Mas de Lavail is a grower whose wines I have been listing for several years now, though my stocks of their wines had dwindled to virtually zero by the middle of last year. But following another visit to the estate in July 2009, together with a stop-by at their stand at Vinisud in February 2010, it was clear to me that the standard of their range of wines just gets better and better. Here are my notes on a couple of them, tasted over the last 2 days.
Very pale gold colour with a water rim. The nose is intensely fragrant, combining grape, apple and stone fruit aromas, with notes of honeysuckle, marmalade, orange blossom, herbs and spices and creamy, smoky oak. It's a very complex nose, for such a young wine. The palate is equally intense and extremely full-bodied, rich and expressive - and equally complex. The flavours are of spiced fruit salad laced with Calvados, with some distinctly herbal notes (think fennel, oregano). There's a healthy lick of acidity, which provides a nice counter to the rich, almost tangy marmalade mid palate and the long, warming finish. You often read that a wine "wears its alcohol well", by way of mitigating a perceived drawback. But this wine wears its 14.5% abv proudly on its sleeve. It isn't a quaffer, it is a food wine (perhaps chicken or pork, or fish with a herby sauce) and is not for the faint-hearted. It is undoubtedly big and rich and packed with flavour, but for all that power, it is curiously elegant and quirky - and very lovely. I think it will be a keeper, too - watch it develop over the next 5 or more years. Shame I only bought a few cases! £14.50.
Made from 100% old vine Grenache, harvested at the peak of maturity, the grapes are given a long maceration, followed by "mutage" (the addition of a small amount of grape brandy) which halts fermentation and retains some of the grape sugars. The colour is densely purple and opaque, with a tiny, vivid pink rim. The nose is all about dark fruits of both the fresh and dried varieties. Bramble and blackcurrants, cherries and prunes steeped in eau de vie mingle with dark chocolate, forest floor and cedar wood. The palate is a riot of intensely sweet, concentrated fruit, combining tangy black cherries, stewed brambles, cassis and prunes, with a hint of Seville orange marmalade. Notes of molasses and dark chocolate add an intense richness, like liquid Christmas cake. And through it all runs an enticing, refreshing streak of acidity. I guess there are some healthy tannins in there somewhere, but the balance and the richness render them almost unnoticeable. This wine is so delicious and so more-ish that I simply cannot fault it. And although it is so lovely now, I can only see it getting better and better for at least a decade, perhaps a lot longer. I took it along to a blind tasting at Nottingham Wine Circle, where it compared more than favourably to the Graham's 1977 Vintage Port that followed. The Port was superb (and so it should be) but the Maury showed magnificently. And at just 16% abv - as opposed to the 20% of the Port - this gently fortified wine provides the sort of balance and freshness that Port can rarely (if ever) attain. Food pairings would include rich puddings (even with chocolate) or fruitcake, raspberry sorbet, cheese, or even as an accompaniment to duck with cherry sauce. And when Christmas comes around, it is the perfect match for mince pies. Better still, just enjoy it on its own. Vintage Maury is truly one of the world's best and most underrated sweet red wine styles - and this is a truly exceptional example, and a steal at £14.95.