The story of Mas de Daumas Gassac, begins in 1971 when Parisian glove-maker Aimé Guibert bought an isolated farmhouse in need of renovation high up in the valley of a stream called the Gassac. It was within striking distance of Montpellier where his wife, Véronique, had accepted a job at the university and was perfect for a family home away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Guiberts had no knowledge of wine and when they bought the estate there wasn’t a vine in sight. A friend, Professor Henri Enjalbert of the University of Bordeaux and a leading authority on vineyard geology, went weak at the knees when he visited and realised that Daumas Gassac sat upon the best possible combination of soil for winemaking with superb drainage. The little Gassac valley, protected by acre after acre of garrigue, a type of aromatic, soft-leaved scrubland found around the Mediterranean, enjoys its own microclimate. The proximity to the sea keeps the vineyards air-conditioned so that the grapes never burn. The cellars, chilled by the waters of the stream, remain wonderfully cool even in the height of summer. However, had it not been for Professor Enjalbert’s fortuitous visit early on, the estate could have easily ended up full of olive or fruit trees.
The Guiberts hired the best wine brains available, including Professor Emile Peynaud – a great oenologist associated with Bordeaux. Peynaud advised them exactly which vines to plant and how. Though cabernet sauvignon was the grape variety planted for the first vintages, the idea was not to mimic Bordeaux, even though one commentator called the 1982 vintage the ‘Lafite of the Languedoc’ which caused initially slow sales to rocket. Other varieties from all the great regions of France and beyond were then introduced including, among others, merlot and pinot noir as well as an assortment of Italian varieties like nebbiolo, barbera and dolcetto. The white grape varieties planted here include chardonnay, viognier, chenin blanc, petit manseng, roussanne and marsanne.
The wines of Mas de Daumas Gassac have a degree of natural austerity that is more akin to the great wines of Bordeaux or the Loire than the Languedoc. The grand vin is the densely powerful red, made from 80% cabernet sauvignon and a mix of other varieties. It needs time to evolve. Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc is an intense, complex blend, approachable young but capable of lengthy ageing too.