The terroir − the unique climate, soil and topography of the Terrasses du Larzac appellation, and of course the grape varieties − is certainly part of the package, but it’s what we do with the components − how we choose to work with them - that sets us apart.
The difference is in the detail. Our wines are handcrafted, made with meticulous attention. Our vineyards are in the southern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon, a short drive north of the capital city of Montpellier, on the outskirts of a small village - Jonquières. We are in Coteaux du Languedoc country, and have the honour of working within the Terrasses du Larzac appellation. The domaine sits at the foot of the Larzac plateau; The soil here is stony, sandy-clay beneath Jurassic limestone, and characterized by the exceptional quality of its drainage, which forces the vines to put down deep roots and gives us the potential to make wines with a distinct sense of place. It is not unusual to find fossilized oysters and mussels amongst the vines − witness to a time when the waters of the Mediterranean washed over this land.
Writing in Decanter, Andrew Jefford described the Terrasses du Larzac as “the Languedoc of everyone’s retirement dreams: open, uncluttered countryside where the fennel plants sway idly by the roadside, where olive trees mark property boundaries… the terraces themselves tend to be limestone rubble weathered from the Causse above… the vineyards laid out like picnic rugs on those pale stones give way, as the hills rise, to scrubby forests patrolled by boar.“ What I particularly appreciate about our soils are their quality and diversity. Some have been transplanted as a result of movement of the earth’s crust. I have spent more than ten years getting to know my various plots, and have noticed subtle but important differences, which I use to my advantage. For example, I have a 1.5 hectare plot of Syrah vines growing on a unique soil studded with quartz, sandstone and silica, which allows this particular grape variety to express itself with amazing subtlety and finesse. In comparison, I have two hectares of Syrah planted on mainly clay soil, which brings concentration and freshness. At Le Mas de l’Ecriture, we refine our winemaking by drilling down to the detail. Each plot is harvested, vinified and aged separately. It is only at the end of this process that I blend my wines. To be able to work with such varied terroir - and such precision - is a real joy; I consider myself lucky to have so many possibilities.
The varieties we have planted on our 10-hectare estate - and the way we vinify and age them separately - is what sets Le Mas de l’Ecriture apart. By treating each variety as a wine in its own right, through vinification and maturation right up until blending, we can take into account its specific characteristics, from one year to another, and adjust our blends accordingly. Take Grenache as an example. In 2002, the rain that fell before harvest gave this cépage remarkable softness and finesse, while the heat wave of 2003 concentrated its aromas and structure; in 2004 and 2005, the same grapes made wine of a more traditional Grenache style. These year-on-year variations are found in all five of the varieties we grow; they give us endless possibilities when it comes to creating the final blend. In 1999-2000 we planted 4.5 hectares of Syrah and two hectares of Mourvèdre, with the specific aim of creating powerful, elegant and balanced wines; we also have Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan vines of 28 - 39 years of age. Syrah predominates (35%), followed by Grenache (27%) and Mourvèdre (20%); Carignan (12%) and Cinsault (6%) come into their own when we make our blends.
I cannot control them, but I can observe them, and use the data to make adjustments in the vineyard, with the aim of producing the best possible fruit.