottle.

Majestic's Lewis explains: "Our customers are middle class, generally francophiles, and very savvy. They trust our staff to introduce them to new wines, and in this case they can buy wines which for the equivalent quality from other areas would cost at least 30% more."

Bernard and Mas know it is a two way game. They can get Majestic to list wines the big supermarkets would not touch. But when the euro soared in value, they held back their price rises to Majestic. The relationship is long-term with give and take.

You could even say it's a win(e) win(e) situation.”

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