Mas Janeil Cotes du Roussillon-Villages 2003 Tasting Notes
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Mas Janeil Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2003 Tasting Notes

The Roussillon region of France, abutting both the Mediterranean Sea and the Spanish border along the Pyrenees, is often linked to Languedoc to its north, a connection its proud citizens stress is mostly administrative. The inhabitants will speak French when they have to, but by nationality they are largely Catalan, as are the people in the adjoining areas of northeastern Spain. The Côtes du Roussillon-Villages area, encompassing the northernmost third of Roussillon, is a harsh, dry, inland region where wild boars are the primary vineyard pest. Maury, where our wine comes from, forms a small enclave, deep inland and upland, in the extreme north of Roussillon just below the Languedoc appellations of Fitou and Corbières.

The winemakers of Maury are perhaps best known for their sweet fortified vins doux naturels, but they also produce dry reds that well express their difficult and yet character-filled land. The Mas Janeil (the word Mas is a southern French and Catalan term for Domaine or Chateau, a wine estate) is a Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah blend. The Grenache (60%) is fermented in whole bunches using carbonic maceration, while the Carignan (30%) and Syrah (10%) are de-stemmed and fermented in a conventional manner. The three varieties are aged separately for a year in French oak before blending.

The wine is a middle-intensity ruby with tinges of both garnet and purple, a little hot on the nose (14% alcohol), with notes of cherry and plum and a broad spicy swath of black pepper, white pepper and some clove with touches of black licorice. The fruit acidity has force and yet finesse. The tannins, while hardly shy, are supple and refined. The Mas Janeil finishes with a satisfying triple statement of fruit, acidity and vectored tannin combined with a layer of minerality and a hint of orange zest and some dried fruit.

Despite the $10 price tag, this is not a rustic wine as one might expect, but an elegant statement that I would like to see blind tasted against mainstream red wines of at least twice the price. Distributed by the Lurton family of Bordeaux reputation and worldwide reach, the Mas Janeil is a wine that should fit contemporary needs, all the while honoring a combination of unique geography and traditional grapes.

Verdict: Impressed
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I keep looking at wines, and then I use my nose, and then I drink, and then I think, and then I step back and look once more to begin the cycle on a higher level.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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