Domaine Mastrio – Elegant 2007, 100% old vines carignan from a pop-up winery
Pop up bars. Pop up restaurants. Pop up shops. Ho-hum. How about something a bit more interesting? Like a pop-up winery, perhaps? Michael Paetzold has done just that in the hills of Roussillon.
I found myself slogging up a hill on a rather gray and chilly day in the Roussillon last week to visit Michael’s “hobby” as he calls it in the Cotes du Roussillon. Michael’s day job is in Bordeaux where he is based and has a very successful wine treatment services company. He has literally thousands of wine clients in France who use his company for their “physical treatment of wines”. Translation, they’re experts in oenotechnical processes. Much too complicated for me but something to do with clarifying, stabilizing, nano-oxigenation, winemaking equipment, etc.
An enologist by training, Michael is German and has been working in the French wine trade for many years. When he decided to make wine, he was drawn to the dynamism and terroir of the Roussillon. He originally bought 2 hectares 4 years ago but since then he’s acquired more and now has 15 hectares scattered around the region. He has old vines (average age 70 years old) as is quite common for the region, of syrah, carignan and grenache. The old vines produce wine of great complexity and depth and Michael has been very pleased with the results of his wine making efforts.
Since Michael is based in Bordeaux he couldn’t just ruck up and start making wine. He had to have somewhere to make it. He could have bought a winery but there are not many for sale in the area so he did the next best thing and came up with is “pop-up” or mobile winery. And why not? Seems everybody is doing it, all you need is the technology and Michael has plenty of that. All his equipment comes in on flat bed trucks, from the crusher to the sorting table and even the Range Rover he uses to get around the vineyards. All of it set up on a concrete slab, an open air winery so to speak. He even has mobile chillers to store the grapes during harvest so they don’t start to oxidize. He takes good care of his grapes and is scrupulous about the grapes that go into his wines. His philosophy is, “if you would eat the grape straight from the vine, it goes in. If you wouldn’t eat it, it goes in the bin”. I think that’s a very sensible way to ensure quality.
So how do wines made in a pop-up winery taste? Pretty damn good. Michael makes only 3 wines but sometimes less is more. Due to the low yields of his vines, he gets tremendous fruit concentration as well as an earthy minerality that comes from the schist and granitic soils. The wine that knocked my socks off was his 100% carignan, made from 120 year old vines. Carignan has a rather poor reputation due to its status as a blending grape and the fact that it’s rarely made as a single varietal and when it is, it’s often an austere, tannic mouthful. Michael’s 2007 Domaine Mastrio Elegant had none of those qualities. Carignan needs the right terroir and a winemaker who understands the grape, all of which are happily found in the Elegance. I was instantly reminded of a butcher shop on first smelling it, a sensual, gamy quality that made me just want to snaffle this wine up. Peppery black fruit on the back of the wine and intense rocky notes, it smelled and tasted as if I were floating down a boulder strewn river. Well, that’s the best description I can come up with to describe this particular wine. Supple but excellent tannic backbone, this was a real winner. I was already planning a slab of beef to go with it.
I was snapped out of my reverie by the need to get onto the next winery but Domaine Mastrio’s carignan was one of my favourites. Michael is building a winery which should be completed next year and I hope that by moving indoors, he doesn’t lose whatever magic it is that makes his wines so delectable.