Wine: Mas de Daumas Gassac
“The Grand Cru of the Midi” Part 1
by Kay Pfaltz
Like Château Musar from Lebanon and Domaine de Trevallon in Provence, Mas de Daumas Gassac is one of those wines that moves me to fits of passion, those finer moments that can prove embarrassing to loved ones. And while I’m not alone in my enthusiasm (“One of the ten best wines in the world” Michael Broadbent, “A Lafite in Languedoc” Gaullt & Millau, “Exceptional” R. Parker), I can trace it back to the earliest bottling, tasted in Paris.
The history of the Gassac valley goes back to 780 A.D. when St. Benoit d’Aniane, one of Charlemagne’s counselors, created the fist vineyard. In 1992 on a pilgrimage with my mother to St-Guilhem-le-Desert, a beautiful example of romasque architecture, I drove through Aniane for the first time and felt the magic of the Gassac Valley.
Situated in the Languedoc, a region known more for the quantity of its wine than for quality, Daumas Gassac has in the short thirty years it’s been producing become a kind of cult wine. But it was the successful protest against Robert Mondavi, chronicled in the movie Mondo Vino that has more recently won Aimé Guibert recognition to those outside the wine world. Aimé, originally a glove maker, and his wife Veronique bought the old “mas” or farmhouse in 1970 with no idea what to plant. Both loved the earth and thought about planting olive trees or corn—that is until their friend Henri Enjalbert, professor of Geology at Bordeaux University, visited. When he left, the Guiberts knew they had a unique terroir capable of producing outstanding wine, but Henri joked it’d take two hundred years to be accepted as such. Not quite. The uniqueness of the terrior is due to a rare and unexplained powder-fine glacial soil, combined with a cool micro-climate, an anomaly in the hot Languedoc but the result of the nearby Gassac river, underground springs and the influence of the mountains and sea.
Mas de Daumas Gassac uses organic viticulture practices, but like many vineyards in France doesn’t bother with certification. Since the land had been farmed naturally (organically) for thousands of years, the Guiberts continued the tradition understanding that organic farming is about nurturing the soil that feeds the crops that feed you.
A couple months ago I was invited to have lunch with Samuel Guibert. Thinking I was to be dining with Aimé I was in another fit of passion, which was only slightly subdued when I found out it was Samuel, Aimé’s very charming and very handsome son. Samuel has the same ardor as his father but with a twist of modernity that bodes well for this traditional wine in today’s market.
Guilhem, Moulin de Gassac – the Guilhem wines offer the same philosophy of farming small hillside sites naturally and organically, but don’t have the huge Mas de Daumas Gassac price tags. From 25 to 50 year-old vines, but lighter than Mas de Daumas Gassac these are incredible values for everyday drinking wines. $12.99 but bring in this article and receive for $10.99. We also stock the more expensive Mas de Daumas Gassac.
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