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05 August 2013

Roussillon: Mas Christine update

There's some background and previous vintages HERE on/of Mas Christine, serenely overlooking the seaside town of Argelès-sur-mer, and the (ad)venture called Tramontane Wines set up by Philippe Gard, owner of highly-rated Roussillon estate winery Coume del Mas (just updated too), resident English winemaker Andy Cook and other partners, who leased this pretty, originally early 19th Century vineyard in 2006 and have since created a new range of wines.

I met up with Andy earlier this year, who took me for a wee spin around some of the Mas' vine plots (and enjoy the view as well naturally), which overall amounts to some "35 parcels," as he put it. Andy also told me: "we replanted quite a bit of white varieties and re-trellised... there's about 50-50 red and white now." Most of the best Grenache they use is in one spot higher up the hill with their Syrah lying further down the slope. "We're trialing some new organic sprays against grape worm," Andy added, "as they didn't work before. Mas Christine could possibly become organic, as we can plough here too." As opposed to much of Coume del Mas near Banyuls-sur-mer, where the vineyards are just too tight, steep and stoney-terraced... The wines "don't have added acidity... and we usually use the natural yeasts" for fermentation.

2011 Mas Christine white Côtes du Roussillon (blend of, not necessarily in this order: Grenache gris & blanc, Macabeu, Roussanne, Marsanne, Carignan gris. About half the wine is barrel-fermented) - yeast-lees notes and peachy on the nose, steely and 'salty' even mouth-feel with a touch of weight vs fresh bite; not that expressive when I tried it, quite good though.
2012 Mas Christine rosé Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Syrah; "whole-bunch pressed") - fresh and lively with crisp and crunchy palate vs beginning to get rounder and fruitier; again still quite tight and closed up when I tried it, should be nice now though.
2010 Mas Christine red Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan; the Syrah sees some oak ageing in older barrels) - attractive perfumed fruity nose with liquorice and spice notes, more austere on the finish with nice crunchy fruit.
These three wines cost about €10-€11 in France and £12 in the UK.

Their Consolation range is made from "the best selections" from CDM, MC and other partner wineries.
2011 Dog Strangler (Mourvèdre) - yields of "three bunches per vine" and fermented in "open-top barrels with foot treading." Pretty toasty and closed up on the nose and palate, dark fruit lurking underneath on a fresh and firm backdrop, grainy oak vs concentrated and elegant too actually; needs time (I'm finding this with the 11 vintage).
2008 Dog Strangler (Mourvèdre) - wild floral nose with black olive and meaty edges, powerful with a hint of freshness too, still firm vs maturing fruit, long elegant finish; lovely wine.
1996 Rivesaltes ambré 'Antic' (aged in old Armagnac barrels) - pruney yet tangy too, rich dried fruits and oxidized/aged characters vs still alive with nice bite, intense nutty finish. Good value for a complex Vin Doux Naturel like this: £12 / 50 cl.
2010 Wild Boar Syrah (14.5% abv) - complex maturing nose with rich dark cassis and black cherry, turning resin-y on the palate yet has herbal/reductive hints (?), pretty alcoholic too; that funny mix of herby/tart vs big and punchy lingers somewhat, a little unbalanced even if that sweet fruit and alcohol are slightly flattering...
Notes on the latest Coume del Mas vintages are HERE.

If you want to have a look around their vineyards and taste in the cellar, best to give them a call as Andy and colleagues aren't always around here or at the CDM winery: contact details are on tramontanewines.com, where there's also a comprehensive list of importers and outlets worldwide...

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