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The history of Mas Amiel is colorful, chock-full of gamblers, snake-oil charmers and whole lot of rocks. A certain Monsieur Amiel some two hundred years ago sat down at a game of cards with a few other well-placed individuals. When he left the table, he found himself richer by one, very large Maury estate (about 350 acres) in the Côtes du Roussillon—won, surprisingly, from the Archbishop of Perpignan. To Monsieur Amiel at the time, the darkest corners of hell might have looked more inviting. No trees offered shade from the brutal southern sun. Any wealth Maury might be able to offer seemed evident only in its abundance of rocks.Eager to make something of his winnings, Amiel started to make bread at the domaine. Then one day, a slick-talking salesman by the name of Gouzy convinced Amiel to plant Grenache vines in the area’s stony soils. Gouzy knew Maury was in fact a paradise for Grenache. Yet Amiel and his partner lost the domaine long before they could experience it. The domaine changed hands to a banker named Dupuy, who nurtured the vines and Mas Amiel to greatness.
Fast-forward many decades and Mas Amiel is today sought by Paris’ top sommeliers and cherished by wine connoisseurs who recognize that what’s created in these rocky, forbidding hills can be replicated nowhere else on earth.
Owner and winemaker Olivier Decelle since 2000 has made it his personal mission to make over this legendary estate, with a renewed focus on dry wines (red and white) in addition to the estate’s historic fortified wines. Mas Amiel is also now completely dedicated to organic agriculture.
The estate’s traditional fortified wines are produced through a unique process that creates concentrated and complex wines with an almost immortal character. Wines are first fermented then alcohol is added to stop fermentation (leaving some residual sugar behind in the wine). The wines are then stored outside in glass demijohns— a traditional aging process that produces oxidized notes and orange highlights in the wines. They are then aged in large oak casks for six to 15 years.