The wines of Mas Amiel
Impressive wines from Maury's largest private wine estate, with owner Olivier Decelle



Mas Amiel is a large property – the biggest private cellar in Maury – located in the heart of the Agly valley, in France’s Roussillon region. This is Cathar country: it’s beautiful but rugged—a  hot, rather hostile environment with rocky, stony soils, frequent windy weather, and 260 days’ sunshine a year. Back in 1816, a bishop used one of his plots of land as a bet in a game of cards. He lost it to Raymond Amiel, and this is how Mas Amiel was born. At the time, it only had 10 hectares of vines on it; it has grown substantially since then.

Olivier Decelle

Mas Amiel was bought by Olivier Decelle in 1999. At the time, he was CEO of Picard Surgelés, a successful frozen food retailer. Now Olivier devotes all his time to his various wine projects (he also owns properties in Bordeaux and Burgundy). He’s renovated the vineyards extensively, started using biodynamics, and has expanded the range of wines on offer.

Decelle was led to wine by a chance meeting with one of Bordeaux’ leading consultants. ‘For 20 years I was working with Picard Surgelés and by chance one day I met Jacques Boissenot,’ he explains. ‘As the CEO of Picard Surgelés I was in the food business, so I thought: why not go into the production of wine?’

He began looking for a small property to buy as a sort of hobby, but ended up with a huge property, mas Amiel, that needed lots of work. ‘At that time because I was still a CEO with 500 retail units to manage, I was sharing my time between Picard and Mas Amiel. In 2001 I decided to quit my job and not only to finance Mas Amiel, but to be involved actively in the production of the wine.’

Meeting Jacques Boissenot and his son Eric was very important for Decelles, one that he describes as the single most important meeting he had in the world of wine. ‘I met him in 1997 and he was a dynamic person – I told him that I wanted to buy some land and make a very big wine. Boissenot’s answer was that there was nothing he could do for me. Jacques said, I only make wine, simple wine. For someone involved with such important properties to think that way, I realised that wine has to be done with passion and it defines who you are. It is the terroir that makes the wine, we are just there to help the journey.’

They helped him find his dream property. ‘The Boissenot family showed me the property the first time and I fell in love with it,’ recalls Decelle. ‘Some people with deep pockets had looked at the property before me and decided it was just too much work. When you are in love you are irrational. I bought it out of love. The first thing I asked Eric Boissenot to do was an analysis of the land, to see whether we could make dry wine as well as sweet wine from the property. The answer was that we could. I was the first to make a dry wine at Mas Amiel. I contacted René Renou, then the president of the INAO, and asked for permission to use the appellation Maury for dry wines, which is important for the status of the village. The schist soils in Maury are special—it’s like Priorat or Côte Rôtie. The appellation is not that important for Mas Amiel, but it’s really helping the younger winegrowers to leverage their wines.’

There are now 170 hectares of vineyards on this large 226 hectare estate. Yields here are small, ranging from 10–22 hectolitres/hectare. The heart of the Mas Amiel range is formed by the traditional sweet fortified wines that are unique to this region. Maury is made by allowing fermentation to start, but then stopping it by adding alcohol, which kills the yeasts, and leaves lots of sugar in the wine—this is similar to the way Port is produced. Then comes the stage unique to Maury: the wine is placed into glass demi-johns and left outside for a year. This causes an intentional oxidation, and changes the wine’s colour, making it lighter. It then goes into large oak, where it can stay for a short while, or many years. The result is a complex sweet wine of real intensity.

Decelle has also pioneered a new style of Maury: one in which the wine is protected from the air and heat after fortification, so that it keeps its fruit intensity, a bit like a vintage Port. He has also introduced a new category to the region—sweet wines made from grapes that are left to raisin between the rows.

Decelle says that there is still a strong demand for Mas Amiel’s sweet wines, but that the majority of young producers in the region are now focusing on dry wines. ‘For the oxidised wines it is pretty much impossible to reproduce what Mas Amiel is doing,’ he says. ‘These wines need large old barrels and we have 5000 hl of stock maturing. To replicate this they’d have to start now and wouldn’t be able to sell the wine for 15 years, so it would be very difficult to catch up.’

The production is split 60:40 in favour of fortified wines, the speciality of Maury. Although Decelle started making table wines quite early on in his tenure, it is only since 2008 that their quality has really been established and recognised. The first few years were all about learning how to vinify then and when the best time to pick the grapes is.


Mas Amiel Le Plaisir Rosé 2012 Côtes du Roussillon, France
Very attractively packaged, this is a subtle, textured, rounded rosé with a smooth palate and lovely texture. It's broad but dry with a hint of cherry fruit. Delicious stuff. 88/100

Mas Amiel Altair Rosé 2012 Côtes du Roussillon, France
A selection of one parcel, made in a gastromic style, and including Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris, Carignan and Mourvèdre. Pale colour. Subtle nose of straw and fine cherry fruit, with some herby notes. The palate is fresh and lively with lovely acidity, and some subtle strawberry fruit. Fresh and precise with good acidity. 90/100

Mas Amiel Altair Blanc 2010 Côtes du Roussillon, France
From two parcels, each planted with Grenache Gris and Maccabeu. This is a boldly flavoured white. It has a fine, expressive nose with smoky, spicy, toasty, waxy notes alongside the fruit. The palate is dense with lovely fruit: waxy, toasty, figgy, with some nutty notes and real intensity of flavour. 91/100

Mas Amiel Notre Terre 2011 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, France
Grenache Noir, Carignan and Syrah vinified in concrete tanks. Ripe, fresh, pure cherry and berry fruit nose. Very pure and sleek. The palate is sweet, pure, direct and supple, with lovely weight. Very fresh, pure and bright with sleek berry and cherry fruit. 91/100

Mas Amiel Carerades 2009 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, France
Mainly 60 year old Grenache with some Carignan and Syrah. Sweet, ripe, pure and silky with lovely vivid black fruits. Ripe and generous, yet still fresh with a bit of spicy depth. Nice density here. 91/100

The next wines are part of a new range of wines made from specific parcels. Since 2010 these have been vinified separately, and the new appellation, Maury Sec, has been used where it is allowed.

Mas Amiel Legènde 2012 Maury Sec, France
A 1949 parcel of Carignan and Grenache. Sleek, supple and elegant nose shows ripe, floral black cherry fruits. The palate is pure and fresh with liqueur-like black cherry fruits. Fresh and vivid with lovely purity. 93/100

Mas Amiel Vol de Nuit 2012 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France
This is unable to use the Maury appellation because it is made from a single variety: old Carignan, planted in 1900 and 1925. Sweet, ripe, pure black cherry and plum nose. The palate shows sweet, liqueur-like fruit, with nice freshness and some spicy notes. Full, dense and with some grippy structure, this is quite a distinctive wine. Weighs in at 15% alcohol. 92/100

Mas Amiel Alt.433 2012 Maury Sec, France
A 2.5 hectare parcel of Grenache Noir and Lladoner Pelut, on granite. Lighter in colour than the other reds. Very light, fresh and elegant despite 15% alcohol. Supple and rounded with some spicy grip, but the dominant theme is sleek black cherry fruit. Real personality here with some floral, violet notes.  94/100

Mas Amiel Vers le Nord 2012 Maury Sec, France
From a 2 hectare parcel that gets the sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, with Grenache Noir and Syrah the varieties. Very ripe, warm spicy nose is aromatic and full with amazing spicy, peppery garrigue notes. Ripe, smooth and dense with great concentration of warm spicy fruit, with grippy structure. 94/100

Mas Amiel Muscat de Rivesaltes 2011 Rousillon, France
15.5% alcohol, 80 Muscat Petit Grains, 20% Muscat Alexandria, fermented in concrete tanks. Very floral, grapey, limey nose leads to a pure, sweet, grapey palate with simple, direct fruit. Warm and spicy. 88/100

Mas Amiel Vintage 2011 Maury, France
100% Grenache Noir, made in vintage Port style. Pure, sweet, ripe fruit with nice focus and some peppery, spicy notes. Very sweet with lovely depth to the berry fruits. Ripe berryish and spicy, best served cool. 91/100

Mas Amiel 1985 Maury, France
Single vintage. This spends a year in demijohns, and then goes to large foudres. Grenache Noir. Sweet, intense rich nose of raisins, spice and toffee, with a hint of treacle. The palate is vivid and fresh with lovely sweet flavours of spice and raisin and even some tea. Treacly, too. Quite lovely. 94/100

Wines tasted 07/13  
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