I really enjoyed my encounter with Jean Attard at Mas Coris. His is a new estate, and for some reason, in my mind, I was expecting to encounter a young vigneron, but instead met a man of a certain age – his email address includes the figure 54, which might provide a clue – for whom a wine estate is complete change of career. Jean has worked as a journalist, and still does; he wrote his university thesis on the lobsters of the St. Laurence River and spent two years in Canada. His website is well thought out, answering the questions that people ask: such as why the name Coris and why Cabrières.
Jean wanted a name with a link to the sea – he spent 25 years writing for diving magazine and Coris or to give its full name Coris julis is a girelle or rainbow fish. It also has a satisfyingly memorable ring about it. And then he talked about how he came to wine – ten years ago, it was a vague idea; let’s buy a vineyard, but nothing very concrete. However Jean Natoli has been a good friend for 40 years, and he bought his own estate in St. Jean de Fos and invited friends to a picnic in the vineyard, and the idea came back. Could we do the same? Why not? His wife, Véronique agreed. He Jean related how Jean Natoli had told him that you need three conditions:
A small area
You need to be highly motivated
And you must find a beautiful spot.
And Jean Natoli helped, sending emails to all his clients asking them if they had or knew of vineyards to sell, and they found land in Cabrières, less than two hectares in three plots belonging to Clos Romain. Jean lives in Montpellier, but as it happens, he has an elderly uncle in Cabrières. So they made their first wines in 2010, and in 2011 found a cellar in the village – it had been a cellar sometime earlier, and they also bought more vines, and even more in 2014 and 2015, so that they now have 5.2 hectares. Those that are not already bio are being converted. And the grape varieties are Syrah, Cinsaut and Grenache Noir, for red and rosé and Clairette, and also a small plot of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier and Vermentino which they planted in 2011. Their vineyards are all fairly close together off the road to Clermont l’Hérault at the foot of the Pic de Vissou.
We tasted in the small cellar. And I felt that Jean was in his element, talking about his wines with great enthusiasm and conviction, warming to his subject with an intelligent and perceptive slant.
2014 Atout Pic, Cabrières – Languedoc – 10.00€
Syrah with 30 – 40% Cinsaut. Medium colour. Very appealing with a ripe spicy nose. Fresh cherry fruit, very easy, very gourmand. No oak. Ripe peppery flavours. A slightly tannic streak makes for a good balance 13˚.
Jean explained that all his grapes are handpicked, with the help of friends and his labels acknowledge this with a very sympathique mention Jean et Véronique et leurs amis. He uses a small basket press, and sorts in the cellar, after éraflage, so that only perfect grapes go into the press. He does one délestage, some pigeage and some remontages, and tastes the fermenting wine regularly.
2012 Bouteilles à la Mer – 12.50€
This is his principal cuvee accounting for 3 -4000 bottles. Syrah, Cinsaut and Grenache, including about 5% Syrah élèvé in wood. Quite a deep young colour; fresh spicy nose, with a leathery note, and on the palate quite ripe, good cherry fruit. Medium weight.
2013 Bouteilles à la mer
Less Grenache in this, thanks to coulure. Quite a deep colour and firm youthful tight knit nose. More structure and more tannin, with firm fruit- the difference of a year’s age.
2012 Pic de Vissou – 25.00€
Good deep colour. Élevage en fût, but with 15% of wine from the following vintage added to ensure that the end result is not too oaky. This is allowed, as the vintage on the label implies a minimum of 85% from that year. Jean finds that his tempers the oak, and indeed it does, thought the wine is still quite dense, solid and rounded with a touch of oak. But put that down to its youth. Grenache and Syrah. – just 1200 bottles. He uses chauffe moyen, which is not too aggressive.
And the final red was Tethys – 50.00€ - with just 250 bottles. Half aged in vat and half in barrel. 35% Cinsaut with 30% Syrah and 35% Grenache Noir. Jean is very enthusiastic about Cinsaut. This had some firm spicy leathery notes. It was very intriguing, quite structured, with youthful fruit, a lot of body and a lot of potential. It is not made every year; it all depends on the quality of the Cinsaut. Jean considers Cinsaut to be magnificent. To use it just for rosé, is to do it a gross disservice. 14˚ makes it quite powerful but it is elegant too, with a long finish. Lots of potential and to borrow a phrase from my friend Christopher Cannan at Clos Figueras in Priorat, not yet at cruising altitude.
And we finished with a Cartagène de Clairette, Cartagène No 1, Parfum du Sud 16.00€ for a 50 cl. bottle
Surprise by Coris
You are only allowed to use the term Mas if you are making an appellation, and Cartagène does not have an appellation. From late harvested Clairette – a day of picking with friends to produce 250 bottles from 180 kilos of grapes. Very fruity, honeyed with raisins. Very concentrated, with a spirity note on the finish. And a fun finale to a friendly encounter.