Boasting 600 hectares (about 1,480 acres) of vineyards, and working in partnership with growers of another 1312 hectares (3,242 acres) of vines in France's Languedoc-Roussillon region, Domaines Paul Mas is impressive in the sheer scope of its operation. The combined hectares produce 40 different varietals, and the wines crafted from them range from simple, high-value table wines to bottles that delight with their elegance.
The Domaines’ assorted vineyards are bounded by the mountains to the north and the Mediterranean to the south. Hot, dry summers and moist, cool winters contribute their magic, as do the winds that are characteristic of the region, blowing in from every direction. This area is limestone-rich, and some vineyards have significant deposits of clay and/or gravel, adding a pleasing minerality to the wines. The variety of terroirs across the area is key to the variety and quality of Domaines Paul Mas’s production. Two examples:
Château Paul Mas Clos des Mures Coteaux du Languedoc 2014 ($20)
This is a very nice wine indeed. It has a heady nose expressing violet and spice, giving way to ripe fruit with a bit of coffee and toasted notes on the palate. The blend has a surprisingly good structure for a $20 bottle of wine, and a long, vanilla-touched silky tannin finish. Composed of 83 percent syrah, 12 percent grenache and 5 percent mourvèdre for added heft, this is a wine punching well above its price point. A helluva deal.
Château Paul Mas Belluguette Coteaux du Languedoc 2014 ($23)
I thoroughly enjoyed this southern Rhône white blend, composed of 40 percent vermentino, 30 percent rousanne, 20 percent grenache blanc and 10 percent viognier, all from the Mas’s Belluguette vineyard. It is an extraordinary value. The wine is a very pretty pale lemon color in the glass, fragrant with floral and tropical fruit notes, and is silky and buttery on the tongue. No one fruit predominates, but mango and pineapple are joined by peach, a bit of spice, and a touch of vanilla cream on the palate; the whole experience can best be described as “lush.” Not that the wine lacks acidity: it is well-balanced, and there is a lovely dry finish with a hint of oak in it (no wonder, since it spends some time in French and American barrels before it is bottled).
I have already confessed a serious weakness for self-deprecating humor when reviewing two of Jean-Claude Mas’s Arrogant Frog quartet — Jean-Claude is Paul's son — and further confess that I fell in love before I poured a single drop into a glass. The labels, with their louche frog and wacky subtitles just made me laugh — a welcome response in a world where wine criticism can take itself way too seriously, and we often forget that the beverage is all about pleasure and enjoyment, laughter with friends.
Although Mas has taken Languedoc winemaking to new heights, creating award-winning, beautifully crafted wines across the region, he has not forgotten the oenophile with more taste than money; hence Arrogant Frog, a line which combines quality and value for everyone with admirable consistency. I do prefer the whites to the reds, but all of them are great values. Here are two of the latter:
Arrogant Frog Cabernet-Merlot (Ribet Red) 2015 ($10)
This is a pleasant, fruit-forward blend, softer than I would have expected, favoring the merlot. Deep purple in the glass, it has a pleasant soft tannin finish and would complement a picnic basket containing roast chicken. What it lacks in complexity it makes up for in value.
Arrogant Frog Pinot Noir (Lily Pad Noir) 2014 ($10)
This is a very good value for a classically French pinot noir, featuring a delicate, spicy fruit nose with cranberry and some mushroom and earth on the palate. Medium body. Smooth tannins create structure and add a bit of elegance. It opens well, and improves with exposure to air. Fire up your barbecue and enjoy.