Most wine drinkers will be familiar with those cheeky French wines, the Arrogant Frog series. Delicious wines, a bit a fun, great value.
I remember an invitation to meet with winemaker, Jean-Claude Mas, born and bred in the Languedoc, some years ago. In truth, I was expecting to dislike the bloke – Arrogant Frog indeed! Turns out, he was nothing like expectations. A more humble and delightful man, one could not hope to meet. Jean-Claude has been hugely successful, building up an extremely impressive wine business.
As well as his Arrogant Frog wines, he has a number of labels from the south of France, and has been steadily improving the quality levels, while making sure that the wines are still excellent value. And this year, he celebrates twenty years of winemaking in the Languedoc/Roussillon wine region, a region where he has been one of the leading pioneers in turning it from a mass producer of rustic, often dodgy wines, to delicious, full of flavour and easy-to-drink, value offerings, beloved and admired around the world. Jean-Claude now has 800 hectares in his empire, spread across fifteen estates.
Needless to say, there are so many wines from which one can select, but these are two fine examples, ideal to enjoy during this period of enforced isolation.
Château Martinolles Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay, Limoux 2018 ($19) – This soft, enjoyable Chardy is made from vines, twenty to thirty years of age, grown at an altitude of 250 metres, in the Limoux AOC. Jean-Claude acquired the estate in 2011 and has been moving to biodynamic principles. 60% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in oak, before the entire wine is aged in oak barrels for 9 months (1/3rd new, 2/3rds two years old). Half American and half French. Interesting to see the use of American oak in France.
Lots of melon notes, some citrus, especially grapefruit, plus ginger and vanilla. There is some influence from the oak. Simple, but good flavours run throughout. Balanced and seamless with decent length. Under screwcap. Terrific value. 89.
Château Paul Mas Clos des Mûres, Languedoc 2018 ($21) – From Jean-Claude’s original vineyards at Domaine Paul Mas (named after his father) in the Languedoc. A blend of 85% Syrah, 10% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre, with each grape vinified separately. The blended wine will then spend nine months in French and American oak barrels (30% new, 35% 1-year old and 35% two-year-old oak). Under cork.
Redolent of warm earth and cherries, chocolate and spices. Soft and juicy, notes of plum quickly emerge. Very soft tannins on a finish which lingers. Absolutely cracking value. 91.
*prices may vary between retailer