Oh no! That feeling when the jeans are in the wash and halfway through the cycle you think – the pockets!! It wasn’t money I was worried about, or a cherished photograph, but a clutch of herbs from the Languedoc in the south of France. They’d been tugged off a cluster of bushes on the edges of a vineyard by one of today’s most successful winemakers, Jean-Claude Mas.
The herbs represented so much. The enthusiasm of Jean-Claude Mas for his surroundings; his love for the land and the impact of the land on his wines. Jean-Claude was taking a group of us on a tour of his vineyards in a rip-roaring buggy ride, pointing out viognier, chardonnay, grenache gris and many many more grape varieties.
We stopped on a hill and he handed me the herbs; I scrunched them and could smell the amazing “garrigue” of the landscape – wild plants from the hills in this part of the Mediterranean.
Jean-Claude Mas: A drive through the vineyards – VIDEO
Red wines can be described as having a “garrigue” influence – and right there in that place I understood. It’s like a pot-pourri of aromas, of earth, of greenery, of vegetation. I tucked the herbs in my pocket to await their fate with a washing powder tablet.
Jean-Claude Mas more than understands the wine alchemy he can create from his land. He has the Midas touch for producing great-value wines under his brand Domaines Paul Mas.
He began with 35 hectares of inherited land from his father (Paul Mas) in 2000 and only 18 years later he has 13 estates – the 13th acquisition confirmed as I sat in his tasting room sipping wines available in the UK (Aldi, Waitrose, Morrisons, Co-op and Majestic are just several stockists).
Jean-Claude knows what his customers want. He told us: “The past has no interest to me; I’m always looking to the future. Yes of course, we can learn from the past to be sure, but to be static is crazy. We are always forward-thinking.”
He is definitely a driven man, spotting the opportunities in the market and yet at the same time developing an ethos of sustainability, with the health of the vines, within an organic viticulture culture, paramount. He believes that “with a living soil, the vine grows better, and the wines are better still”.
His enthusiasm is magnetic, his philosophy is admirable. His wines are bloody good too … more of them in another blog post.
PS The herbs emerged from the washing. They’re my scrunched-up (and now very clean) memory of the Languedoc.