This exceptional terroir, identified in the 1970s by the French geographer and professor,
Henri Enjalbert, constitutes the identity of Mas de Daumas Gassac’s Grands Vins.
Most important of all is Mas de Daumas Gassac’s exceptional terroir, discovered in the 1970s by the geographer and professor, Henri Enjalbert. Occupying the chair of geography at the Academy of Bordeaux (he died in 1983 having completed his monumental book on Saint Emilion), he discovered, in the middle of the Arboussas Massif, under the thick mantle of the garrigue, 40 hectares (100 acres) of deep, perfectly drained soil, rich in mineral oxides (iron, copper, gold, etc) and poor in humus and plant matter.
He immediately saw a similarity between this soil and that of the finest terroirs of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy.
This terroir of glacial sandstone accumulated by winds during the Riss, Mindel and Guntz glaciations provides three essential elements for the production of a grand vin:
- deep soil in which the vines’ roots can find nourishment deep below the surface;
- well-drained soil in which the vines’ roots will never become water-logged;
- poor soil requiring effort from the vines and causing them stress but resulting in superb flavours.
Henri Enjalbert’s notes and drawings were reproduced in a remarkable book published in 1985 called “Un Vignoble de Qualité en Languedoc”.
A cold microclimate with beneficial effects
It is difficult for a great terroir to express itself in a hot climate: all of the legendary wines (Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy) are produced in northerly vineyards. The Upper Gassac Valley, the cradle for this exceptional terroir, also benefits from a cold microclimate that corresponds to an altitude of about 500 metres. At night, cold air flows down from the Larzac plateau (850 metres) into the Upper Gassac Valley, keeping the vines cool at night even in the middle of the summer.
The vineyard’s exposure on north-facing slopes accentuates the microclimate’s effect by reducing the hours of sunshine, especially in the summer. While this microclimate delays the vines’ flowering by about three weeks compared to the average in the Languedoc, thereby delaying the harvests of the red grapes, it is also responsible for the remarkable complexity and finesse of Mas de Daumas Gassac’s wines, and the extremely rare balance of three elements – alcohol, polyphenols and acidity – that is found in exceptional wines.