Domaines Paul Mas Vintage Report
2013: The Languedoc Makes Its Mark
If there is one wine region which has done well in France this year, it is certainly the Languedoc. While other regions have had to cope with complex climatic conditions in what has been a relatively late harvest, the Languedoc has actually benefitted from albeit atypical weather conditions, particularly when it comes to the full ripening of the grapes. Of course, good vineyard management and yield control are of paramount important to Domaines Paul Mas. 2013 has all the hallmarks of an extraordinary vintage. Wines are showing superb aromatic potential and exceptional freshness, promising excellent ageing potential.
The climatic conditions of the 2013 vintage:
There were quite a few surprises this year….
– A cold winter delayed the beginning of the growing season
– Extremely low temperatures over a long period of time, up until May 2013, made this the coldest winter in 20 years
– A warm Indian summer followed a very good hot summer season
Although it missed out on a mild spring, the region basked in a very sunny, warm summer with above-average temperatures in July. In September and October, crucial months for the vintage, the conditions were ideal; hot sunny days and fresh, cool nights.
The right amount of rain to sustain the vines
Recorded rainfall has varied from one terroir to the next. While in Limoux, the vineyards received plenty of rain in the winter period, the vineyard in the Hérault Valley have been coping with drought despite several rainstorms in March which have lead to significant rainfall readings across the board: from 120 to 250mm which is 2 – 3 times the normal seasonal measurement. In spring and summer, rainfall varied greatly from one region to the next, some reporting more than usual while elsewhere, water was in short supply. September and October were mainly dry with a few localized outbreaks of rain.
On the 6th and 7th September, there was a very heavy rainstorm in the Biterrois region (from 50 to 80 mm)
On the 14th September, there was another outbreak of rain although this time it was less violent (5 to 15mm)
On the 4th and 5th October, the Aude region received a large fall of rain (20 to 50mm)
Unusually for the region, the water reserves in the soil have been sufficient to sustain the vines well; another reason why this vintage really stands out.
Each sub-region within the Languedoc has its own more specific data. We harvest fruit from a number of different terroirs across the region including:
– Lower Aude Valley and the Marseillette Basin
– Pézenas and the Hérault Valley
– Grès de Montpellier
– Béziers and the Orb Valley
Spring 2013 was exceptionally cool. In May and June, the average temperature was nearly 3˚C below the seasonal average: 13.3˚C in May and 17.8˚C in June. Summer, on the other hand, was hotter than the average but even so, it did not make up for the delay of the growing season caused by the cold spring weather conditions. Another feature of the vintage; high levels of winter rain. In the month of January alone, recorded rainfall was 138mm, while the average was nearer to 60mm. Throughout spring, there was regular light rainfall so the team were particularly vigilant in case disease or rot set in.
Lower Aude Valley and the Marseillette Basin
Spring was generally quite rainy but the summer months were on the whole dry with some light rain in September and mid October. Spring was cool while summer was hot.
Spring: 180 – 250˚mm
Summer: 30 – 50˚mm
Winter rainfall was higher than normal (+15% – +35%). Most of the rain fell in spring. Summer was generally dry. Spring was very cool and summer very hot with temperatures higher than average.
Spring: 100 – 160˚mm
Summer: 20 – 40˚mm
Summer rainfall was low but rain storms at the beginning and in the middle of September created the right conditions for botrytis to take hold in certain parcels where vines were more densely planted, which required very careful monitoring to track the maturation process. Spring was cool and summer was generally hot.
Lower Hérault Valley
Spring: 110 to 180mm
Summer: 30 – 60mm
Rainfall was close to average in spring and slightly lower than average throughout the summer period.
Grès de Montpellier
Spring: 150 – 200mm
Summer: 100 – 120mm
There was some rain in spring but in summer, there was an unusual amount of rain. This is the only part of the region where there was too much rain. Heavy rain fell overnight between 28th and 29th July: 50 – 95mm/hour.
Spring: 220 – 280mm
Summer: 80 – 100mm
This part of the Hérault is generally cooler and more humid than the rest of the region. Rainfall readings were average this year.
The Growing Season
The hard winter and the persistently low temperatures until the end of May have significantly impacted on the vegetative cycle of the vines. Budbreak was delayed by almost two weeks but the conditions in April and May are mainly responsible for the slow growth of the vines and late flowering, some 10 – 15 days behind the average date. Cold weather during flowering resulted in some coulure for certain susceptible varieties such as Grenache and Merlot, while Chardonnay was affected by millerandage, particularly in Limoux. The Paul Mas team has managed to minimize the effect of these problems by using preventative treatments with oligo elements.
Healthy grapes; the key to the quality of the vintage
Due to the relatively wet summer, it was necessary to keep a close eye on the vineyards to prevent diseases such as mildew and oidium. “It has been a year where we couldn’t make any mistakes,” comments Bastien Lalauze, winemaker in charge of the vineyards at Domaine Martinolles in Limoux. By proactively treating the vines at exactly the right time, we have been able to harvest really high quality grapes.
“Vineyard management was the most important factor that determined the quality of the vintage this year. Thanks to our efforts, we have been able to work around the difficulties of a late season,” says Jean-Claude Mas.
A harvest brought in in record time
2013 has been the latest vintage in 20 years. Picking began on the 5 September for the first varieties to fully ripen, about 15 days later than the average. This delay was less critical for the later ripening varieties, picked about a week later than the average. Consequently, the harvest was completed more quickly than usual. While it normally lasts from 15th August to 15th October, picking took place at a very brisk pace between 5th September and 23rd October. The unusual conditions for maturation have upset the norms.
“2013 has been like a Burgundian vintage,” comments Guillaume Borrot. Ripening was slow because the days were shorter and the nights were very cool. These were ideal conditions for fast-ripening grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, varieties which have produced exceptional aromatic intensity this year.”
Profile of the wines by grape variety
2013 has been a great year for Sauvignon Blanc. This variety benefitted from the levels of available water and the swings in temperature between day and night – two key factors contributing to its aromatic potential. The ripening period was unusually long; the last of the Sauvignon Blanc was picked on 24th September. The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc has great aromatic intensity, showing citrus fruit, tomato leaf and tropical fruit, together with good acidity and freshness.
Alcohol: 12 – 12.5% vol
Due to the unusual weather conditions, Chardonnay from this year will be much more crisp and lively than one would expect from the Languedoc. Wine styles vary greatly from one area to the other and there are some quite big differences in sugar levels. Because we are operating in a broad range of terroirs, we are able to blend different parcels to maintain the styles of our wine ranges. With the Chardonnay from the flatter areas, we aimed to harvest the grapes fully ripe in order to get wines with body and texture. In the cooler regions like Limoux, where the wines are naturally more austere, we have applied a malolactic fermentation on a proportion of the wines in order to achieve aromatic complexity, texture and body. Due to the generally higher acidity levels, barrel fermentation was a good option and the ageing potential of the wines is looking promising.
Alcohol: 12.5 – 14% vol
Acidity: 3.6 – 3.8g/l
This variety will have a crisp, lively character this year. This freshness will bring out very delicate floral and apricot aromas more typical of the wines of the Northern Rhône.
Acidity: 3.6 – 3.8g/l
The Vermentino crops managed to resist vine diseases so have reached full maturity, producing very expressive wines with aromas of bergamot and pear. As usual with the variety, there is an excellent balance between alcohol and acidity.
Alcohol: 12.5 – 13%
pH: 3.3 – 3.4
This variety was also picked in a very good state. The conditions were just right to produce wines with lots of freshness – something which we always look for with Marsanne.
pH: 3.5 – 3.6
It has been a great vintage for this variety which is concentrated in the Thau basin. Volume and quality combine perfectly with a very lively character, key elements for a successful Picpoul wine. To add texture and complexity, we kept the wines on the lees and stirred throughout the fermentation.
pH: 3.2 – 3.3
This great Mediterranean variety has once again surpassed itself, more proof that it is perfectly suited to the terroirs of the Languedoc. We brought the grapes in fully ripe with excellent aromatic potential. Aromas of flowers and white peach marry harmoniously with the spicy notes from barrel fermentation and maturation.
Acidity: 3.5 – 3.8g/l
pH: 3.3 – 3.45
Blanquette et Crémants
This has been a dream vintage for the Blanquettes and Créments de Limoux. The harvest kicked off on the 5th September, 15 days later than last year. But the weather conditions of 2013 have been absolutely perfect in terms of finding the acidity levels necessary to make sparkling wines. The base wines combined the two most important criteria for making quality sparkling wines – fruit and acidity. The quality of the grapes has produced very clean, structured wines with excellent aromatic intensity. The 2013 bubbles from Limoux are looking very promising indeed!
Alcohol: 10.5 – 11%
Acidity: 4.5 – 5g/l
pH: 3 – 3.1
2013 will be an exceptional year for Languedoc Rosé which is showing the two most important qualities for this wine style: fruit intensity and freshness. The Rosés of 2013, fermented at low temperatures, have crisp, fresh summer fruit aromas and flavours. Lively in character, they are rich, ripe and deliciously fresh.
Acidity: 3.5 – 3.6g/l
pH: 3.3 – 3.4
If there is a grape that is better suited to the specific weather conditions of this vintage then it is Pinot Noir. The reason? Water levels and temperatures have been more akin to those of its region of origin – Burgundy. The late vintage was absolutely ideal for this early ripener which has really flourished with the water levels and lower temperatures throughout the growing and ripening seasons. Supple tannins, full body and exceptional aromatic complexity with notes of red fruit and cherry. Languedocien Pinot Noir is a must this year.
Merlot struggled with the cool conditions around flowering time which led to some coulure and millerandage. Consequently, the harvest has been smaller but in return the grapes reached optimum maturity and are extremely concentrated in flavour and colour. In Limoux, in particular, Merlot has explosive concentrations of aroma; forest fruits and truffles with ripe tannins.
Alcohol: 13.5 – 14.5%
Acidity: 3 – 3.2g/l
pH 3.7 – 3.8
Terroir is very evident in the Syrahs of 2013 and two very distinct profiles have emerged. For the Syrah from the flatter areas, where yields have been fairly large, we have used certain techniques (from pre-fermentation maceration to hot or thermovinification) to get supple, fruity wines. Syrah from the hillside vineyards have reached a good level of ripeness and are rich and concentrated with velvety tannins and rich red fruit aromas and flavours. They are closer in style to the wines of the Northern Rhône than to the traditional Languedoc Syrah.
Syrah from the flatter areas:
Alcohol: 13.5 – 14% vol
Acidity: 3 – 3.2g/l
pH: 3.7 – 3.8
Syrah from the hillside vineyards
Alcohol: 14 – 14.5% vol
This is the variety that has struggled most with the prevailing conditions. Low temperatures at flowering time caused coulure, which we were able to control with preventative treatments of oligo elements. Nevertheless, it was a challenging situation in the vineyard and we have had to do some work on the wines in the cellar in order to push them to their full potential. This year, the Grenache wines are very fruity with lower alcohol levels than usual except for those parcels where the yield was very low and their alcohol levels were at usual levels.
Alcohol: 13.5 – 14.9% vol
Acidity: 3.3 – 2.9g/l
pH: 3.8 – 3.9
Despite the fact that it is a late ripener, Cabernet Sauvignon like Cabernet Franc elsewhere held its own this year. It flourished in the warm Indian summer and in the end, was harvested only a few days later than last year. The calm conditions at the end of the season allowed the Cabernet grapes to ripen slowly and steadily, which has been really beneficial for their aromatic composition. Cabernet from 2013 is rich and supple packed with aromas of forest fruit and red pepper.
Alcohol: 13.5 – 14% vol
Acidity: 3.3 – 3.1g/l
pH: 3.7 – 3.8