Those of you who saw Mondovino, the militant artisan-wine documentary by Jonathan Nossiter, will remember Aimé Guibert as the stern looking man who declares that “le vin est mort” (wine is dead). More importantly, you should know him as a remarkable winemaker and vigneron whose Mas de Daumas Gassac is a truly remarkable domaine.
Yesterday, I opened a red Mas de Daumas Gassac 1997 for a dinner with my parents, my sister and her family (and my family, of course). From the minute I started pouring it in the decanter, wonderful aromas of well-evolved cabernet sauvignon (80% of the blend, with 20% coming from eight (!) other varietals) floated up to my nose. It certainly seemed to have evolved quite nicely.
I poured some in a glass, to get a first impression, and started smiling instantly. Handed the glass over to my mother, who tasted it, smiled too, and said “le vin n’est pas mort” – (this) wine is not dead. Indeed it wasn’t.
After a couple of hours in the decanter, it showed beautiful aromas of tobacco and leather, with a certain amount of fruit (blackberry, plum, I believe). The color, a bright garnet, was just beautiful to look at. It showed on the palate with corresponding flavors, medium-bodied, with considerable elegance and good length. I kept getting the impression that the 20% of other varietals played a very interesting role in the wine, adding complexity and a sort of vibrant character to the very typical cabernet aromas. Lots of drinkability, and a lot of pleasure shared around the table – which is the point of cellaring and opening up bottles like that, isn’t it?
Now, 1997 (the 20th harvest at the Mas) was a complicated vintage, as Guibert’s technical sheet points out (you can find it here – in French only). Early flowering, lots of rain and lots of heat, so much so that ripening stalled in late August. Not taking any chances, Guibert picked the wine then and saved himself from a risky autumn season. So you don’t get the power of, say, the 1995, but you get a very approachable wine that is now mature and complex and highly pleasurable, yet very precise and well-defined. I’ve loved the wine every time I’ve tasted it, and yesterday was no exception.