It takes a lot of guts to give up being a high-profile attorney in Montpellier to climb up on a tractor in the vineyards, but this is exactly what Pascal Fulla, owner and winemaker of Mas de l'Ecriture, did.
In 1998, aged 42, with 20 years' experience of office life behind him, Pascal made a radical change: he bought vines from five different winegrowers in the Terrasses du Larzac area, built a winery, and started plowing a whole new furrow.
Here are some recent comments about the unique potential of the Terrasses du Larzac vineyard area:
Andrew Jefford - Decanter :
"Where is the greatest in Languedoc? after my trip I have to say that if you were to write me out a cheque for a million euros and tell me to go to find somewhere to make great red wine, I would look most closely of all at Terrasses du Larzac."
Revue du Vin de France 2011 :
First Grand Cru in Languedoc
"On the vineyards of these terraces of Northern Herault are growing among the most fresh and balanced wines of Languedoc"
Grand Guide des Vins de France - Bettane et Desseauve :
"this geological area of fracture between Causse du Larzac and Mediterranean sea, located on North of Herault department, has an incredible potential."
It didn't take Pascal long to discover he was a pretty darn good winemaker - it took only two vintages before Robert Parker rewarded him with a 90-Point rating for one of his wines, a feat most winemakers never accomplish in a lifetime.I had Pascal's cuvée Emotion Occitane from his Domaine La Mas de l'Ecriture amid a sea of other wines when I visited the Languedoc not long ago, and his wine bobbed right to the top. A clear winner.
The Languedoc is France's new, hot place to find extraordinary wines that won't break the
bank. I say extraordinary because there is a wine revolution going on in the Languedoc these days. As the old guard dies out and the new sweeps in, there have been momentous changes in the way grapes are grown and how wine is made. No more machine-picking, no more less-than-ripe grapes being trucked off to the cooperative to be vinified in the communal vat.
The new, motivated growers like Pascal are vinifying and bottling their own juice. They have lowered yields dramatically - sometimes, like at Mas de l'Ecriture, to half the region's former level. More expensive and more time consuming hand-picking, careful selection, oak-ageing - all the technologies reserved for Burgundy and Bordeaux have arrived at the Languedoc.
Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate has high praise for these modern growers of the Languedoc, calling them "visionaries" whose wines, "boast a purity of fruit, complexity, distinctiveness, and stamina...surpassing what most of the globe's growers can do for the price."
The winery rises out of a valley on flat land between hills. The soil is made of limestone, clay, and small stones - a magical combination that both drains well, during the often quite violent rainstorms, and holds moisture well, during the equally frequent droughts. In addition, the vineyards are regularly swept by the Mistral, which keeps the pests away.
Mas de l'Ecriture has only 12 hectares under vines. The work in the winery is as meticulous as that in the vineyard. Pascal takes no shortcuts raising his grapes: he uses no herbicides, he keeps his yields very low, he hand-picks, he sorts his berries not once but twice to eliminate any unripe or unhealthy grapes, and in return, his fruit sings for him.
This past August Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate reviewed this wine, the 2008 Mas de l'Ecriture Emotion Occitane, and wrote "more than confirmed my suspicions that Pascal is a perfectionist passionately attuned to the nuances of taste and terroir." There were accolades for more than just the winemaker - the winery was praised as well, "The facilities at La Mas de l'Ecriture are high-tech in the service of old-fashioned virtues - ... and immaculate."- Robert Parker
In his winemaking, Pascal aims "to combine three essential qualities: elegance, power and balance." He describes his Emotion Occitane as "a bold but smooth blend of roughly equal parts of Carignan, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. This is an exhuberant wine that is easy to appreciate. The Carignan provides the frame on which to hang the freshness and fruit of the Cinsault and Grenache. Syrah adds finesse, softness and complexity."
Cuvée Emotion is a fresh, fruity wine with a garnet robe and aromas of red fruit, blackberries, and a bit of garrigue (those scrubby rocky, outcroppings of lavender and herbs known best in the Rhone Valley). It is a fearless wine, not afraid of spicy stews and powerful cheeses, but at the same time smooth, with penetrating depth and great length. A lot of people are coming back for seconds on this wine. Find out why.