Lucie Loves... Wine + Travel // A gorgeously gastronomic postcard from France: My trip to Côté Mas with Paul Mas Wines and dinner at 2-Michelin Star restaurant, Le Table de Franck Putelat, Carcassonne
How many of you drink wine? What do you prefer? red, white, or rose? Sparkling, Prosecco or Champagne? Do you have a favourite brand or a go-to bottle? Do you have a favourite variety of grape? How much do you generally pay for a bottle?
It turns out there’s so much more to wine than that first bottle of cheap Echo Falls or Blossom Hill that you (also) probably had as a youngster in your local pub.
For me – an amateur wine-lover – my education and journey into the world of wine has only really just begun. If I’m honest, I’ve always tended to mainly stick with reds: Malbec, Rioja, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc – and often still do. Particularly, if buying from a standard bar or supermarket, for drinking purposes only. However, if I’m cooking a particular kind of dish, with white meat or fish, I will go for a bottle of white wine or rose. But, like everything in life, it’s so easy to just go for what you know and not try anything new!
FINE WINE WORDS:“Oenology (enology; /iːˈnɒlədʒi/ ee-NOL-o-jee) is the science and study of wine and winemaking; distinct from viticulture, the agricultural endeavours of vine-growing and of grape-harvesting.” ~ Wikipedia
What I do enjoy though – particularly as I get older – is being of the company of people who really know their wine, and I guess that’s how I found myself in France (again) in Autumn last year.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jean-Claude Mas (the very handsome – and happily married – Antonia Banderas-esq looking Winemaker) at a wine blogger event last summer at Eric Lanlard’s Cake Boy in Battersea. There was a competition where we had to flavour our own cupcakes, to complement the selection of Paul Mas sparkling wines that we were given to taste. The prize for the best cupcakes? A trip to wine-country itself and chance to pay a visit to the home of Jean-Claude Mas – owner of Paul Mas Wines – a wander around many a vineyard and a very fancy stay and dinner at Le Luxe Rural Côté Mas. And I bloody won it!! WOAH!
Here’s what happened next…
“Domaines Paul Mas showcase the different Languedoc terroirs through exceptional wines from the finest of the region’s crus.”
FINE WINE WORDS: “Terroir (tɛrˈwɑː,French tɛrwar) noun 1. the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. 2. the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced.” ~ Wikipedia
Tuesday 30 October
After a startlingly early wake-up call and a hasty getting ready session; I picked up my hand luggage, jumped into the waiting car and proceeded onwards to Gatwick Airport, for our 08:40 flight to Toulouse.
At the airport I was met by Ben Smith, our PR contact for Paul Mas Wines, and a few other members of the wine press, that I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting before: Sumita Sarma (a wine expert and presenter and a Level 4, Diploma holder from Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), Edith Hancock (also currently studying towards her WSET diploma.) and Martin Green – all of them seasoned drinks writers and wine experts.
FINE WINE WORDS: “Cru is "a vineyard or group of vineyards, especially one of recognized quality". It is a French wine term which is traditionally translated as "growth", as it was originally the past participle of the verb "croître" (to grow). As a wine term it is closely connected to terroir in the sense of an "extent of terrain having a certain physical homogeneity . . . considered from the point of view of the nature of the soil as communicating a particular character to its produce, notably to wine.” ~ Wikipedia
Once in Toulouse, we jumped aboard the waiting mini bus and made our way to the heart of the Languedoc-Rousillon wine region. Which, coincidentally, also happened to be where I’d lived for 3.5 months in Mazamet, early in Spring 2018 - read all about my experience of living in France here. Our first stop on this trip, however, was a visit to Domaine Astruc, the production, bottling and warehouse space for Les Domaine Paul Mas wine.
Next up we arrived at Château de Martinolles home to “over 30 hectares of olive, pine and oak trees alongside the vines in this unspoilt corner of the country” for an afternoon tasting of a few bottles of Paul Mas’ Sparkling wine with Bastien. By this point we were all pretty excited about dinner that evening at Franck Putelat’s restaurant Le Parc.
Minervois is an appellation in the Western Languedoc famous for its distinctive red wine. I first tried a bottle of this when we arrived in France – over our first lunch together. It’s funny how our senses have such a strong connection to our core memories. Just the taste of this wine now takes me back to early 2018.
We were taken to one of Les Domaine Paul Mas’ newest vineyards, overlooking the Minervois. The russet autumn leaves on the vines and the sunsetting over Carcassonne made it quite a magical moment on the trip.
What came next was – as promised – '“an authentic sensory journey in taste” with each course paired with a different wine by our Sommelier, and a rather eye-watering selection of cheese and exquisite desserts to follow. At one point I lost count of how many wine glasses we had one the table!
The wines we tasted were as follows:
Astelia Cremant de Limoux, N/A UK
Chateau Martinolles Grande Reserve Brut, N/A UK
Chateau Martinolles Vielles Vignes Limoux 2016, Sohowine.co.uk, £13.50
Chateau Paul Mas Belluguette 2016 Languedoc Blanc, Sohowine.co.uk, £14.50
Chateau Paul Mas Clos du Moulinas 2014, Cheers Wine Merchants, £18
Chateau Martinolles Garriguet Limoux Rouge 2014, N/A UK
Chateau des Cres Ricards Oenothera 2016, Cheers Wine Merchants, £15
Domaine des Schistes Rivesaltes Solera Organic Natural Wine
Lauriga Rivesaltes Hors d'Age, Sohowine.co.uk, £19.50
Wednesday 31 October
The next day saw our troop visit Chateau Lauriga for another tour and wine-tasting, followed lunch at the Côteé Mas Bistrot, a snoop around the Domaine Nicole cellar and another tasting, ahead of our visit to Côté Mas Luxe Rural retreat (our home for that evening) and a very exciting and indulgent dinner at Côté Mas restaurant…
Now… let it be known that, in my 33-years of being on this planet, I have drank some wine… a lot of it… but not nearly as much as I tasted (read as: guzzled) on this Paul Mas Wines Press Trip. Oh my goodness! My poor body didn’t know what had hit it! I was 99.9% wine.
I know that you are not meant to drink all the wine at a wine-tasting. Emphasis on “tasting” as opposed to a classic Saturday night wine drinking session… But when faced with 24 different bottles of high quality vino…. the majority of which I had never tried before…I got a bit excited. You see, I was quite determined that I would just sip it… just a little bit of each… to get a good taste of it! I mean, you would though… wouldn’t you?
NOTE TO SELF: A single bread stick or two does not a stomach line! I was a goner in no time. But what a time I had! 24-48 sips of 24 bottles of wine later, I checked into my hotel room (stumbling distance away from the tasting…) and just thought “I’ll have a little nap before dinner.”
I should’ve known. It was like I’d downed a bottle of Night Nurse! I slept through my phone alarm… and into the time I’d allocated to freshen up for dinner… and only woke up when the phone in my room rang! SHIT!
Let’s just say, a rather dishevelled looking Lucie turned up late to the dinner table. Thankfully, I was wearing my gold velvet suit – a canny distraction from my sleepy face and bed hair.
Our gastronomic experience – cooked up by Chef Alexandre Fontaine – was a seasonal delight, with wine-pairings for each course, provided by the sommelier. All of their vegetables, fish, cheeses and meats are sourced locally, which adds another element of pride to the dishes served. Take a peek at the Côté Mas A la Carte menu to get a flavour of what is on offer.
The courses just kept coming and coming… and with it… the wine. I’d never eaten or drank so well in my life! The Côté Mas restaurant was Michelin star worthy - from food to service, ambience and it’s location nestled amongst acres of beautiful Montagnac vineyards.
Another fabulous evening of the finest of food and wine. I was so full by the end of the meal that I couldn’t imagine eating again for a week!
Thursday 1 November
The next morning we made our way to Tarbouriech Oyster Farm in Etang de Thau, Languedoc. A stunning little place, not far from a much-loved sea port called Sète.
The plan? A delicious oyster-laden lunch by the sea with a splash more white wine, before our flight back to London later that day.
The reality? Lucie feeling so very hungover, gave it a miss* (due to stupidly over-indulging the night before), whilst the others feasted on fruits of the sea.
*Read as: took herself off for a nap in the minibus, knowing that should one innocent little oyster pass her lips… it would soon be chucked right back up again – along with copious amounts of wine…
No one wants to carry that sort of awful food/nausea association memory with them – or, for the rest of their lives, have to avoid oysters…
All in all, this was quite possibly one of the most wonderful (and well-fed and watered) press trips that I’d ever had the privilege to be invited on. Visiting the Languedoc in autumn, was like being able to step into the world of Jean-Claude Mas, and get a real taste of how art, music, tradition, innovation and lifestyle all play a huge part in the family’s ability – and drive – to keep producing world-class award winning wines.
Photography © Lucie Kerley