Languedoc offers the opportunity for wine drinkers to explore an ancient region with a 2000 year history of producing exceptional wine. This history and pedigree fell out of popularity in favour of others like Bordeaux and Burgundy but pioneers such as Jean-Claude Mas are driving a revival. The upshot is, wines from the Languedoc are exceptional value and are widely available, no more so than Domaine Paul Mas, the umbrella name that Jean-Claude markets his wine under.
Jean-Claude Mas is a character without doubt, he is not loud or brash, but you can feel his confidence and forcefulness, understanding why he has built one of the largest Domaine in the Languedoc. He is colorful, entertaining but also clearly, very driven, yet he can't take himself too seriously with one of his labels called "The Arrogant Frog".
All this made it a pleasure to meet at a dinner in London and where he announced we would taste fifteen of his wines! It was a whirlwind affair but I got a wide introduction to his work and I was very pleasantly surprised indeed, not having been familiar with his wine previously.
He didn't have a traditional journey to winemaking, studying economics and advertising in university. Only in 1990 did he start to work in the wine industry, in Bordeaux. Now he produces the largest range of wines in Languedoc and is on a mission to return the region to rightful prominence, reflecting some of the glory of its 2000 year history of producing wine.
Giorgio Grai, a famous Italian winemaker taught Jean-Claude the art of wine blending, something he has never forgotten and is a theme you will see in many of his releases.
Jean-Claude makes a wine for everybody, from simple well priced whites easily enjoyed on a Summer's day to deep penetrating reds for when you want something more contemplative. In between there are entertaining sparkling wines that won't break the bank but compete with Champagne and even some sparkling reds for those adventurous days.
Below are some of the wine I tasted and would personally recommend.
Paul Mas "Vinus" Clairette du Languedoc 2016
A white 100% Clairette, which is the historical staple white grape of the Languedoc region, with a history going back 2000 years. This one is from the Hérault Valley about 10km West of Montpellier. If you want to treat yourself to a break from the endless similar white grapes on the supermarket shelves, this is where to go.
Gently nose that introduces a unique palate, every so slightly tart in a really nice way, it has a backbone of licorice with light gently florals built around it. A simple perfect aperitif wine with character. This is exceptional value.
Type: Still White
Buy Now from Morrisions
Paul Mas Chateau Martinolles Limoux 2015
Loved this! A really excellent white from Limoux, near Toulouse, not a region I would know well at all. This Chardonnay is from old vines. It has a relaxed fragrant nose of flowers and buttery nuts. Take a sip and it has fabulous mouth feel, subtle oak and is earthy with light minerality. While quite pointed, it is in a great way and isn’t to angular. It has a finish that beguiles. Easy repeat.
Type: Still White
Buy now from Soho Wine Supply
Paul Mas Le Berceau Blanc de Blancs Brut
A blend of Piquepoul and Chardonnay, this Blanc de Blanc sparkling white is exceptional value at £10, it is in Prosecco territory but is a league well above that. Labelled Brut so it is not too sweet and has a lovely austerity complimented by the Piquepoul, which adds a lovely aspect, a great choice of blend. Lightly bubbled, fresh and clean cut.
The nose has presence and offers mild nuts and brioche, with a hint of salinity, all combining together to engage the senses. The palate had a layer of sweetness and combined with lively acidity, it is perfect on a warm day. There are delicate tannins which give it a serious face, with plenty of fruit to keep it on track.
Type: Sparkling White
Buy now from Majestic
Paul Mas Estelia Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
The beauty of red wine made to drink young is when you pop it open and it delivers immediately, and that is the case with this vibrant Cabernet Sauvignon. Pour it into the glass for an alluring red violet hue. It exudes a deep rounded nose of vanilla and black fruit, with blueberry waves that move through it in the background. This is a well balanced wine, the tannins that are present generate wonderful mouthfeel , lingering very well and providing great impact.
Type: Still Red
Buy Now at Cheers Wine Merchants
Paul Mas Coteaux Du Languedoc Clos Des Mures 2014
A classical French blench, this is a GSM and so contains Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, blended to provide a typical warm, earthy comforting style of red. This one has light elegant red fruit, cherry, blackcurrant and some coffee. It does it's job well with a full palate that is relaxed, homely and tasty.
The epitome of value for money.
Type: Still Red
Buy Now from Cheers Wine Merchants
Paul Mas Cuvee Secrete Pinot Noir 2014
Time to stand out and be brave! Sparkling Red! - This sparkling red was the natural first choice, unique, unexpected, challenging, charming and perfect when you want something just a little different, just like Jean-Claude.
It has medium nose of distant red fruit, quiet complex which will keep you focused on this excellent wine.
Upfront the acidity makes it mouth watering and delicious and then complimentary fine tannins gently caress the tongue. This is bone dry as it should be, as it is made from Pinot Noir, but all the better for it, the difference to white sparkling is you can taste the typical earthy Pinot Noir red in the finish
Type: Sparkling Red
Buy Now from Soho Wine Supply