The wines of the Languedoc take influences from the Mediterranean sea, the mountains and garrigue landscape with its wild thyme and rosemary and from a diverse range of soils from gravel to chalk and limestone. Standards are jumping all the time and vines can grow well with little intervention — Paul Mas are moving towards more and more organic viticulture and aim to maintain their low (very low) prices.
There are warm dry summers and mild damp winters and also some cleansing winds with the cool northern Mistral and Vent Tramontane and the warm wet Vent Marin from the south. The Mas family have been growing vines since the 19th century and when Jean-Claude Mas inherited his father’s 35ha in 1999 nobody could have expected him to grow that to 650ha in under 20 years. Over 90% of their wines exported to 62 countries — ‘a French winery with a new world attitude!’ I was told.
While there are lots of good varietal Cabernets, Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs in their range I favoured the wines made from grapes that originate here (or nearby) — Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, etc. Chardonnay can be seen as native by now as it is grown all over Limoux for their still whites and the charming sparkling Crémant de Limoux. Paul Mas is based between Montpelier and the small medieval town of Pézenas, around 10km from the Mediterranean and it is possible to stay at their main estate Côté Mas which has one of the best restaurants in the area. ‘Luxe-Rural’(rural luxury) is their aim and remember that Carcassonne in the heart of the wine region is a cheap flight away. Besides visiting vineyards I ate very well with excellent local shellfish, lobster and frogs legs (sure you’d have to!) and also duck, pork and lamb. Pézenas is the prettiest village in the region with lovely old narrow streets filled with artisan ateliers.
Finally if you are near Ballinlough then JJ O’Driscoll will have some Spanish wines for tasting in their shop today for the Jazz Weekend.
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