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30 January 2009

Roussillon: Mas dels Clots, Salses le Château

From www.masdesclots.comMichel Piquemal took over this off the beaten track estate in 1982, which is lost in the middle of nowhere almost into the Corbières (you need to take the Opoul road out of Salses under the motorway, keep going and follow the sign to the right until you run out of 'road'). Michel works all his 30 ha/75 acres himself and organically as well, which he says "is good for export but in France most people don't care!" The predominant varieties planted are Grenache and Mourvèdre, and he makes about 60% red wines, 30% VDN and 10 rosé/white.
Like many growers in the region, he despairs at the Roussillon's (unjustifiably) wanting image especially outside France, with the Languedoc usually hogging the limelight: "don't talk to me about the Languedoc, we're Catalan here!" There was some underlying irony there, especially as the Mas is a stone's throw from the 'border' with the Aude region and hence Languedoc. However, he thinks the 'South of France' labelling-idea could be good for some producers, whereas "I'm small small small." Meaning it's better for growers like him to focus on
terroir and "micro-cuvées" to keep a point of difference and sharper identity, even if it makes this kind of wines more complicated to understand: "it's also their very charm," as Michel put it. On the entertainment front, he occasionally organises tastings with vineyard barbeque in conjunction with other organic growers. The MDC wines are reasonably priced too: from €4.50 to €6.50 for the reds and €8 to €11.30 for VDNs.

I tasted these two vat/barrel samples in March 2007:
2006 blend of mostly Grenache and Syrah - lovely fruit and spice v grip and power, fresh bite too on its long finish. 87-89
2005 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (after 18 months in oak) - nice spicy coconut backdrop to a tight firm palate; good depth of black fruits, length and again freshness.
2009 Update: the opera-themed wines below were tasted with Michel at this year's Millésime Bio wine show (Montpellier Jan. 2009). By the way, his prices haven't changed much: €5 to €6.50 for white, rosé and reds; and €7.50 to €11.30 for quite a variety of VDN styles, as you'll see:
2007 cuvée Aïda Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Syrah Grenache Carignan) - nice juicy spicy fruit, soft-ish tannins v punchy finish. 83-85
2005 cuvée Casta Diva Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) - touch of vanilla oak v juicy black cherry and liquorice, firm v rounded finish. 85+
2006 cuvée Tosca Côtes du Roussillon Villages (50/50 Grenache Syrah) - vibrant black cherry and liquorice notes; gripping dry texture v fruity flavours, quite powerful too (14.5%) but not out of kilter. 87+
Rivesaltes ambré Hors d'Age (Grenache Gris & Macabeu: base wine is 2003 + some much older giving an average age of about 10 years) - beginning to turn toffeed and pecan nutty with shades of very sweet raspberries; nutty caramelised flavours v spicy and lively, complex and long. 89+
1995 Rancio (Grenache Gris & Macabeu: aged using a solera system) - wow, more raisiny and oxidised with rich walnut notes; tastes drier but it isn't, very long and intricate v punchy finish. 92+
2003 Muscat de Rivesaltes (barrique-aged style) - cooked orange peel aromas, vanilla and marmalade on the palate, rounded and sweet v refreshing bite; unusual and very nice. 89+
Mas dels Clots, 66600 Salses le Château. Tel: 04 68 64 20 13, mobile 06 61 20 99 40; michel.piquemal@masdesclots.com, www.masdesclots.com.

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