Tuesday 9 June 2009

18 vintages of Mas de Daumas Gassac

The story of the success of Mas de Daumas Gassac is an extraordinary one. Aimé Guibert, a prosperous businessman, owned a glove factory near Millau but also had an unassuming farmhouse near the Languedoc village of Aniane. It had land but no vineyards and he did not intend to make wine. However a visit by one of France's leading geologists, Henri Enjalbert, convinced him that the red, glacial soil was perfect for viticulture and for making top quality red wine. He planted Cabernet Sauvignon and employed Emile Peynaud, the celebrated Bordeaux winemaker, as consultant.

The first vintage was 1978 and the wine was (and still is) a mere Vin de Pays as Cabernet Sauvignon is forbidden in Languedoc AOC wine. The 1978 eventually attracted the attention of the French and International press who acclaimed it as a Grand Cru of the Languedoc. Its reputation was made.

This success was important, not just for the Guibert family, but also for Languedoc wine as a whole. Mas de Daumas Gassac showed that the Languedoc was capable of making great wine and this inspired other producers to follow suit. Today there is no shortage of independent producers in the Languedoc who are making excellent quality wines which express their terroir.

Last week, I was lucky enough to taste 18 vintages of this legendary red wine. This was thanks to David Gilmour who was the first to import Mas de Daumas Gassac into the UK. Also tasting were David's wife Sheena, Paul and Jeanne Strang, authors of, respectively, 'Languedoc Roussillon - the wines and winemakers' and 'Goosefat and Garlic'. And Languedoc based chef Peter Shaw and his wife Sally. And my multi-talented husband Simon.

This was a fascinating tasting as it showed how well this wine can age - and also how approachable it can be in its youth. The 2006 was surprisingly accessible and elegant. Highlights of the tasting for me were the lusciously ripe 2005, the stylish 2001 and the quite delicious 1994 which is drinking beautifully now. The 2004 and 2000 were also good but not quite as beguiling. The 1998 was the most butch in the line -up and would be magnificent with game. Of the older vintages the 1983 was excellent and just right now. The 1980 was also surprisingly sprightly with soft, sweet fruit flavours. And as for that legendary first vintage, it was beginning to show signs of age but had attractive sweet berried fruit mid palate and elegant tannins. Initial vintages were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon but gradually other weird and wonderful grape varieties have been introduced so most recent releases are 80% Cabernet and 20% 'other'.

On the strength of this tasting, it would seem that there is some truth in the legend on the back label 'ce grand vin puissant, complexe, original, peut se boire en fruit de 3 à 5 ans, en maturité de 10 à 15 ans, en majesté de 15 à 25 ans'.

Thank you David for so generously sharing your wines with us.

If you would like to see full tasting notes, contact me. Or tell me how to attach a word document to a blog post!

1 comment:

  1. Please could you send your tasting notes. This is a wine I like to remember how it was - the 1983 was glorious about 5 years ago, as were other '80 vintages. The 1992 through to 1997 I found disappointing and under achieved, just at a time when exciting alternatives from new wine makers in the area arrived. The 1996 (I still have a few bottles left from a case) has been especially dull.