Sunday, July 31, 2011

Visit to Paul Mas, Part 1

Dwayne Perreault — I sell a lot of Paul Mas wines, as these are very well made Languedocers ranging in price from €5 to €9, which come in a broad range of varieties and styles. It is not uncommon to see a full pallet arrive at the shop door, only to have to order more the next week. But of course, I’m not the only one. In fact, Paul Mas exports to more than 40 countries.

The modern business begins with Jean-Claude Mas, son of Paul, who together with his brother inherited 70 ha of vines at Château de Conas, just outstide of Pézénas.

Jean-Claude expanded the estate by acquiring Domaine de Nicole (40 ha) by Montaignac overlooking the Herault valley, Mas des Tannes (40 ha, half of which are certified organic), and Domaine Astruc (70 ha) at 300 metres in Limoux, with a cooler mid-Atlantic climate which favours white grapes, as well as Pinot Noir.

That’s a total of 220 ha, but that’s not all. Jean-Claude also contracts 80 growers who run a total of 780 ha to produce 500,000 cases per year of Arrogant Frog. You may know these wines, exported around the world and easily recognized by their cartoon frog characters. In the Netherlands, they are sold by Gall & Gall.

Since Pézénas is not far away from Roquebrun, where I like to spend part of the summer, I decided to visit Château de Conas. I was welcomed by Brigitte Barreiro, Marketing Manager and Cédric Deniset, European Sales Manager. Brigitte took me on a tour of the winemaking facilities and storage complex, picking up bottles for our tasting on the way.

Paul Mas wines strive for a consistent style and quality year in and out, and this is made in part possible by the dependable Languedoc climate, where it rarely ever rains at harvest time. But Jean-Claude personally plays a large role himself, by constantly tasting and blending wines from different plots. “The worst thing that could happen on any day,” says Brigitte, “is that Jean-Claude loses his tasting notebook.”

Jean-Claude clearly understands today’s wine market, where consumers are enticed by funny labels (thus Arrogant Frog) and identify a wine by a grape variety. This is, clearly, the influence of the New World. For this reason, the entire range of Paul Mas VDP wines are varietals, with the grape variety in bold letters on the label.

We started our tasting with some white wines I know well, since I sell them. These are just some of the wines I tasted. The prices given are what the wines cost at Wijnhuis Zuid in Amsterdam, including taxes.

The VDP d’Oc, Paul Mas Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (€5.95) has apple and citrus fruits with some viscosity and very fresh acidity, which is clearly the result of the cooler climate in the Aude valley. I tend not to be a fan of warm climate Sauvignons, but everything is in balance here.

VDP d’Oc, Paul Mas Vermentino 2010 (€5.95). Vermentino, mostly called Rolle in the Languedoc, produces a wine with a pale robe with a yellow hue, blossom and some tropical fruit in the nose. Mid-viscous texture, expressive white fruits with medium high acidity and a well rounded aftertaste, which makes this an easy drinking wine, perfect as an aperitief.

VDP d’Oc, Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2010 (€8.50). The Estate wines are from single vineyards. Marsanne, one of the northern Rhône grapes, does well here. More golden in the glass with yellow blossom in the nose, and a hint of oak. Thicker in the mouth, but still with some fresh acidity where tropical fruit and a tangible 13.5% alcohol linger in a dry aftertaste.

The Pays d’Oc, Vignes de Nicole Chardonnay/Viognier 2010 (€8.50) is in fact 70% Chardonnay, fermented and aged in oak barrels. Very floral bouquet, full bodied and oak influenced, but well tempered. There is a tiny bit of residual sweetness as the end, which is pleasant. Brigitte says they enjoy it with foie gras.

And finally, the organically certified Mas des Tannes Réserve Grenache Blanc 2009 (€9), considered one of Jean Claude’s best white wines and fermented 4-5 months in oak barrels. Grenache can take a lot of oak and here it forms a major component in both the bouquet and taste, along with clean white fruit.

At this point, Jean Claude strolled in, so we chatted for a bit. I will provide an update soon on the red wines I tasted, which were presented by Cédric Deniset. Included were a couple Grand Crus du Languedoc!

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