MAS DE DAUMAS GASSAC
Saint Benedict of Aniane, an adviser to Charlemagne, created a vineyard in the Gassac valley in the 780s. We have every reason to believe that Saint Benedict would have invited Charlemagne to sample the first wines produced in the valley. Mas de Daumas Gassac’s Grands Vins were thus born in the shadow of a prestigious abbey, like most famous great wines!
Véronique and Aimé Guibert toured the countryside in the Hérault looking for a family house. At a bend in a road lined with pine trees, they fell under the charm of an old Mas (farmhouse) and an abandoned mill. Located in the heart of a beautiful wild valley through which flowed the Gassac river, the property belonged to the Daumas family.
Was the land best-suited to maize, olive trees, or vines? Our parents were deeply inspired by “Mother Earth” but knew little about vines, and were uncertain as to what they should plant. They asked the opinion of an Aveyronnais friend, Henri Enjalbert, then a professor at Bordeaux III University, a geographer specialized in winegrowing geology and the author of numerous books (including “The Origin of Quality”).
Professor Enjalbert visited Mas de Daumas Gassac and determined, after walking in the valley for several hours, that the soil consisted of glacial sandstone comparable to the best terroirs of the Côtes d’Or in Burgundy. He declared that there was no doubt that a Grand Cru wine could be produced here, but that they should be prepared to wait a while before it was recognized as such…maybe a couple of hundred years! According to him, Mas de Daumas Gassac had a unique terroir with the potential to produce an exceptional red wine, due to underground sources of cold water and the influence of the surrounding massifs of Arboussas and Larzac which contribute to the valley’s microclimate.
The mention of the words “Grand Cru” triggered something in our parent’s minds. It was the beginning of a crazy challenge that Véronique, an ethnologist specialized in Ireland, and Aimé, a glover and tanner from Millau, decided they were ready to take on. And so the adventure began…
Planting of un-cloned Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Uniformity is the enemy of quality. These vines came from a nursery collection that had been sourced from top Bordeaux properties in the 1930s and 40s. The vines were selected on the basis of quality and diversity, and not on their yields or resistance to diseases.
Between 1972 and 1978: Construction of a barrel cellar and a winery in former water storage facility of the Gallo-Roman mill, the cold water of the Gassac river providing a natural coolness that was perfect for the vat room and ensured that the temperature remained constant.
13 September 1978:
The great oenologist Emile Peynaud, who supervised the rebirth of Château Léoville-Las-Cases and acted as a consultant to Château Margaux, Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, and La Lagune, made his first visit to Mas de Daumas Gassac.
29 September 1978:
Emile Peynaud monitored progress at a distance, like a master watching over his pupil, giving advice for the first vinification by telephone. Later, when journalists asked Professor Peynaud why he had helped and advised an unknown property in the Languedoc, when he usually only worked with world-renowned vineyards, he replied, “I have advised the best properties in France, but there, for the first time, I had the good fortune to be present at the birth of grand cru. ”
Creation of the first vintage of Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge (80% Cabernet Sauvignon).
The years 1980
1980: The 1978 vintage was aged in barrels until the spring of 1980. A total of 1400 cases of Mas de Daumas Gassac were produced under the label Vin de Table de France (“French Table Wine”). But there was a problem: merchants and agents simply refused to sell a wine from the Languedoc, thanks to the region’s extremely poor reputation (at that time). 10,000 bottles were thus deemed unacceptable for professional distribution, and yet were sold through networks of friends, family, former business associates and nearby restaurants.
1981: The creation of the Rosé Frizant. Produced from young Cabernet Sauvignon vines and vinified using the “saignée” technique, this wine was initially intended for private consumption. Emile Peynaud disapproved, declaring that it was “a nice drink, but not a wine”… but he also requested that a case be set aside for him every year!
October 1982: The first sign of official recognition: Gault & Millau magazine described the Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge as the “Château Lafite of the Languedoc”.
1985: In the London Times, Jane MacQuitty wrote that the Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge was “actually, more like Latour”.
1986: Creation of Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc. Three noble grape varieties were used to make this wine: Viognier, Chardonnay and Petit Manseng. After bottling, in 1987, production amounted to 166 cases.
The years 1990
Creation of the Moulin de Gassac wines by Aimé Guibert, the founder of Mas de Daumas Gassac.
Following the introduction of the vine pulling-up premium, Aimé Guibert began a partnership with the vine growers in this area with a view to saving its plots. The Moulin de Gassac Selection played a decisive role in preventing the disappearance of this terroir.
These wines were thus created on the basis of two strongly-held principles:
the preservation of plots that offered a rich expression of an exceptional Languedoc terroir;
the production of wines with a refined, generous, unique style, from a subtle blend of southern and Bordeaux grape varieties. Wines “for every day” whose production was inspired by the same quest for excellence as Mas de Daumas Gassac’s grands vins.
The creation of a cuvée in homage to Henri Enjalbert, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Le Figaro, 80% Carignan, was voted best wine in the world in its category, in London.
Creation of the “Vin de Laurence”, inspired by the South African wine “Klein Constantia”, and Hungarian Tokays.
30 May 1997:
Bill Clinton (US President) and Tony Blair (British Prime Minister) made a toast with a glass of Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge 1995 at the Pont de La Tour restaurant in London.
The years 2000
From the 2000s,
the second generation of the Guibert family gradually began to take over the reins and become the guardians of the family philosophy. Today, the property is managed by Samuel, Roman, Gaël and Basile Guibert.
The creation of a cuvée “Homage à Émile Peynaud” in homage to this great oenologist who taught us the art of making a wine that offers the best expression of this unique terroir in the wonderful Gassac valley.
20 January 2001:
First vertical tasting of the Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge with 22 vintages.
Previously reserved for private consumption and close circle of family and friends, the Rosé Frizant is made available for commercial distribution.
30 January 2005:
Second vertical tasting of 27 vintages of Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge.
30 March 2007:
First vertical tasting of 21 vintages of Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc.
The years 2010
Véronique Guibert wrote “Un Mas de Cocagne” recounting the culinary travels of Mas de Daumas Gassac’s founding couple: a combination of recipes, travel stories and family secrets.
23 February 2014:
Third vertical tasting of the Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge with 30 vintages.
Mas de Daumas Gassac’s grands vins is available in 61 countries.
17 February 2018:
Second vertical tasting of the Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc with 23 vintages.