For Jean-Claude Mas, Domaine Paul Mas’ founder and owner, working in the wine industry has always been a part of his destiny, and his passion. He recalls escaping from his mother during harvest as a toddler, running a mile and a half through the vineyard to find his grandfather in the cellar. That memory would prove formative to Mas and would be the first of many around his love of wine.
Based in the Languedoc region in the south of France, in the town of Pézenas, the Mas family has wine experience dating back to 1892. That’s when Mas’s great-grandfather, Auguste Mas, acquired the first plot of family vines. Subsequent generations only continued to grow the family’s vineyard holdings.
In 1987, Mas received around 86 acres of vineyards from his father, Paul Mas, to forge his own path.
Thirteen years later, Mas founded Domaines Paul Mas, named in honor of his father. Combining his passion for his family’s history, the wines of his native region and his education in marketing and economics, he aimed to create a brand of uniquely personal yet distinctively Languedoc-spirited bottlings, while also spreading regional awareness around the globe as well as bringing the family name into a new echelon of the wine world.
“I wanted to elevate my father’s viticulteur legacy to authentic vigneron status while cultivating this inherited intuitive respect for my environment,” says Mas. “Vineyards have always been part of the Languedoc—the diversity of soil, elevation and the climatic conditions are all the elements necessary to bring to optimum maturity the grapes need while letting express their character and origin.”
Today, after 20 years in business, it’s clear that he succeeded in his mission. Domaines Paul Mas is now a powerhouse producer known around the world. The company’s portfolio currently boasts 15 chateaux and more than 20 brands, with a total annual production of around 22 million bottles that are distributed to 71 countries.
The family now owns 2,100 acres of vineyards across the Languedoc region, with another 3,700 contracted, for a total of 5,800 acres of vines. Of the family’s vineyard holdings, 60% are certified Agriculture Biologique (AB), and 80% are certified Terra Vitis and farmed organically, with the intent to be 100% organic within a couple of years.
“As it comes to my region, it is now time for the world to recognize it as one of the most beautiful, and where we produce some of the best wines in the world with a great respect to our environment,” he says.
While growth has been substantial over the past two decades, an intimate, family-minded and quality-driven ethos remains at the core of the company. Mas makes it a point to visit each estate every week to manage them and maintain the winery’s spirit, culture and philosophy.
“Basically, the biggest challenge is producing 20 million bottles with the same attention as when I started with 10,000 bottles,” he says.
Regardless of product line or price, overall quality and a consistent sense of style prevails throughout the portfolio, from the lighthearted Arrogant Frog and the accessible yet distinctive Côté Mas wines to the premium selections such as Château Lauriga, Château Crès Ricards, Domaine du Silène and Clos Astélia, the latest winery jewel in the Domaines Paul Mas crown named for Jean-Claude’s daughters.
It is for the remarkable reliability and quality across a range of products with a unique sense of style and expression of the Languedoc spirit that Wine Enthusiast names Domaines Paul Mas its European Winery of the Year. —Lauren Buzzeo