The Impeccably Compelling Wines of Mas Jullien
I thought I'd share what has become a bit of a personal obsession of mine... and that, my friends, is the legendary wines of Mas Jullien. My experience with these wines have played a huge role in cementing my love and passion for wine as a whole.
My first brush with the greatness that is Mas Jullien, was in 2017 while merely snacking on a self-curated cheese board and watching the Final Four tournament against Oregon and UNC. As I began to cry over the Ducks loss, the tears continued to flow over just how amazing the Mas Jullien Pays D'Herault Blanc was! I hadn't yet experienced a wine with such complexity, such elegance, and evolvement with every sip.
My love for this wine reigns on, and I'm always intrigued to taste other vintages -- there is never any two alike, they're all beautifully unique in their own way.
Olivier Jullien is the gifted winemaker at the helm of the Mas Jullien estate. Olivier is a perfectionist at his craft and a pioneer. For quite some time, and even still to this day, the Languedoc was producing over-cropped inexpensive wines that lacked any sort of integrity or nuance. Olivier wanted to change all of that, he knew the Landguedoc’s terroir had immense potential to make exquisite world-class wines.
Olivier first set out to study viticulture and oenology, and once he achieved his degree he then went out to purchase the very best vineyards he could find in the region. Once the land was chosen, he began farming and producing wines from his Mac Jullien label, all at the tender age of 20 years old.
The estate is comprised of 15 hectares scattered around the village of Jonquières, just north of Montpellier. Each vineyard has its own character due to the differences in altitude, exposition and soil type which can vary from rocky limestone, to schist, to clay, or parcels with alluvial deposits. Olivier also works with a myriad of local varieties, including: Carignan, Carignan blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault, Grenache Blanc and that’s just to name a few. Each grape and each parcel contributes something unique to his blends to make a wine that is both distinctive and harmonious.
Olivier places his trust in the diversity of terroir, and he carefully observes and respects the environment. His proclivity for perfection certainly comes out when tending to his vineyards. Olivier works only with sélection massale vines, natural compost, and organic treatments for his vines. He doesn’t find it necessary to go through the rigmarole of getting an organic or biodynamic certification but he does believe in following the phases of the moon in regards to his farming practices. He wants to have as intimate of a relationship with his vineyards as possible, and I believe that is evident in his wines.
When it comes to vinification Olivier follows his own set of guidelines:
“take the time necessary to allow nature to complete its work; accompany the life of the wine without directing it, accepting the risks and differences; maintain impeccable hygiene and meticulously carry out each task in the cellar; leave the option open to react and follow instinct and curiosity; choose techniques and material that do not distort the wine; and have faith in the competence of the people who help produce the wines.” — Olivier Jullien
For his whites, he generally works with the same varietals, switching up the percentages of each every year depending on what he feels is right for the blend. In general, he uses Grenache Blanc for richness, Chenin Blanc and Carignan Blanc for acidity, Viognier for its primary aromas, and Clairette and Roussanne for their oxidative qualities. Though, for Olivier, the whole of the wine is greater than the sum of its parts. So we never know how much of each varietal is in the wine in a given year, and you know what, we don’t need to know. What is important is that it’s a wine from the Languedoc and it’s impeccably satisfying for the mind, heart and soul.
2012 Pays d'Herault Blanc — Languedoc, France
Again, the exact amount of each varietal changes from vintage to vintage, but the base of this wine is always Clairette (not to be confused with Clairet, the dark rosé style wine from Bordeaux) and Carignan Blanc, with vary percentages of Cheinn Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne in there as well. The wine is aged two years before it’s release and continues to get better and better as time goes on. In my experience the older the vintage, the more compelling it becomes. These wines are meant to last for years and years, although it’s hard (at least for me) to hold on to them any more than a day.
This is one of the greatest white wines you’ll ever have — there I said it. Spend some time with it, let it evolve in the glass. I promise you, you’ll be far from disappointed. Perhaps even, it’ll bring you to tears.
2017 Coteaux de Languedoc Rosé — Languedoc, France
This is a saignée rosé, which means it is made from reds grapes that macerate on the skins for just a bit, then the juice is pressed off or “bled off” from the skins, resulting in a wonderfully rose-colored hue. This is different than how most Provence rosés are made, which is typically done by direct pressing, which is basically taking red grapes and treating them like white grapes by removing the juices from the skins immediately. This results in the barely pink rosé that you see that can often be flavorless and uninteresting.
Mas Jullien rosé is quite the opposite. This is a blend of Cinsault, Carginan and Mourvèdre, that is fermented in stainless steel tank with native yeasts. The wine is then aged (yes aged), in Stockinger foudre. It’s a rosé with structure and staying power. This isn’t a porch pounder, but rather a serious wine with deep earthy complexity that makes for the perfect pairing for just about anything.