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Brian Elliott: Why wine tourists shouldn't overlook Languedoc

Brian Elliot looks at the Languedoc and why Côté Mas hopes to attract more wine tourists to the region.

Published: August 17, 2015
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While many French wine folk snootily disparaged New World wines when they first emerged, producers in Languedoc opted instead to try to emulate them. Soon, innovators like the irrepressible Jean Claude Mas were busy creating simply labelled, fruit-driven, inexpensive wines in the southern-hemisphere style.

From his HQ just outside Pézenas – the region’s Molière-mad historic town – Mas has masterminded many memorable triumphs like his sideswipe at more conservative countrymen – the Arrogant Frog brand.

"Shrewdly, Jean Claude Mas wines
often combine old and new world techniques"

Recently, though, his focus has been on upgrading wine tourism to provide a complete experience – and even potential destination outlet – for the region’s many visitors. To this end he has created Côté Mas, a state-of-the-art facility offering Michelin-standard food and top-level accommodation as well as cellar tours and, of course, a retail wine shop. Directions to it even dominate the local airport at Béziers, where a large Jean Claude Mas poster beams down on visitors arriving on the direct service from Edinburgh.

Shrewdly, though, Mas wines often combine old and new world techniques. For instance, (Rhône Valley-style) small proportions of viognier provide extra roundedness and aromatics in 2013 Jean Claude Mas Les Schistes Syrah Viognier (£9.50 at Henderson Wines, Edinburgh). Here soft floral touches and sure-footed acidic balance work with the syrah’s rich, intense bramble and liquorice flavours, and the savoury herb touches – and carefully restricted tannins – which support them.

More surprising though is the success with a grape usually associated with cooler temperatures and less ripeness. The fresh and long 2014 Jean Claude Mas La Plaine Sauvignon Blanc (£9.50 at Whisky & Wine, Edinburgh) is terrific. All the perfumed components are there aplenty, but so too is pink grapefruit-centred (rather than lemon) acidity with ripe orange and pear substance to provide unmistakable Languedoc fingerprints.

So, a visit to Côté Mas is well worth contemplating.

• For regular recommendations on good value wines, go to my website

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2013 Cliffhanger Riesling
Mosel, Germany, 10.5 per cent
This is a versatile riesling with enough residual sugar to work well on its own, but sufficient apple and lime-based acidity from those steep vineyards to allow it to partner selected food successfully. Either way, the wine’s carefully balanced structure also provides pear-centred texture, nutty influences and savoury, slatey components to add complexity.
£9.49 at Tesco

2013 Léon Perdigal Côtes du Rhône
France, 12.5 per cent
Exactly how well-made Rhône should be. Its bright, clear raspberry and cherry fruit is uncluttered by excess tannin, but is ably supported by gentle acidity with vanilla and sweeter spices which all combine to deliver mellow, balanced and medium-bodied red wine of distinction.
£6.66 instead of £9.99 until 31 August at Majestic, where minimum purchase rules apply

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