Mas Amiel is THE estate of Maury, and when I was writing French Country Wines twenty years ago, the only estate worth a visit. At that time it was owned by Charles Dupuy, who produced wonderfully traditional wines, which were aged in glass bonbonnes for a full year, so that they were subjected to all the extremes of weather throughout the year. The fifteen year old Maury was memorable, with a dry nutty nose, and hints of liquorice, while the palate was rich and concentrated, with hints of violets and prunes. It was one of the great wines of the Midi.
Charles Dupuy died in 1997 and the estate was sold to Olivier Decelle, who has worked hard to give it a new lease of life. The vins doux, the fortified Maury remain sublime, while he has also developed a range of serious vins secs, or appellation Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon Villages. Maury is one of the villages of that appellation, but the white wine of Roussillon is only ever Côtes du Roussillon tout court. In Roussillon they make the distinction between sec and doux; the first is not fortified; the second is. I’ve tasted Mas Amiel regularly in Paris for the last few years, and they always live up to and indeed exceed expectations.
2007 Côtes du Roussillon Blanc Altaïr – 18.00€
Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Maccabeu. 40 per cent of the blend is fermented and aged in barriques. You immediately sense the oak influence, with a firm nose and structured palate. It is tight-knit, young and unforthcoming, and simply needs time.
2007 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Notre Terre - 13.00€
50% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah and 20% Carignan, fermented in oak vats. The nose is dense, solid and rounded, with underlying ripe fruit, while the palate has some fresh mineral notes, with some firm stony fruit. The oak is more obvious on the nose than the palate. Again this is still young but promises well, with plenty of potential and depth.
2007 Carerades, Côtes du Roussillon Villages – 25€
The blend is the same as for Notre Terre, but using the oldest vines, including some 100 year old Grenache Noir and some 60 year old Carignan. 40 per cent of the blend spends fifteen months in new oak, so the oak is very obvious on the nose, and the palate is ripe and rounded, again with the underlying oak influence. Mas Amiel’s red wines are destined for ageing and the oak is sure to disappear with time. Again enormous potential, with a long finish.
I went back for Vins Doux at the end of the afternoon. These were not to be missed and my tasting notes deteriorated into a crescendo of illegibility and repetitive superlatives.
Plénitude LO8 Vin de table – 15.00€
This is a vin de table as there is no mutage, or addition of alcohol. It is made from Maccabeu. The grapes were left on the ground for two weeks after the harvest, so that they became quite raisined, and the wine spends six months in wood. The flavour is rich and biscuity, with ripe fruit and a soft rounded finish. Quite intriguing and original. L08 is a means of indicating the vintage, which vins de table are currently not allowed to mention, so no prizes for guessing that this is 2008.
Alexandre L05 Vin de table – 20.00€
The technique here is the same as for Plénitude, but instead of Maccabeu, the grape variety is Muscat d’Alexandrie. The colour is quite golden; the wine is concentrated in flavour, with dry honey and some acidity. It is rich, rather than really sweet, and the Muscat character of the grape is relatively subdued. Again an intriguing innovation
2007 Muscat de Rivesaltes – 13.00€
80% Muscat à petits grains and 20% Muscat d’Alexandrie, which has larger grapes. This is fresh and lemony, with a honeyed palate, and more elegant than many a Muscat.
2007 Muscat Collection, Muscat de Rivesaltes – 15.00€
This is only Muscat à petits grains, which is generally deemed to be the better of the two Muscats and comes from old vines, 60 years and more. The vinification is the same as for the basic Muscat de Rivesaltes, but the flavour is more concentrated, a rich and rounded palate, with a hint of fennel.
2008 Vintage Blanc – 16.50€
From Grenache Gris rather than Muscat, it is rounded and biscuity with a soft finish.
2007 Vintage Rouge – 14.50€
From Grenache Noir, with the spirit added sur marc, to the skins, rather than just to the juice, which makes for more integrated flavours. It has been aged in vat for twelve months and is intended to develop further in bottle. You could say that this is France’s answer to vintage port, but I am not sure that the longevity potential would be quite the same. The flavours are youthful, with rich ripe fruit and lovely red berry flavours and a touch of liquorice, with a firm finish.
2006 Vintage Reserve – 20.00€
This is a selection of the best plots, with some 60 year old vines forming the backbone of the wine. It spends a year in barrique, and again it is intended for ageing. The colour is deep and the flavours are youthful and intense, with ripe liquorice notes on the palate. It promises well.
2006 Charles Dupuy – 32.00€
This comes from very old Grenache Noir, with a very low yield. The vinification is the same for the vintage Reserve and the wine spends fifteen months in barriques and demi-muids of 500 litres, all new. Inevitably there is a streak on oak on the nose, but there is wonderful rich fruit, with concentration and intense flavours.
Next came Les Classiques. These are the wines that made the original reputation of Mas Amiel. They are aged in large casks for a number of years before bottling, including a year outside in glass bonbonnes
Cuvée Spéciale 10 ans – 16.00€
A tawny colour. Wonderful walnut fruit on nose and palate, with quite a dry finish. Delicious. This is the nearest that France comes to good tawny port.
Prestige 15 ans – 23.00€
Very tawny colour. Quite firm dry nose, and also on the palate, but intense and concentrated, with great length.
1990 – 35.00€
Think a Portuguese colheita. This was aged in cask until the beginning of 2009. The colour has a tawny rim, with dry nutty concentrated fruit on the nose and a mixture of walnuts and fruit rouges on the palate, with great length and elegance. Wonderful.
1980 – 45.00€
Again bottled at the beginning of 2009. The colour is tawny red; the nose elegantly nutty, with a rounded palate, and layers of flavour; a firm note and hints of walnuts. Maybe a touch more austere than the 1990, but still delicious.
1975 – 50.00€
Quite a developed tawny colour. A rich, nutty nose. This is wonderfully rounded and harmonious, with lingering walnut and liquorice fruit. Sublime!
1969 – 75€
Again, quite a developed colour. A rounded nutty nose. An intense palate, with very intense fruit. A streak of tannin and alcohol. Long and lingering on the palate . Enormous depth of flavour. One of the great wines of the Midi. Comparable to fine old tawny port or colheita.
And after that it was time to leave.