Cuvinte despre vinuri incercate, degustari si evenimente, calatorii si retete
Having the chance too meet a winemaker is always interesting, meeting a famous winemaker is a rare opportunity, and having him present and offer for tasting no less than twelve of his wines is a true privilege. I was one of the privileged to meet and discuss with Jean-Claude Mas at a tasting event in Bucharest.
If the name itself doesn’t sound familiar, any wine lover will know instead the famed Arrogant Frog label and line of wines, or the less bold but more crafted Chateau Paul Mas range of wines. Many regard him as the main figure among the Languedoc-Rousillion winemakers, having earned a reputation as innovator, with a fixation for low yields and quality, but also affordability and value wines. Undeniably, he has certainly helped raise the interest of the wine lovers for Languedoc-Rousillion region, by his „new world” attitude blended with the rich cultural family inheritance. „Rural Luxury” defines his approach towards wines and wine-making meaning to craft wines that provide pleasure from the senses, not from the amount spend to acquire them.
Today, Domaines Paul Mas is a family-owned estate, with over 200 hectares of vineyards spread throughout Languedoc, from the
foothills of the Alps to the valleys of the Pyrenees and covering a wide range of terroirs. In addition, it contracts the grape production of carefully chosen farmers from another 80 hectares. So, by Southern France standards it is quite a large estate, and it’s even more amazing that it has become like this only in the past 12 years. Before Jean-Claude took over the family business in 2000, the estate was producing a modest 10,000 bottles/year. It was possible in part due to the low cost of land, some 10 times lower that in Bordeaux, and partly to Jean-Claude’s determination to put in practice his dream of creating a unique style of wines, from the local soil and international experience.
His international experience on four continents certainly helped to bring to the estate newer technology, and also to master the five areas of winemaking: vineyard management, wine making, blending&aging, bottling and marketing. He has certainly actively developed these five areas, by acquiring great land plots, harvesting ridiculously low yields, use new technology in winemaking and blending, and not compromising on quality. And the proof that their approach is sound and the marketing is working, is the presence of their wines in more that 45 countries, and an astonishing over 500 of medals achieved in different contests, over 200 of them being Gold. Also, he is very conservative about price fluctuation, not allowing more that 2-3% yearly increase.
He was generous enough to make room in his busy schedule for a full evening of tasting and discussions with the wine passionates in Bucharest; the organizer of the event was Vinexpert, hosting the tasting in their newly opened Bar&Lounge. For the tasting, he has prepared twelve of his wines from different ranges and terroirs, from the most approachable to the rare gems:
Prima Perla Rose is a sparkling wine coming from the centuries-old tradition of Limoux sparklings -„Blanquette de Limoux” . A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chenin and Mauzac, it is a perfect opening drink, very dry and austere, in spite of its mother-of-pearl colour;
Paul Mas Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a young 2011 coming from the vineyards near the historical Carcassonne; grassy and supple with citrus and gooseberry flavors, slim structure and a chalky aftertaste;
La Forge Estate, Chardonnay 2011 blends the freshness with some ripe notes, resulting from the malolactic fermentation. Tropical fruits, vanilla cream and puss pastry are balanced by a powerful acidity, with a very dry finish;
Vignes de Nicole, Chardonnay & Viognier 2011 is one of Jean-Claude’s signature blends. The proportions are 70%-30% and displays fat and ripe notes of candied tropical fruits, mango and papaya; the body is juicy and mouth-filling and the finish brings some astringent green tea notes;
Arrogant Frog, Cabernet & Merlot 2011 is an established brand and blend, the iconic image becoming a cult. The 30% barrel aged Merlot brings fruity and bitter notes, while the Cabernet provides some structure and consistency; it is however very easy-drinking and approachable;
Paul Mas Estate, Carrignan 2011. Coming from old vines, this wine is clearly an acquired taste: juicy meat, rubber and
blackcurrant mingle in the nose and mouth with powerful tannins; the aftertaste is green and pungent -celery, laurel and ginger. One of my favorites;
Arrogant Frog Reserve GSM 2011 is a classic Languedoc blend, with proportions varying each year (in 2011 having 45-35-25%). A superb evolution in the glass, it changes subtly every minute, displaying blackcurrant, mulberry, prunes and almonds, but the dominant flavor is salted bacon;
Vignes de Nicole, Cabernet & Shyrah 2011 is barrel aged, soft and rich, with sweet tannins, a licorice and peppermint nose. Despite the young age, the body is balanced and silky, with a spicy finish -nutmeg and lavender.
Chateau Arrogant Frog 2009 is again a signature Jean-Claude blend: a Bordeaux style base (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) with touches of Shyrah and Grenache, spending 8 months in American new oak. Lush dark chocolate and smoked cedar, raisins and dried prunes combine together into a captivating melange over a nicely structured body. The aftertaste is lasting, with hints of marmalade;
Chateau Paul Mas, Clos de Mures 2010 is (almost) the star of the event. A reinterpretation of the classic GSM blend, with 85% Shyrah it has a powerful spiciness, pungent and flavorful, with robust tannins and bursting with flavors like dark berries, tiramisu and cocoa cream.
Chateau des Cres Ricards, Oenothera 2010 came as an ending surprise, a gift from the winemaker for the audience. This is one of the newest labels, freshly released, so it was even more exciting to taste it before the rest of the world! I will only say that it’s a blens that has all the signs of a great succes -Shyrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre, and it has been barrel fermented and aged. A seductive wine.
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