Le Mas de Mon Père
In the most Western appellation of the Languedoc, about 15km from the Medieval city of Carcassonne, in the tiny village of Arzens you find Le Mas de Mon Pere. Here at the confluence of the Mediterranean and Oceanic climates, the enigmatic Frederic Palacios is crafting soulful, terroir driven wines from just 5.5 hectares spread over 7 plots.
Fred likes to say that he was born in the hollow of a vine… close to nature and in the heart of Occitanie. As a child he worked these vines with his grandfather and father. However, 25 years ago, this was not a place to sustain a family on vines alone. It was only in 2007 that Malpere was granted status as an appellation. So, Fred’s grandfather had the village restaurant, and his father worked with handicapped children. They tended their 5 hectares of vines with care and sold the grapes to the local cooperative cellar.
After high school, Fred studied crop protection, but was not convinced by what he learned in school. Here chemistry was king, and the solution was always to spray this or spray that. Convinced that Organic farming and a more natural approach were best, he set off to work: first at a cooperative cellar in Minervois and then at a Domaine in Saint-Chinian. The young man did not thrive in these early experiences. The focus was on quantity over quality, and the methods employed were the same practices he disagreed with during his studies. The wines of Marcel Richaud and Jean-Baptiste Senate are his inspiration. These are type of wines that he longs to produce: wines of tension and place. Finally, in 2005, his father invited him to come home and vinify on the family land… Le Mas de Mon Pere was born.
Fred’s 7 plots are located either on hillsides or terraces at altitudes ranging from 200 to 435 meters. From these clay-sandstone heights, with Oceanic and Mediterranean influences,
Bordeaux varietals thrive. The vineyards are certified Organic, and Fred employees many Biodynamic principles in the vines and in the cellar. All work is done by hand, including the harvest.
Vinification is as non-interventionist as possible, utilizing only the naturally occurring yeasts for fermentation and a low dose of Sulphur at bottling. For the red wines, each grape variety and plot are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks, using the whole clusters.
Aging for the reds is done entirely in stainless steel tanks. Ripeness is never a problem in Malpere, and Fred’s goal is to express the character of the fruit while managing the tannins of the Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc). The Domaine’s lone white wine is a unique blend of Chasan, Sauvignon Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, fermented and aged entirely in barrel.
In the 2017 second edition of Languedoc-Roussillon: The Wines and Winemakers, Paul Strang noted, “For many Frederic is the most interesting of all the Malpere growers.” This seems to be both an under and overstatement. On one hand there are very few in the Languedoc making wines with this much tension, finesse, and drinkability. On the other hand, who are the many drinking the wines ofMalpere? Perhaps a question for another day, but to work with a vigneron and human being of this caliber is a wine importer’s dream.