Mas de Daumas Gassac

19 Jul

Gassac (which we visited) makes fantastic wine and the owner is a cult hero, having fought off Mondovi trying to take over an area in Southern France. We tasting one of his wines soon (see below) and are taking this opportunity to blog about them.

Pont de Gassac, Selection Guibert

13.5%, 2010, S. France

Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Merlot 30%, Syrah 20%

“Pure and elegant, amazing; integrated and balanced”

Last Year $19.99 This Year Reg. $17.99

Tuesday July 26, 2011  $15.19

The short version of Lori and Ray’s Story and Visit to Mas de Daumas Gassac

Lori and Ray had a wonderful visit at Mas de Daumas Gassac in April of 2009. During the visit, we met with the founder and owner, Aimé Guibert, who was quite entertaining (see blog). Months later, we were watching the movie Mondovino which, in part, is about how Mondavi was prevented from taking over an area in the Lanquedoc around Mas de Daumas Gassac. In the movie, which is a documentary, there was an interview with the person who organized the local area in France to fight off Mondavi, and guess what, there was Aimé Guibert being interviewed…in the movie he represents small wineries trying to maintain a sense of place in their wines, in opposition to the forces of large companies, which tend to impose an international style on the wines. We like him even more, as we find wines with a sense of place more interesting. Afterwards, we noticed his picture on the cover of the DVD.

About Mas de Daumas Gassac

The story of how Mas de Daumas came to be has been well described; it begins with the purchase of the property by Aimé Guibert, a Parisian glove manufacturer; he and his wife Véronique were looking for a family home away from city life, and had no intention of making wine. They stumbled across Mas de Daumas Gassac, an abandoned farmhouse owned by the Daumas family in a valley shaped by the flow of the Gassac.

The pair purchased the farm (mas) and set about its renovation, but they also surveyed their land and naturally considered what they should plant there. It may have been olive trees, or a fruit orchard, had it not been for a friend, Professor Henri Enjalbert, a renowned oenologist, who provided the spark to light the tinder of Mas de Daumas Gassac. Whilst walking around the estate he recognized that the combination of the red glacial soils beneath the local garrigue, together with the altitude and the nocturnal currents of cool air that passed over the slopes made this an ideal spot for viticulture. His enthusiasm seemed to ignite a passion within Aimé Guibert and his wife; it was barely a year before the first vines were planted, the beginnings of perhaps the most significant Languedoc vineyard of all. These were un-cloned Cabernet Sauvignon vines, propagated from cuttings taken from Bordeaux vineyards decades before. With the first vines in place in 1972, work began on constructing a cuverie on the site of an ancient Gallo-Roman water mill, which was completed in 1978, just in time for the first vintage.

This was undertaken with advice from another great name associated with Bordeaux, the oenologist Professor Emile Peynaud. After much persuading, Peynaud agreed to come on board as a consultant in 1978. In response to entreaties from Aimé, Peynaud had him to visit in Bordeaux for the ’77 harvest. The correspondence continued until Aimé wore him down and he agreed to work with them, on two conditions: he would only visit the estate two times per year, and they could only telephone him after 9 am. Peynaud’s watchwords were “finesse, complexity and balance.”

Under his aegis the 1978 Mas de Daumas Gassac went from fermentation vessel to barrel and then, in 1980, to bottle. There were in fact nearly 18000 bottles, which the Guiberts had some considerable difficulty selling, relying heavily on friends, family and other acquaintances to buy and market the wine.

The buzz about Gassac started with a story by a Dutch journalist in 1981. (Pairings has a small number of bottles from 1981) British wine writers found them, and the Times of London compared the wine to Latour, and the French magazine GaultMillau has called the estate “the Lafite Rothschild of the Languedoc.” In the early ’80s, they were the producer that caused the wine world to focus, for the first time, on the Languedoc as a potential source of top quality wines. This is what eventually led to Mondovi’s interest in that area.

All the vineyards are organically farmed, and they have never used chemicals. All the wine is estate grown, and all of the wines they produce are blends. The estate is planted to 20 varieties of red grapes and 20 varieties of white. The red plantings, which make up two thirds of the estate, are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, but also include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Tannat, as well as Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. The white varieties planted are mostly Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Petit Manseng, but also include Marsanne, Roussane, Sercial and Muscat.

From an Internet Site:

The Man… Aimé Guibert was pretty famous even before Jonathan Noissiter’s documentary Mondovino cast him as the manic anti-globalization fly in the Mondavi family’s ointment, an odd role for the wealthy former head of a Paris company that made expensive leather gloves for stores on the rue Sainte-Honoŕe and Fifth Avenue. But Guibert is an articulate spokesman for terroir, the essentially French philosophical connection between a product and its land, a linking of infinite subvariations of soil and sun and man to the nature of what we often categorize simply as consumables. Consult Mondovino, or Lawrence Osborne’s The Accidental Connoisseur for intense doses of the inimitable Guibert. Aimé Guibert was not born to make wine, and he never set out to become a winemaker. At 45, when his years as a glovemaker ended, Guibert remembered the warm hillsides of his native corner of the Languedoc, and thought he could go there and make a living growing corn. It pays to have wine nerds as friends. Oenologist Henri Englebert visited the farm, and argued that the iron-rich soils of Guibert’s new home were suited to grapes, not corn. Émile Peynaud visited next, and gave the same analysis. Guibert had purchased what would come to be recognized as the equivalent of a Grand Cru of the Languedoc region.

The Land… sits high in the mountains, with vines on north-facing slopes. Cold evenings and well-drained soils allow for surprisingly elegant wines farmed this far south. Guibert leaves an acre of fallow lavender and garrigue covered land for every acre he plants to vines. They fertilize using sheep’s dung. Everything is done by hand. This wine is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, above the legal minimum for varietal labeling in the U.S., but the word Cabernet never appears on the front label here. Two of the ten other red grapes planted here are voskehat and kontorni, of Armenian heritage!

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