Thirty years ago the Australian winemakers kicked the French's backside in the UK by offering inexpensive, fruity, ready to drink wines when the European nation was still firmly believing everyone had their own wine cellar to age their bottles for a decade or so. With no rules to adhere to, Aussie producers could plant whatever they liked, wherever they liked and capitalised massively on the desire of the wine buying public for bottles they could take home and drink that night.
But now, with the Australian Dollar, high costs of transport and a building market in the far East, Australian producers are seeing a fightback from the French, particularly from the regions in the south. I've previously highly rated my friend's wines from the Roussillon, but here I'm looking at a much older producer from the region, Domaine Paul Mas.
With over a thousand hectares of vineyards in the Languedoc, Domaine Paul Mas is big. They produce an extensive range including brands such as Claude Val, La Forge, Domaine Astruc and Arrogant Frog, but the three wines I tried recently are a new label, Cote Mas. I know it shouldn't matter, but labelling is important on a bottle and so many great wines get it so tragically wrong. I still adhere to the theory that the better the label, the worse the wine inside is, and with the Cote Mas wines I immediately liked the labels, and thought I wouldn't be too keen on the wine. With a 1950's southern French coast feel about them, it made my mind go back to a more romantic time with old Lancias and Citroens dashing about in the sunshine and girls in petticoats and swimming costumes had four times as much material in them as the outfit Rhianna wears to go shopping. Aesthetically these wines work for me, but what about the stuff in the bottle?
Lots of citrus with some chalky elements coming through and some bruised peach and pear on the nose. The palate is simple, clean, fresh with flavours of pear drops, pear skin and peach. A little weighty on the end, but it does clean up to be a nice, very drinkable, white wine. 85pts
2011 Cote Mas Rosé Aurore
Bright fresh strawberries and a little raspberry cream coming out. The palate has good balance, more strawberries and a tiny touch of confection on the palate, but this is warm so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Again, simple, clean, fresh rose from the south of France. 83pts
2011 Cote Mas Rouge Intense
Slight hints of barbecue smoke with some lovely cherry and dark blackberries. The palate is dark, but with a lift of more acidic berries. A good balance of tobacco, coffee, dark cherry and some chocolate coming through on the finish. Really quite tasty. 84pts
Domaine Paul Mas has created something that could really work for them, a trio of simple, summery wines that cost £7 each that look good. You really don't need to drink anything else this summer... assuming the summer eventually gets here.