leave your inhibitions at the door
I was very fortunate to be on a short list to participate in an online tasting/meet-and-greet with winemaker Guillame Borrot from Chateau Paul Mas. As part of the tasting, I was sent three wines in advance to sample.
The Mas family has been making wine on their Languedoc estate for centuries. For those of you unfamiliar with Languedoc, the region is in southwest France and is one of the oldest winegrowing regions. Up until the 19th century, it was known for high-quality wines until Phylloxera – pests that feed on the roots of grapevines – wiped it out. They replanted with lower-quality grapes and the area eventually became known for wines of so-so quality.
Jean-Claude Mas, who took over the estate a dozen years ago, along with other producers have been making an effort to significantly improve the quality of the wines. Using similar varietals as nearby Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape, they’ve been able to put out high quality wines at lower price points. All three of the Paul Mas wines were under $20.
It seemed a shame to open all three bottles of wine and not share them with others. So we invited The Sicilian and her husband along with The Bloodsucking Lawyers to help out. I also made some dishes I thought would pair well with the wines. I’ll post recipes for them later…
2011 Chateau Paul Mas Clos de Savignac
(50% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache)
This was a very deep purple color with some pink tints and quite opaque. I got aromas of tobacco, licorice, and earth. On the palate, it was dry, with medium acids, and very firm, chewy tannins. I really liked the velvety texture – not too jammy, just right. All of the wines were really high alcohol – 14.5% – but this one in particular was balanced well enough that it was a non-issue. In addition to be the best-balanced of the three, I found it had the longest finish. This was easily my favorite of the three.
I paired it with some Delice de Bourgougne, a triple cream cheese made from cow’s milk. The pairing was perfect (although Delice is so good that it’d probably make horse urine Yellowtail taste good.
2011 Clos du Moulinas Cru Pezenas
(55% Syrah, 45% Grenache)
This too was a purple color but wasn’t as opaque. I really loved the aromas of rose petals and spring garden with a subtle hint of mushrooms underneath. Beautiful. This one had lower acids than the first and the tannins were firm, but not as chewy as the Savignac. The difference here was the fruit-forward, big and round mouthfeel. This one also had some herbaceous, green pepper notes on the finish. It was a little too jammy for my taste, but was a hit amongst the others at the table.
I paired this with veal scallopine stuffed with morels and ramps.
2011 Clos des Mures
(85% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre)
This had a slightly lighter color, more ruby than purple. It didn’t have quite as much of the floral notes as the Moulinas, but it did have some nice blackberry aromas in it. The acidity levels were higher here, on the borderline of fresh. What stood out here was the silkier texture and the strong oak flavors.
I paired this with Moroccan-spiced Bison sliders.
If I had a little more foresight, I probably would’ve taken a sip from each of the wines before deciding on pairings. I think the bison, with it’s spicy and bold flavors would’ve gone better with the fruit-forward Moulinas. I would’ve paired the Savignac’s earthiness and velvety texture with the veal. The pairings weren’t bad, just not optimized.
What I love about doing tastings like this is that it allows you to really see the differences between wines. Although these three were from the same vintage, region, and winemaker, there were clear differences between them. All of them were pretty well-balanced and would go well with a lot of different food.
During the online discussion, I was pleasantly surprised when they mentioned the $15-$20 price range. None of the promotional materials they provided indicated price and I was thinking that these would be closer to $25. I’m sure if these were from the Rhone, they probably would be. These definitely are terrific values.
Stay tuned for more from that night…