Mas de Daumas Gassac

Mas de Daumas Gassac seemed to come my way quite a few times during the last week or so.   They were exhibiting at the Real Wine Fair and I so enjoyed the opportunity to taste with Véronique Guibert. 

2012 Rosé Frizant
Very bright vivid pink colour. Quite rounded and ripe on nose and palate, with some sweet fruit and a streak of acidity.  I forgot to ask how much residual sugar is left, but it is certainly off dry, and slightly fizzy.

2012 Blanc
Just bottled.  Quite a herbal nose, with dry honey on the palate.  Medium weight with balancing acidity. 

2011 Rouge
Fresh peppery fruit on the nose.  And a nicely rounded palate, with elegant fruit.  Obviously still very youthful, and charming rather than powerful.   I liked this a lot.  It is certainly the first vintage for some time that I have felt really enthusiastic about at this stage in its life.

2010 Rouge
In contrast I found this quite firm and sturdy, rather closed and tight.  And wondered how it would age.  It did open up a bit at dinner later in the day.

2005 Rouge
The colour has begun to develop a little.  The nose was quite firm and smoky, and I found the palate quite closed and tight knit and not very expressive.   Doug Wregg did mention that last Monday was a root day, which, if you follow the biodynamic tasting,  is generally not considered the best day for tasting, so maybe that had something to do with it.

2008 Cuvée Emile Peynaud
This is the wine that is made in the best vintages, in memory of the eminent oenologist who helped and encouraged Aimé Guibert so much in the beginning.   It is a pure Cabernet Sauvignon, and comes from the very best plots of vines, in that particular vintage.  The colour is dark and the nose firm and concentrated, with ripe dry cassis fruit on the palate.  There is a concentrated sturdy feel to the wine, with some firm tannins.  Above all it needs time.

And the tasting finished with 2011 Vin de Laurence Moelleux, which was rich and honeyed, with some intriguing nuances.  A lovely glass of wine. 

And that evening I was invited to a Mas de Daumas Gassac dinner at Galvin la Chapelle.  The setting is splendid as this restaurant is housed in St. Botolph’s Hall in Spital Square in the East End that was built in the 1890s as part of a girl’s school.  So it has a wonderful sense of space.    And the food was delicious, but the order of the wines was slightly curious.

We began with a lasagne of Dorset crab, accompanied by Réserve de Gassac Blanc.  The blend is mainly Viognier, with some Chardonnay, Marsanne and Muscat and the grapes are not grown at Mas de Daumas Gassac.  I liked this; it was understated, with some peachy herbal notes, with a fresh finish.

For Risotto of Périgord truffle we had 2010 Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge.  The truffles encouraged the wine to open up a little from the morning, with dry red fruit, but none the less it was still quite tight and tannic.

Next came a Filet of sole véronique, accompanied by 2011 Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc.  It was ripe and sweet and peachy, with no oak, and no malo.  I did wonder how much residual sugar there was, as it lacked the grip and acidity of the 2012.

And for the Denham Estate venison, we were served 1998 in magnums.  A magnum is always a treat; it is a declaration of a serious intent of enjoyment.  It was deep in colour, with quite a dense rich nose, and on the palate there was dry cassis, with some smoky notes and quite a firm finish.  It was still relatively young and I wondered how it would continue to develop.

Curiously, with the Roquefort, which came with some delicious caramelised walnuts, we were served the Rosé Frizant, which we had already enjoyed as an aperitif. I thought it performed better first time around.

And the finale was an apple tarte tatin, with the 2011 Vin de Laurence.  The main grape varieties are Sercial, Muscat and Petit Manseng and it went perfectly with the tarte, with some lovely rich honeyed flavours, balanced with acidity.  Very harmonious and a perfect balance and a delicious finale to a delicious evening.

You may have noticed that my tasting notes for the various red wines lack total enthusiasm.   Of the reds that I tasted or drunk a couple of Mondays ago -  a bit of a delay with  this post -  the wine with the most immediate appeal was the 2011.   So undeterred, the following Saturday evening, I opened a bottle of the 2000 Mas de Daumas Gassac rouge, with a Californian friend, who had just flown in from South Africa.   And this was delicious, supporting Mas de Daumas Gassac’s claim to be the first ‘grand cru of the Languedoc’.  

The colour was deep, but beginning to age.   And on the nose the wine was rich and smoky, with notes of maturing cedary cassis and cherry fruit. On the palate it was beautifully harmonious, with supple tannins and some smoky cassis fruit.  There was a ripeness that you would never find in Bordeaux.  The wine had length and depth and was still quite young. 

And of out idle curiosity I have just looked to see which vintage of Mas de Daumas Gassac features in The 1001 Wines to Drink Before you die – which was published in 2008.  The answer was the 1990, which I drank about a year ago, and did not enjoy as much as the 2000.  It was rich and concentrated, and powerful, without the elegance of the 2000.

The very first vintage of Mas de Daumas Gassac was the 1978 and in the early days Mas de Daumas Gassac was an exciting illustration of just what could be achieved in the Languedoc with ability and talent as well as money.  Luck and imagination have helped too.  And the Languedoc is indebted to Aimé Guibert for showing the way and breaking down barriers.   Thirty years ago Mas de Daumas Gassac commanded consistently higher prices than any other Languedoc wine, and set an example for others to follow.  For when we are prepared to pay a sensible price for  a wine, which means one that is not only not too expensive, but not too cheap either, we are giving its producers the possibility of investing some money in better cellar facilities and new vineyards.    And Aimé Guibert showed that that was possible, at a time and in a region where cheap wine was the order of the day.   And now many others have overtaken Mas de Daumas Gassac in both quality and price.  But nonetheless its place as a pioneer in the Languedoc remains unchallenged.

A PS  to this post - as it happened, we had lunch yesterday with a friend in the Langfuedoc, who opened the 2007.  On first taste, just opened it seemed lean and thin, so we suggested decanting it, and half an hour later the wine had begun to open up and made a very enjoyable accompaniment to some roast lamb, wth some nicely balanced tannins and fruit.  It was still youthful with an elegant finish. 


Alan March said…
Interesting. I must admit to always feeling a little underwhelmed whenever I have tasted the wines which, admittedly, has not been that often. I respect the estate for its pioneering role, as you describe, but I wouldn't have it on a to buy list unlike some other grand estates of the region.
Graham said…
Aimé Guibert contribution to putting the Languedoc on the fine wine map is immeasurable. The reds were very much in the Bordeaux mould, which in hindsight was probably essential to get the attention of the wine world at the time.

I drank the 1978 at a "farewell" dinner for Le Mimosa back in 2010. It had been lying in the Daumas Gassac cellars and had been recently re-corked. It certainly exceeded my expectations.
Alan - Neatly put.

Graham - lucky you!

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