Mas de Daumas Gassac needs little introduction, established by the idiosyncratic Aimé Guibert and his wife Véronique in the 1970s, the estate pretty much pioneered the concept of high end, boutique Vin de Pays. The first wine was made there in 1978 and for some time the estate’s red had a strong claim to being the grand cru of the Languedoc.
Now the Midi is a pretty competitive field in terms of fine wine across all the departments and there are other wines that can now also stake a claim to greatness, not least Gassac’s near neighbour in Aniane Domaine de la Grange des Perès. Nevertheless Daumas Gassac must still rank as one of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon blends in the region and the estate is now run by Guibert’s offspring Samuel, Gael and Roman.
I’ve been following Daumas Gassac for the past decade or so. A number of wines are now made here under the Moulin de Gassac range but the real quality wines are the red and whites bottled under the Daumas Gassac label, which must surely remain one of the most beautiful labels on any bottle of French wine, let alone a Vin de Pays de l’Hérault. The white, made since 1986, is one of the very best white wines in the region. It is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Petit Manseng among others and is very attractive in its youth but it does age well in bottle.
The main claim to fame of course is the red. It’s made from a blend of predominately Cabernet Sauvignon [80%] with a veritable collection of other red varieties including Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir and Syrah and aged for 18 months in oak barrels. It is often a curious beast. After showing flashes of brilliance in its youth, the wine seems to go to sleep for years and remains brooding and dumb before [usually] coming up with the goods. I remember a vertical tasting held ten years ago by Liz and Mike Berry when they ran the fantastic La Vigneronne wine shop in London. The 1989 and 1990 Daumas Gassac’s showed extremely well aged ten, then big rich and roasted wines though admittedly still with lots of tannin. I’m sure they’d still be doing extremely well today. There was also a delicious and complex 1984, really quite fine and Haut-Médoc like, but the 1995 and 1996, then tasted with just a few years in bottle, were dumb, tannic and backward. In the last decade I’ve bought boxes of the 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2008. The few I’ve tried in the past have shown little development so I thought I’d take another look at the 2001 and the 2004, alongside the 2007 vintage purchased in London [Ex-Cellar, Fulham].
This relatively modest mini-vertical tasting turned out to be a satisfying experience and confirmed that these reds seem to need ten years in bottle to show progress but when they get there it’s worth the wait. The 2007, all fresh and sappy, was well made and promising, although there was a slight streak of something a little vegetal in there too. The 2004, still all stoney silence, gave way to a beautiful 2001, finally beginning to show complexity with wonderful notes of tar, menthol, mint and tobacco emerging from the [previously] sombre depths. Clearly these reds won’t be hurried. Stubborn you could call them – a quality occasionally attributed to the estate’s founder himself over the years….
Mas de Daumas Gassac, Haute Vallée du Gassac, Vin de Pay de l’Hérault, Red 2007
Vibrant purple at edge; legs; deep crimson at core; attractive blackcurrants, roses, oak and minerals, appealing and fresh; some earth and undergrowth at the back; palate sweet entry, blackcurrants, quite wet stone qualities, structured with bite and minerality. Good length. Tannins feel a little softer than some earlier vintages, medium weight [12.5 alcohol]. Could be the year? Later a little geranium and vegetal note crept through suggesting just a streak of green, but there is plenty of savour and life here. 87/100 Tasted Oct ‘10
Mas de Daumas Gassac, Haute Vallée du Gassac, Vin de Pay de l’Hérault, Red 2004
Mid red; legs, bright in the glass; dark at centre; initially quite closed with some dark fruits, stones and minerals with some spices; dust and dry earth; palate dry; again rust and some earth; tannins still feel a bit tough though starting to coalesce, a simplicity and honesty to the wine but far from opulent. In ‘no-mans land’ currently – the wine has lost the freshness of youth but currently without the complexity of age. Later it opened out a little more – wet stones; rocks, slate and dust with some tobacco notes creeping in alongside spice and pine. Hopefully more will emerge soon. 86+/100 Tasted Oct ‘10
Mas de Daumas Gassac, Haute Vallée du Gassac, Vin de Pay de l’Hérault, Red 2001
Deep red, still impenetrable, legs; menthol, mint and garrigue notes on the nose, this is marvellous; real interesting development creeping in with some spices and finally mature notes, tobacco and leather; warm, spicy palate, quite full with tar and liquorice, sweetness and ripeness; tannins resolved but still pretty chewy, medium weight overall but with concentration and intensity. Positive finish. This is very good and shows how the wines do blossom eventually. 90/100 Tasted Oct ‘10
Tags: Aimé Guibert, Aniane, Chardonnay, Domaine de la Grange des Perès, Gael Guibert, La Vigneronne, Languedoc, Liz and Mike Berry, Mas de Daumas Gassac, Merlot, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Roman Guibert, Samuel Guibert, Syrah, Veronique Guibert, Viognier