A few big names have come to somewhat dominate the UK’s supermarket wine shelves when it comes to Languedoc wine from the south of France. And one of the biggest is Paul Mas, whose wines appear under various brands and the company’s own estate names, generally occupying the mid-market with retail prices between £5 and £15. The large family company is today headed up by Jean-Claude Mas (right), a moderniser who has propelled Domaines Paul Mas into the big time. Today the company makes wines primarily for export from vineyards across the large Languedoc region, both IGP Pays d’Oc wines, and Château-bottled wines from estates in AOP denominations like Minervois, Coteaux du Languedoc or Picpoul de Pinet. This tasting of a snapshot of Paul Mas wines leans towards the higher-priced end of Paul Mas wines, representing a good cross-section of regions, grape varieties and styles. The wines are imported into the UK by Stratford Wine Agencies, but many of these wines are easily available from high street retailers.
Paul Mas, The Elegant Frog Viognier 2011, France
This screwcapped IGP Pays d’Oc wine is Jean Paul Mas’ playfully upmarket partner to their successful ‘Arrogant Frog’ brand. It comes from selected vineyards, and a small part of the blend was fermented in oak. It has a wonderfully evocative nose of downy peach skins and blossom, that is expressively Viognier, with hints of smokiness and of something cool and mineral. On the palate it is rich without being heavy, has abundant fruit and yet a streak of orange and lime that leaves it savoury and very moreish. Drink with fish or with Chinese stir-fries. 87/100. £7.99 selected Sainsbury’s.
Paul Mas, Valmont Grenache Blanc 2011, France
Another Pays d’Oc wine, from the Valmont estate. The nose is subtle but cool and attractive, with a lightly nutty quality and crisp lemon and apple fruit. A little hint of something like dried apricot comes through. On the palate this is quite powerful, with a fat lemony core of fruit and some apple skin bite, the moderate alcohol (13% ABV) helping leave the finish crisp and juicy. 86/100. Winner of a gold medal in the Decanter Awards. £8.49, Majestic, on offer until 2nd September 2012 at £6.99.
Château Paul Mas, Vignes de Crès Ricards 2011, France
Jean-Claude Mas purchased Château Crès Ricards in 2010, a 28-hectare estate in the Coteaux du Languedoc planted in the 1960s. This is a blend of Vermentino (Rolle) and Roussanne with smaller amounts of Grenache and Viognier, fermented and partly-aged in oak barrels. The nose has a honeyed, buttery toastiness with melon and orchard fruits, just a hint of something peachy and floral coming through. The palate shows a toasty streak from the barrels too and is very young, and the cool precision of the fruit, with pithy lemon and stone-fruit, yellow plum flavours wins out, the good, stony acidity sharpening up the finish too. Quite a steely young wine, this should cellar for a few years. 89/100. £14.99, The Old Butchers Wine Cellar, Cookham.
Paul Mas, Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, France
A Pays d’Oc from low-yielding vineyards, and only partly aged in oak barrels. It has a very primary, cherry-fruited nose, with a little hint of graphite and blackcurrant. On the palate it has abundant sweet black fruit and is generally soft and approachable, the tannins and acidity adding a little cut and savoury edge to a fairly straightforward wine. 86/100. £8.99, Majestic, on offer until 2nd September 2012 at £6.99.
Paul Mas, Domaine des Crès Ricards Alexaume 2010, France
A Bordeaux-meets-Rhône blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carignan and Syrah, this wine from the Crès Ricards estate has a weighty 14.5% alcohol. It has a dark, sultry perfume of very deep, ripe black fruits, a blueberry darkness, with little violet and kirsch notes too. On the palate the confiture sweetness of the black berries fills the mouth, edged with a touch of smoke and earthiness, but with a clean, liquorice-tinged and fresh finish. Lovely stuff and well-priced. 89/100. £9.99, Majestic, though showing as ‘not currently available’ online.