The south of France is not known for its Pinot Noirs. That distinction, of course, belongs to Burgundy, which is synonymous with the variety and the benchmark region to which Pinots throughout the world are compared.
But the south of France, which is defined by red grapes that do better in a warmer climate, such as Grenache and Syrah, is full of surprises. One of them is a Pinot Noir bargain that can give lower-priced Pinots from Burgundy and the United States a real run for their money.
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The 2016 Paul Mas Estate Pinot Noir “Saint Hilaire Vineyard” is a lovely $12 wine from this mega-producer in the large Languedoc region in the southwest. More specifically and importantly, the grapes are from Limoux, a cooler part of Languedoc that lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains not far from Spain.
With its rolling hillside vineyards, this stunningly beautiful area, about 40 miles inland from the Mediterranean, is famous for its sparkling wines. So it figures that it would produce some decent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which, as in Champagne, are used in the sparkling blends here.
Paul Mas’s Pinot Noir is more than decent. It reminds me of an orchard in the fall with its aromas of crushed cherry, red plum, and earth. Some floral and spice notes and a touch of vanilla provide nice accents, and bright acidity keeps it refreshing.
I can see it with a variety of foods, including chicken and pork dishes, grilled salmon, and, perhaps with a slight chill, savory Indian recipes.
This is not Burgundy with its nuances, and it’s not trying to be. It’s a more rustic take on Pinot Noir, more evocative of the earthy Pinots of New Zealand than the bigger, fruit-driven wines of Oregon.
What’s clear is that it’s one of the top Pinot Noir values out there. While the 2016 is the newest release, I noticed that there are several recent vintages in the market, so the wine should not be hard to find.