Before showing me a selection of Domaines Paul Mas wines in Soho's Vietnamese House of Ho, Jean-Claude Mas hands me a nest of handmade pralines, initialled with CM, and a man-scarf branded with the name of his Languedoc restaurant, Côté Mas. Could it be that the man best known for the tongue-in-cheek Arrogant Frog label doesn't have enough to do?
When he started out in the late 1990s, Mas set out to make wines to suit the palates of non-Gallic countries. "Selling wines to the French is like trying to sell hamburgers to the Americans," he explains. Consequently, he exports, to 58 countries, 97 per cent of the 20 million bottles he produces annually. Latterly though, he's been attempting to win over his fellow countrymen. And the younger generation is proving receptive to the unaffected, New World approach.
"Languedoc wines used to be big in the UK in the 1990s but we lost it, partly because of the rise of New World wines and partly because we compromised on quality," he says.
He adds that to make things happen in the region requires "energy, innovation and guts", and this hands-on, va-va–voom approach sees him regularly flit between his eight estates, which stretch from Limoux, near the Pyrenees, to Montpellier, in eastern Languedoc.
The success of Domaines Paul Mas, named after his father, is based on wines offering great value, such as the 2013 Paul Mas Viognier Sauvignon, £8.99, Waitrose, the stonefruit-fresh 2014 Paul Mas La Forge Marsanne, £9.99, Majestic, and 2014 Paul Mas Estate Mourvèdre, £9.99, Majestic. He also supplies Aldi and Sainsbury's with own labels such as the ripe, peachy 2014 The Exquisite Collection Marsanne, £5.99, Aldi, the smoky, Burgundian 2013 Taste the Difference Limoux Chardonnay, £8, Sainsbury's, and the crisp, refreshing 2013 Taste the Difference Languedoc White, £8, Sainsbury's.
Convinced that Limoux sparkling wine is the Next Big Thing after Picpoul de Pinet, Mas recently invested £3m in Château Martinolles, an estate making quality sparkling Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux. Among various fizzes, he makes an appetisingly berry-fruity Paul Mas Crémant de Limoux Rosé and a creamy-rich Crémant de Limoux, both £11.50, The Knotted Vine.
With nearly 20 years' experience of Languedoc terroirs, Mas has decided that it's time to raise the quality and show that the region can compete with the best of the New World. Having acquired the 100-hectare Domaine de la Ferrandière in 2013, he's invested in a 25 hectare estate which brings with it olives and truffle trees. Look out for tapenade and truffle oil in the ever-expanding portfolio of the Not-So-Arrogant Frog.Reuse content