Joël and Christine Laval, Joël’s brother, Philippe, and their father, operate this 30 hectare (about 80 acres) estate in the heart of Aniane in the south of France. Philippe works with the vines, Joël is a bank director but also works nights and weekends on the estate, and their father, retired for many years, continues to handle pruning and other vineyard work.
The small town lies 25 kilometers inland from Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast; its vineyards are renowned for a unique geologic and climatic situation. The local combination of deep, well-drained glacial limestone soils and cool night breezes from the nearby Larzac plateau favor production of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre grapes in Aniane, which have been the traditional choices for red wine since Roman times.
Their vines are between 25 and 70 years old, producing concentrated and expressive flavors. All vineyard labor is manual, and only natural fertilizers are used. A long, natural fermentation of each variety is followed by 18 months in slightly used French oak barrels.
They work 35 hectares of which half goes to the local coop. The other half, benefiting from all their care, is vinified in ultra-modern equipment. Impeccable cleanliness, a climate-controlled cave, not at all frequent in Languedoc, and magnificent one-year old barriques from Burgundy’s most prestigious domaine, all contribute to their line of only two wines. “Les Pampres”, at the entry level, is worth a top wine elsewhere. The grand vin carries the Mas Laval domaine name and is shaking up the languedocienne hierarchies.
From Jeb Dunnuck’s March 2012 issue of the Rhone Report:
2009 Mas Laval Vin de Pays de l’Hérault Les Pampres (France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault) The entry level wine here and a blend of 45% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Carignan, and 15% Mourvèdre, the 2009 Mas Laval Vin de Pays de l’Hérault Les Pampres is upfront and fragrant, showing sweet red and black fruits, bay leaf, seaweed wrappers, and assorted wild herb like aromas of thyme, rosemary, and winter savory. Beautifully made and polished on the palate, with a medium to full-bodied texture, excellent balance, good structure, and an overall clean, elegant profile, this outstanding wine should continue to please for 4-6 years. (90 pts.)
2006 Mas Laval Vin de Pays de l’Hérault (France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault) A beautiful Languedoc and the estate’s top wine, the 2006 Mas Laval Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, a blend of 55% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 16% Mourvèdre, and 7% Cabernet Franc, is aged for 18 months in one-year-old French oak barrels. Still youthful and vibrant, yet with hints of more mature fruit characteristics, this opens up in the glass to show ripe plum sauce, seaweed, smoked herbs, and cured meats on the nose. More graphite and an almost mole-like richness comes out with air, and this has brilliant complexity and depth aromatically. On the palate, it is medium to full-bodied and mouth filling, showing plenty of fruit, a balanced, clean profile, and excellent underlying structure. Drinking perfectly now, it should continue to evolve and age gracefully for another 5-6 years. (92 pts.)