Wine production is known to be hard and laborious but always worthwhile when you reap the rewards that come with meticulous planning and focused commitment. For Jean-Claude Mas, owner and winemaker of Domaine Paul Mas, wine is a life long journey and it is the focused commitment of stalwarts like him, that have steered Languedoc-Roussillon to the forefront of international recognition. Ever since initiating production of Paul Mas wines in 2000, the scale of growth for Paul Mas has seen a rapid increase over the past two decades, rising from 35 ha (in 1999) to 750 ha of vineyards (as of 2018), across the sprawling and diverse Mediterranean terroir of Languedoc and Rousillon.

Today Paul Mas runs 15 chateaux with nearly 13 wineries, where it not only produces IGP -Indication Geographique Protégée (Pays d’Oc) wines but also appellation regulated AOP (Appellation d’origin Protégée) blends covering sparkling cremants to classic red blends. Apart from owned vineyards, the chateau also makes wines from 1500 ha of contracted vineyards that they have had long term relationships with, which speaks of the commitment to bringing out the best of the terroir and variety of grapes that are grown here. As per the latest figures, atleast 100-150 ha of own vineyards (20%) are already following the stringent organic guidelines and 80% are certified Terra Vitis. The investment towards sustainability is one that is high on the agenda for Jean-Claude Mas who aims to reach the certification for all of their owned vineyards by 2023.

Jean-Claude Mas winemaker and owner of Paul Mas wines (Image: Domaine Paul Mas)
Chateaux at Paul Mas wrapping up Mediterranean from the west that moderates temperatures (Image: Dom Paul Mas)
Chateau Astelia (Image: Domaine Paul Mas)

The winery at Chateau Astélia in Montagnac, is Jean Claude’s latest creation, dedicated to his beloved daughters (Astrid, Elisa, Apolline and Estelle). It is also in this estate where Jean Claude made his first blend of Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah from vines that are aged 19-30 years. Now fully complete, the winery is on its first functional year of production vinifying vintage 2018 grapes from Clos Astélia which houses 12 ha vineyards of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon around the winery, farmed organically with vines that are 15 years on average. Adjacent to the premises, is Jean Claude Mas’s family home from where one can savour picturesque views of classic Mediterranean garrigue vegetation and its chalky clay and limestone terroir.

New Winery at Ch Astelia (Image: Sumita Sarma)

Eventually Chateau Astélia has plans to vinify all of the biodynamic and organic wines around the estate in this winery. An established and quality estate that Jean-Claude has held since 2006, Mas des Tannes, originally the site of Cistercian Valmagne Abbey, a 36 ha biodynamic vineyard, is also expected to be vinified in the estate from 2019. Mas de Tannes vineyard produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Grenache Blanc, Mourvedre, Carignan, Syrah Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier. Chateau Astélia also makes an IGP Chardonnay from select grapes from two plots, one being from the chalky clay soils around Chateau Nicole (where Paul Mas first started winemaking) and the other from stony and chalky soils further south from Chateau Arrogant Frog, close to Limoux. Interestingly it also produces IGP Sauvignon Blanc from similar chalky and loamy soils around Chateau Arrogant Frog.

A look through the purpose-built winery in Chateau Astélia clearly shows the distinction from other traditionally operated wineries of Paul Mas such as Chateau Cres Ricard and its original winery in Montagnac (initially named Chateau Nicole). It is high tech and fully modernised with temperature controlled wooden vats, at holding capacities of 50hl (one vat can fill upto 7000 bottles) and steel tanks volume with holding capacities of 75hl.  Gravity is used to as an aid to bring down the crushed and pressed grapes into tanks adding efficiency to the winemaking process.

Exports have always been a major focus of Paul Mas. From the very beginning itself, it has been Jean-Claude’s focus to promote the identity of Longuedoc brand outside France. Majority of Paul Mas’s wines are exported around the globe with UK, Netherlands, Germany, Canada and US accounting for nearly 50% of its export market. Apart from addressing sustainability and bringing out the authenticity of the wines, Jean-Claude’s vision also aims to bring together the entire culture and local traditions of Longuedoc-Roussillon. It is this commitment that has driven his vision to create “Luxe rural”, a project to promote oenotourism across Longuedoc- Rousillon by way of capturing the authentic charm that surrounds the French Mediterranean coast. The desire to present the potential of the region to discerning winelovers, who seek the holistic sense of regional beauty has become a purpose for him. Opening of the award-winning Cote Mas restaurant at the main head office in Montagnac is a move towards capturing this Luxe Rural charm. Using locally sourced ingredients, the versatile brasserie creates hearty seasonal culinary creations during the day while turning into a stylish gastronomic fine dining in the evening. Mosaic artworks of local artist, Christophe Heymann across the walls and chic Paul Mas wine labels by Emmanuel Flipo from Pezenas, talk of the innate talents that enriches the Herault arts scene. The two suites at Domaine Paul Mas are also now open for booking throughout  the year, aiming to rejuvenate the senses while facilitating small friendly gatherings and celebrations.

Paul Mas has also elegantly captures the renaissance of oysters that has taken place through the hard work of established local families who have successfully identified and registered the Bouzigues and the more select Tarboureich oyster brand appellations. Their efforts have now turned the Languedoc coastline into a world class marine gastronomic venue. This is the culmination of innovative and sustainable cultivation that happens on the shores of Thau Lagoon. Oysters are tied together via a “glueing” technique. Then solar powered remote systems operate up and down moving the ropes in and out of water to replicate the tidal waves. This stimulates the growth of oysters in the shell. White wines of Cremant, Marselan are some of the best examples of indulgent wine and oyster pairing recommendations that make this marine gastronomic experience, complete and worthwhile. The sense of place that comes from the wines, encompassing the full breadth of local Mediterranean culture, cuisine and arts, that go hand in hand with the wine experience, all adds up to the luxe rural charm that Jean-Claude Mas aims to bring out.

Image: Sumita Sarma
Image: Sumita Sarma
Menu at Restaurant Cote Mas (Image: Sumita Sarma)
Tarboureich Oysters (Languedoc top branded appellation for oysters) – Pairing recommendation with Paul Mas’s Marselan and Cremant de Limoux (Image: Sumita Sarma)