Mas Amiel Maury 2007
When I looked back recently over the weekly wines featured on Winedoctor since July 2006, which was when I shifted from a themed Monday tasting to “anything goes”, I was surprised to see I have never featured a wine from Maury, one of Roussillon’s most iconic appellations. Banyuls, its more maritime counterpart, has cropped up more than once, featuring both of the leading estates of the appellation; first was the 1993 Cuvée La Coume from Domaine du Mas Blanc, home to Doctor Parcé, and then the straight 1994 Banyuls and 2001 Cuvée Leon Parcé both from Marc Parcé of Domaine de la Rectorie (yes, naturally all these Parcés are related). But nothing from Maury.
Banyuls lies on the very border with Spain, on the Mediterranean coast, seemingly squeezed into one of France’s most southerly corners. Maury, however, although just as much part of the Roussillon vineyard, is a little further north and also a little more inland, sitting on the border between Roussillon and the Languedoc, in particular Fitou and Corbières. There are certainly some similarities between these two little enclaves as well as the third much larger appellation which separates them, Rivesaltes. All three yield a rich, fortified style of wine, in all cases ranging from more modern, fruit-rich, inky-coloured styles through to more traditional paler wines, often aged in wood for a long period of time, sometimes with a rancio or oxidised character. This week’s wine is very much in the former style.
Maury may be white or red, although in my experience the latter is more commonly encountered. The eligible varieties for the former include Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Maccabeu or Tourbat, augmented by a maximum 20% of Muscat à Petits Grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie; these latter varieties are limited as to include large proportions would distract from similar styles produced nearby, namely Muscat de Rivesaltes. The red wines, such as our wine this week, must comprise at least 75% Grenache Noir, the other principal grapes being Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Maccabeu, the latter not exceeding 10%. In addition, the varieties Carignan and Syrah, up to a maximum 10%, are also permitted. All the fruit must of course be sourced from the largely schistous vineyards in and around Maury, Rasiguères, Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet and Tautavel, the four communes that qualify for the Maury appellation, and both colours see twelve months in wood before bottling.
The appellation is championed by a single producer, Mas Amiel, and for an account of the range of wines produced it might be best to take a look at my Mas Amiel profile which includes many tasting notes on the different available styles. One of my favourites, though, is the single-vintage red Maury which I first tasted in the 1998 vintage, back in 2002. Protected from oxidation during the vinification and ageing, the wine has an ink-dark appearance, although it remains fresh and not unlike a vibrant and youthful Port. Nevertheless it is always distinguishable from the Douro’s efforts by the presence of an intense, sweet, Grenache-based flavour profile.
And so to the wine, the 2007 Mas Amiel Maury, which weighs in at 16%. In the glass it has a dark, vibrant, plum-purple hue. The nose is great at first; immediately full of fruit, with something of a rich confit style, but also showing plenty of non-fruit elements, including notes of sweet tobacco, crystalline berries and sweetly aromatic and herby leaves, especially bay. In the mouth it has a similarly sweet and rich texture on entry, but there is also a savoury, smoky, tobacco-tinged seam alongside this very rich and hedonistic character. There is acidity too, keeping its sweetness in the mouth in check, and helping to keep it fresh. This has a delightful style, giving us a wine admirable in terms of concept, for it is so easy to drink. Delicious, long, and great fun; I’ve enjoyed this night after night recently, sometimes even with a very light chill, just to keep it cool and defined. 17+/20 (16/11/09)