Mas des Caprices is the passion project for Pierre & Mireille Mann, organic winemakers in Leucate, Corbières, Fitou. The estate is located between Narbonne and Perpignan, on the border between Languedoc and Roussillon, in Catalan land close to the Spanish border. I met them through the Vignerons de Nature sales-rep, the lovely effervescent Delphine Devine who has an exciting portfolio of organic/biodynamic producers. Pierre & Mireille’s families are Alsace vine growers, and they describe Mas des Caprices as a ‘return to the source’, keeping their tradition and heritage alive for their family. The couple had been running their own restaurant prior to this, and say that their gourmet experience excited and educated their palates, and their wines are therefore complex and do the savoury dance with their edible counterparts. The wines are true to terroir with unique character and balance. Winemaking includes organic viticulture, wild yeast ferments with pied de cuve, and maturation in concrete egg-shaped vessels. I tasted four wines from the range, and these are listed below. I found these wines to be remarkably elegant, structured and poised, which made them stand-out amongst a tidal wave of overworked Languedoc wines. Pierre was a very down-to earth guy with a great humour that transcended the language barrier, as his natural wines straddled the divide between funky and fine-wine.
Mas des Caprices Ozé Rose 2017 Mourvedre from Fitou schist. Certified ecocert organic. Wild yeast fermented. When I met Pierre, the Ozé rose was the first wine I tasted, to which I exclaimed, “so a Frenchman has made an Ozé rose,” he looked bemused, and said “Ozé means to give it a try!”, and I answered “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – oi, oi, oi!” Anyway, one of us thought it was funny. The good news was in the glass, aromatics of strawberries and cream, garrigue and a vibrant minerality leapt from the glass to the palate with a zesty, crisp, dry textural feel. Are Aussies ready for a dry Ozé rose made by a Frenchman?
Mas des Caprices Blanc de l’Oeuf 2017 This white blend of Grenache blend of Grenache Blanc, Pinot Gris, Maccabeu, Muscat à Petits Grains, is fermented and “incubated” for six months in a concrete egg shaped vat, hence the name ‘Egg White’. Certified ecocert organic. This white screams our for a hot summers evening after with the morning’s fresh catch. Citrus, mineral, preserved lemon aromatics that translate directly to the palate and the wine is vibrant, racy with a long mineral zing.
Mas des Caprices Ze Fitou 2015 Carignan (45%), Mourvedre (35%), Grenache (20%) from the coastal limestone rich soils of Fitou in Leucate. This red shows how the south can also make balanced light, jubey, easy drinking wines but still with an elegant structure. The three organically farmed varietals that make up this lively red cuvee are fermented with pied de cuve wild yeasts, and are macerated on skins for 2 weeks without any pigeage. Pierre and Mireille are focussed on letting the wines do their own thing, to express the terroir of Fitou. Maturation is in concrete and 10% oak for the 2015 vintage, to keep the freshness intact that makes this wine a great alternative to Beaujolais, or lighter Cotes du Rhone wines, whilst also offering up its own unique terorir character and expression of Carignan not often seen in Australia.
Mas des Caprices Retour Aux Sources 2015 Carignan (50%), Grenache (20%), Syrah (20%) from the schist laden Corbieres vineyard. Wild yeast pied de cuve ferment. Fermented and matured in concrete. A much richer expression of Carignan is presented here, but the organic viticulture and vines on schist and limestone allow all three varietals to retain freshness and poise. The aromatics are richer, jammy forest berries, cacao and grilled citrus but also the fresh minerality playing a major part of the performance, which also brightens the palate in a tight ensemble that is vibrant, supple and delicious leading to a dusty finish that has sense-of-place character all over it.