Dwayne Perreault - It’s a fascinating dream, and who hasn’t thought of it at least once: wouldn’t it be nice to buy a vineyard in France and begin a life as a winemaker? Some people actually do, and just sometimes, it turns out to be a major success.
Such is the case with Lidewij van Wilgen, the Dutch owner and winemaker of Mas des Dames, classed by Jancis Robinson amongst her favourite Languedoc wines. The accolades keep rolling in: her cuvée La Dame received 91 points from Wine Spectator, the highest score in the Languedoc. Tom Stevenson rated it #1 for quality and price in the Languedoc. La Diva won a silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2010.
But it wasn’t always easy. It meant switching over to biological agriculture and two years of oneological studies in Béziers, which also involved learning how to drive a tractor. Lidewij’s story has just been published (in Dutch) and Het Domein (The Domain) is now in the bookshops.
I was in the Languedoc recently, and after having met Lidewij briefly, she invited me to a tasting the next day for 13 sommeliers from star restaurants in London, including Gordon Ramsay’s Maze, The Connaught and Midsummer House. That grabbed my attention, but as they say, the truth is in the wine and I was very impressed by what I tasted.
To start with, the Mas des Dames 2009, a 100% Grenache blanc with a subtle but persuasive use of oak. Coming from a plot with fossilized oysters (as in Chablis) it has a very dry mineral undertone for a Grenache blanc, and even stranger yet, crisp acidity. White and stone fruits in the mouth, lots of depth and complexity.
The Mas des Dames Rosé also receives a bit of wood ageing, The 2010 will be bottled later this month, so we had a vat sample. Made from Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah, this is a more complex, full bodied and I would say culinary rosé with a slightly buttery texture but still very fresh, delicate red fruit.
La Dame 2009 is a beautiful wine made from Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. The bouquet contains cherries and dark fruit, spicy with some tobacco and pepper. Very fruity taste of dark cherries with a strong mineral component and softer tannins which shine in the long aftertaste.
La Diva 2007 is made from Syrah, Grenache (from the best plots), and 90 year old Alicante vines. Dark plum fruit in the nose, with that inky Languedoc extraction again. Also tobacco and oak. Very dark fruit in the mouth, with a sudden intrusion of wild raspberry. I love it. Strong tannins, very good structure with a long aftertaste.
When I heard that Lidewij would be in the Netherlands in May to promote her book Het Domein, I decided on the spot to invite her to host a tasting where she would talk not only about her wines, but also about her life as a winemaker and her just published book. I recently accepted the position of manager for Wijnhuis Zuid in Amsterdam, and this will be the first of a number of winemaker’s tastings we will be holding. This one, however, is special as it is also a book launching with five different wines to be tasted. If you live in the Amsterdam area, you are welcome to join us in the Maasstraat 134 on Sunday, May 15th from 3 until 5 p.m. Please let us know you are coming by using the contact form on our website.