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14 November 2011

Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas

2014 update

This belated catching-up sees a couple of striking new poking-fun labels (there's a picture here), another sizeable vineyard added to the Mas stable, a variety of 2011 and 2012 vintage reds and whites tasted last year and recently, plus a few words on that "road is long" restaurant 'project' mentioned previously which finally opened a year ago...
First off, Jean-Claude Mas has been vineyard shopping again: La Ferrandière, a 70 hectare property (170 acres) near the pretty village of Aigues-Vives in the Aude region planted with Cabernet, Grenache, Malbec, Marselan, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Viognier. This latest addition to the total 478 ha now owned/managed by Mas (eight different estates), was "to ensure their development on the French market as well as abroad," the blurb explains. The company has been very export focused so far - 97% of sales in 58 countries apparently - and also works with 70 contracted growers across the Languedoc for extra fruit source.
Their new on-site restaurant - wine bar - wine shop Côté Mas is pretty good by all accounts I've heard (review to follow when I've been there), and looks worth a trip if you're touring this area. And following in the self-mocking footsteps of Arrogant and Elegant Frog, Ribet Red and such like, Doms P Mas have just launched a pair of Striking French! varietals - the labels sport a cartoon character demo holding banners saying On veut du Viognier / On veut du Merlot, as in "We want Viognier/Merlot" obviously. See what I thought of them below along with a selection of other new vintages from across their now extensive portfolio...

2011 Domaine Martinolles Limoux blanc – nice lees-y toasty notes tinged with aniseed, light toasted coconut vs ripe 'sweet' Chardonnay fruit, good bite vs rich and toasty finish.
2012 Château Paul Mas 'Belleguette' Coteaux du Languedoc blanc (Vermentino, Marsanne) – aromatic aniseed with subtle yeast biscuit flavours vs floral and mineral, concentrated with tasty oat finish vs tight and crisp with light bitter twist. £15/£12 (case) Cheers Wine Merchants (UK).
2012 Mas des Tannes Réserve blanc (organic Grenache blanc, 13.5% abv) - subtle mix of floral aniseed, juicy exotic fruit and light coconut grain; has a little bit of richness and roundness on the palate although is quite tight and grainy, not a blockbuster style white but attractive enough with food. Noel Young Wines, Soho Wines £10.95.
Striking French! Sud de France Viognier, Pays d'Oc (13% abv) - light peach and apricot notes with hints of toast and coconut, a little weight on the palate vs tighter fresher side; nice white although not as good/full-on as some of their other Viogniers. A bit dear at £9.99 UK RRP.
2011 Mas des Tannes Réserve rouge (Cabernet, Grenache, Mourvèdre) – complex and quirky mix of 'inky' black olive vs very ripe 'tar' and liquorice vs herbier cassis notes, taut fresh and firm mouth-feel vs sweet and smoky side. Odd but nice.
2011 Mas des Tannes Peyre Plantade (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan) – sweet fruit and floral aromas with lovely ripe rounded texture, subtle bite and length; delicious red.
Striking French! Sud de France Merlot, Pays d'Oc (13.5% abv) - a little heavy on the vanilla oak for my taste, although it has nice plump fruit and rounded mouth-feel. The oak blends in a little better if left open for a day. Same comment as the Viognier above about price, available at Majestic in the UK.
2011 Mas des Mas Corbières (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) – a tad baked on the nose, attractive wild herb and violet aromas though with 'sweet' Grenache fruit, bite and grip tightening up the palate but it's tasty now too.
2011 Château des Crès Ricards 'Stécia' Terrasses du Larzac (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Grenache) - wild smoky vs herb/flower notes and dark fruit with savoury hints, intense smoky dark fruit flavours with firm structured tannins vs rounded mouth-feel and ripe fruit finish, lovely mix of smoky vs fresh and tight too. £12.99 Cheers.
2011 Château des Crès Ricards 'Oenotheca' (Grenache, Syrah) - richer with sweet and smoky notes vs herby berry fruit, softer yet fuller with enticing lush mouth-feel vs subtle grip.
Côté Mas Picpoul Frisant - juicy yeasty notes vs sweeter ripe melon fruit edges, has a bit of crispness vs a touch of residual sugar. Nice and easy frothy wine.
2011 Les Faïsses (60% Grenache, 40% Syrah) - alluring ripe vs spicy liquorice fruit with firm and tasty palate, fairly easy-going compared to previous vintages but I like that Grenache dominant style.
2011 Grés de Montpellier (half Mourvèdre plus Syrah and Grenache) - a touch more structured vs attractive sweet fruit, lacks a bit of concentration and depth perhaps as I remember it from previous vintages...

November 2011: the latest from the expansionist and thick cheque-booked Jean-Claude Mas camp is the purchase of vineyards in wild and woolly Terrasses du Larzac country (source vitisphere.com), called Crès Ricards (goes to my May 2012 report on Larzac including notes on some of these nice reds) and Domaine de Moulinas in Caux not far from Pézenas. He's also taking over running Domaine de Martinolles (links to profile and previous vintages reviewed) who's a fairly sizeable yet traditional Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux winemaker, which should complement Mas' already growing production of white and red wines in this area from their Domaine Astruc estate. This brings DPM to over 300 ha of owned vine-land across the Languedoc, plus those managed properties and partner-growers who supply grapes. Some people (usually certain small-minded French growers who think all big is bad) diss the Paul Mas operation as a simple churner-outer of lots of "unserious" varietals, largely because of their fun export brand Arrogant Frog I'd guess, which appear to be in-demand and are consistently good. But they've probably never tried their more serious single-vineyard or sub-appellation reds or Limoux whites, for example.


In addition, Domaine de Nicole estate winery, where the company's head office is located near Montagnac, has been expanded into a "wine tourism site" with a restaurant opening in spring 2012 (Ed: the following year actually, see above). I've tasting-noted some of their latest vintages below sampled over the last few months; and there's a fuller profile and lots more wines going back to 2004 underneath these. Their UK importer is Stratford’s Wine Agencies and they're well distributed in the States too (see website).

2010 Vermentino - floral peachy nose, spicy juicy palate with crisp 'gummy' mouth-feel, attractive lively dry white. £7.99 at Majestic allegedly although I couldn't find it on their site.
2010 Chardonnay - benchmark sunny south of France Chardy with juicy citrus and peachy fruit with milky yeast-less edges, quite weighty yet crisp finish. Fairly widely available under different labels.
2010 Sauvignon blanc - nice classic gooseberry vs ripe citrus SB style with soft-ish yet zingy finish. Different versions of this are sold in various retailers e.g. Majestic, Waitrose.
2010 Viognier - delicious V style with lighter zesty touches vs fatter exotic fruit, crisp intense vs rounded and towards weighty/oily mouth-feel. Sainsbury's do an Elegant Frog version and Asda has an own label on offer at the moment for under a Fiver.
2010 Marsanne - floral apricot aromas / flavours, zesty palate vs lightly creamy edges, has a bit of oomph too followed by tight zingy length. Asda and Majestic do different labels of this.
2010 Rosé de Syrah - strawberry and raspberry boiled sweet notes, lively and quite long with a attractive bitter twist, nice round vs zingy style.
2010 Grenache noir - seductive simple fruity style, touch of dry grip on the palate vs lively berry and spice combo.
2008 Mas des Mas Saint-Chinian red - lovely wild herby and floral liquorice nose, spicy white pepper tones vs sweet fruit, quite elegant and drinking well now.
2010 La Forge Merlot - herbal 'inky' tinges vs lots of juicy plummy fruit, a little closed up and firm when I tried it but shows the usual Forge concentration and Merlot style.
2010 La Forge Carignan old vines - 'reductive' nose and tight palate, has attractive fresh blueberry fruit though with intriguing tangy vs ripe profile; quite structured acid/tannin mouth-feel combo, needs a few months to open up but promising probably and different for sure. Majestic lists a version of this at £8.99.
2009 La Forge Malbec - complex spicy nose, aromatic vs richer side with grainy vs sweet texture; quirky Malbec style and tasty with it. Majestic lists a version of the 2010 vintage at £8.99.
2009 DPM Vignes de Nicole Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah - touches of dusty oak or something ? (can't remember if this bottle was screwcapped or with a cork) but layered with cassis and dark cherry fruit, nice texture and depth with again tight finish.
2009 Château Paul Mas "Clos des Mûres" Coteaux du Languedoc (85% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre) - quite chocolate oaky when I tried it with taut firm grainy texture, closing up on a big structured finish; but it's pretty concentrated and stylish too suggesting something much more promising and exiting once it opens up and softens. £12.50

You'll find even more Mas wines buried in here (Languedoc vintage reports 2009 and 2008) and within a few mini-reports before and after this post on Limoux (based around 2010 vintage tastings). In addition, I've copied across all this stuff previously published on various pages of WineWriting.com:

Domaine de Nicole, one of four Mas family properties in the Pézenas area and now their HQ, has been refitted to house a tasteful tasting/reception area and shop with an enlarged "wine tourism site," including a restaurant, due to open in late 2008 (oops, see update above - planning permission delays etc...). If they get the planning permission through soon, that is (a somewhat French case of bureaucracy over progress it seems). A "Languedoc modernist," as their PR accurately calls him, with irreverent labels like Arrogant Frog (the wine’s good too) and lively varietal Vins de Pays such as La Forge Merlot, Chardonnay or Viognier; Jean-Claude Mas and brother Michel also produce serious, more 'traditional' Coteaux du Languedoc reds such as Château Paul Mas (see vertical tasting of five vintages below) and Les Faïsses. In addition, they've now launched wines from a recently converted organic vineyard plus three new 'single terroir' reds called Mas des Mas from the 2006 vintage (also below), which show great promise and knock on the head any thoughts that they're all marketing (although they're pretty good at that too). Oh by the way, guess which country is one of their main export markets? Australia! (2008)

These wines were sampled at Vinisud in Montpellier, February 2008:
2006 Château Paul Mas (all five are mostly Syrah plus Grenache Mourvèdre) - showing spicy coco oak layered with lovely black cherry fruit and peppery tones, attractive textured tannins balanced by depth of fruit, well-handled oak and power on the finish. About £10 in the UK, available shortly at Majestic. 90-92
2005 Château Paul Mas - a touch smokier and richer v firmer and more powerful palate, yet still ripe, rounded and showing great balance of oak/tannins/fruit; lovely concentration v solid grip, the alcohol is a little more noticeable but it works in this wine. 92-94


2004 Château Paul Mas - much more developed than the last time I tasted it two years ago at Vinisud (obviously perhaps but you know what I mean), showing complex liquorice and leather notes; 'sweet' peppery palate with solid structure, grippy tannins yet elegant finish. 92-94

2003 Château Paul Mas - dried fruits, leather and complex herbal v savoury nose; stonky tannins and weight v big rich fruit and power. 90-92
2002 Château Paul Mas - maturing rustic tones with leather and liquorice, further delicious liquorice fruit and savoury tobacco edges on the palate; again still firm tannins but nicely layered, drinking well now. 92-94
2006 Les Tannes Cabernet - Merlot (organic) - nice herbal v tobacco nose with ripe cassis, tangy tannins and quite concentrated & fine finish. 87-89
2006 Mas des Mas, Pézenas (mostly Mourvèdre) - quite closed on the nose, showing tight structure and quite austere in style, oak textured but very concentrated and long. Needs a year or two to open up. 90-92
2006 Mas des Mas, Terrasses du Larzac (more Syrah) - again structured and powerful but a bit richer with black cherry Syrah style; chocolate oak background to its concentrated, firm and commanding finish, yet well-balanced too. 92-94
2006 Mas des Mas, Grés de Montpellier (50% Mourvèdre) - more black fruits and liquorice in style and a tad more savoury too, also peppery with subdued oak; very firm tannins and big weight v 'sweet' fruit and black pepper coming back on its promising finish. 94+?
2007 'lower alcohol' Viognier (10%) - surprisingly characterful, aromatic and faintly exotic with fresh finish; winemakers normally say Viognier isn't an interesting variety unless fully ripe therefore 13-14-15% even. 80-85
2007 Enigma (late harvested Chardonnay blended with 10% Muscat and 20% Viognier both fermented dry, leaving 30 grams/litre residual sugar) - quite exotic v fresh citrus tones, doesn't seem very sweet thanks to its refreshing crisp finish. Nice wine. 87

Stop-press April 2008: Jean-Claude had seven wines selected in the 'Top 100 Vins de Pays' competition, an annual tasting held in Britain aimed at the trade. They were La Forge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Trophy for best Cab Sauv), Arrogant Frog Ribet White Chardonnay/Viognier 2007, Claude Val Rosé 2007, Paul Mas Rosé de Syrah 2007, La Forge Estate Merlot 2007, Paul Mas Merlot 2007 and Paul Mas Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

2006 update A few new vintages and releases from the JC Mas team, including some unusual blends and the cross-breed red variety Marselan from recently purchased organic vineyards near Pézenas. Tasted at this year's Vinisud:
2005 Sauvignon Blanc dA, Limoux - attractive crisp intense gooseberry and citrus fruit, fresh long finish. 85-87
2005 Viognier - lively and zesty showing lovely depth of rich apricot fruit and aromatic class. 89
2005 La Forge Chardonnay - attractive citrus and peach fruit underlined by subtle toast and cream flavours, good bite v weight on the finish. 90+
2005 La Forge Cabernet Sauvignon - tight focused cassis fruit, firm yet rounded mouthfeel; needs 6 months to come together, promising. 89-90?
Paul Mas 1892 (its name rather than vintage!) (Alicante, Carignan, Cinsault Grenache & Merlot) - stonky grippy palate, unusual meaty style, old fashioned chunky blend but good with it. 87-89
2004 Marselan - curranty juicy fruit, has fair depth and firm texture; different. 87
2004 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - the oak's quite strong at the moment, but this displays beautiful concentration of blackberry and chocolate; tight, fine yet weighty finish. 92+
2003 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - similar power v finesse with richer wilder more developed fruit. 92+
2003 Les Faisses, Coteaux du Languedoc - lovely drinking now (with rack of lamb) yet concentrated and structured enough to develop much further; full, gamey and 'sweet' with firm rounded tannins. 92-94
2005 Sauvignon Blanc dA, Limoux - attractive crisp intense gooseberry and citrus fruit, fresh long finish. 85-87
2005 Viognier - lively and zesty showing lovely depth of rich apricot fruit and aromatic class. 89
2005 La Forge Chardonnay - attractive citrus and peach fruit underlined by subtle toast and cream flavours, good bite v weight on the finish. 90+
2005 La Forge Cabernet Sauvignon - tight focused cassis fruit, firm yet rounded mouthfeel; needs 6 months to come together, promising. 89-90?
Paul Mas 1892 (its name rather than vintage!) (Alicante, Carignan, Cinsault Grenache & Merlot) - stonky grippy palate, unusual meaty style, old fashioned chunky blend but good with it. 87-89
2004 Marselan - curranty juicy fruit, has fair depth and firm texture; different. 87
2004 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - the oak's quite strong at the moment, but this displays beautiful concentration of blackberry and chocolate; tight, fine yet weighty finish. 92+
2003 Château Paul Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc - similar power v finesse with richer wilder more developed fruit. 92+
2003 Les Faisses, Coteaux du Languedoc - lovely drinking now (with rack of lamb) yet concentrated and structured enough to develop much further; full, gamey and 'sweet' with firm rounded tannins. 92-94

Posted January 2005. Reviews of the latest releases from this go-getting Languedoc producer and exporter. Also read my article published in the weekly trade magazine Harpers: Is there a d'Oc in the house? (towards the bottom of that page) which includes a few comments by Jean-Claude Mas.
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Vignes de Nicole, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Wow, needs time: plenty of toasty chocolate oak at the moment concealing big structure and concentration. 90+
2004 Carignan Vieilles Vignes - Tasted from barrique: lots of inky berry fruit with liquorice edges, spicy wood on the firm tight finish, yet shows plenty of nice ripe fruit to balance. Also one to watch. 87+
2004 Claudeval/Domaine de Nicole rosé (Syrah Grenache Cinsault) - Attractive rose petal and strawberry style, quite chunky fruit with a touch of crispness; nice quaffer. Try with tomato and avocado salad. Less than £4. 85
2004 dA Marsanne, Vin de Pays (sourced from the Limoux area) - Attractive honeysuckle aromas, zesty depth with fair concentration of waxy honeyed fruit too; should be rather good in a few months time. 85-87
2003 Ile de Conas Viognier, Michel Mas winemaker, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Quite fat yet flowery apricot fruit; however, this also has lovely bite and length balancing the weighty mouthfeel. Under £6 at Asda. 87-90
2004 La Forge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Vat sample: lovely balance of riper yet tangy blackcurrant fruit and liquorice edges, firm rounded tannins; will be super in a few months. 90+
2004 La Forge Estate Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc (40% sourced from Limoux, 60% from 'warm' climate vineyards) - Rich and creamy yet aromatic with fresh peach and pear fruit, more toffee-ish in the mouth but has crisp bite and length too. Yum, a bargain too at £5-6. Asda does the Ile La Forge label for £4.99! 90
2003 Les Faisses, Jean Claude Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache) - Light cedar aromas underneath pure ripe blackcurrant, closed firm palate showing greater elegance than the Vinus, good depth of fruit v solid tannins, very long. Needs time to open up. 90-92
2004 Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Tasted from barrique: not showing much on the nose, but the palate offers nice youthful cherry fruit set against a tight acid structure; you can see some savoury character underneath, wrapped in not too heavy chocolate oak. Could be good: 85-87. Aldi is now selling Ile la Forge Pinot Noir at £4.99.
2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc - Plenty of zingy grapefruit and gooseberry, shows nice balance of green v riper fruit, mineral v fatter palate, crisp length. 86-88
2002 Vinus de Jean Claude Mas, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache) - Hints of cedar mingle with ripe rustic fruit, very grippy and structured set against attractive rounded liquorice fruit, power v elegance on the finish. Very good for 2002, not a great vintage here. 90+


From "Previous wines of the moment" tasted July 2004
2003 Arrogant Frog Ribet Red, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13.5% Screwcap Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon) - Offers a touch of spicy oak, aromatic blackcurrant and cherry fruit, alcohol and some complex earthy notes on the nose; full fruity and spicy leading to firm bite, yet it's drinking well now and will roll out nicely with 6-12 months in bottle. I like your style. 87
2003 Hidden Hill Captivating Chardonnay Viognier, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Screwcap) - Fresh aromatic nectarine and apricot nose, nice zesty extract and zingy fruit, lively style and finish. 85-87

2003 Hidden Hill Charismatic Cabernet Shiraz, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Screwcap) - Needs a little air... then opens up to reveal spicy blackcurrant, cherry and elderberry fruit; tangy fruity palate finishing with a bit of grip and length. Appears to be suffering a little from "young red under screwcap" syndrome, i.e. displaying reductive notes in the background. 84-86

2003 Hidden Hill Memorable Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Screwcap) - Quite memorable: aromatic cherry, plum and raisin fruit with a tangy twist; reasonably firm palate to start but softens out, especially with food. Appears to be suffering a little from "young red under screwcap" syndrome, i.e. displaying reductive notes in the background. 84-86

2003 Hidden Hill Scintillating Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc (12% Screwcap) - Grassy gooseberry aromas lead to a tangy citrus palate, soft acidity adds a touch of crispness; not so scintillating but pleasantly easy going if kept well chilled. 80-83
2003 La Forge Estate Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc (13% Unfiltered) - Lovely nose showing rich smoky rustic black cherry and plum fruit touched up with aromatic oak, pretty dense and concentrated with nice thick tannins and fruit leaving a coating in the mouth; modern and chunky yet classical style balancing alcohol, power and subtlety. Bargain at £5.99. 90-92

Domaine de Nicole, Route de Villeveyrac, 34120 Montagnac. Tel: 04 67 90 16 10, paulmas.com / arrogantfrog.fr.


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