Mon 16 May 2016

Remembering Aimé Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac

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It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Aimé Guibert at the age of 91.

He was the founder of the iconic Mas de Daumas Gassac in the Languedoc and it would not be too fanciful a claim to state that he, more than anyone was responsible for putting the Languedoc on the map of fine wine.

Aime Guibert

He was born in 1924 in Millau in the département of the Aveyron. His first career had been as a tanner and then as a successful glove maker. His second career came somewhat unexpectedly and as a result of finding somewhere peaceful where he and is growing family could escape from the bustle and noise of Paris.

They bought a large farmhouse or Mas on a virgin, wooded hillside by a cold mountain stream called the Gassac. Then their world changed when a friend, professor Henri Enjalbert, a geologist specialising in wine, visited the Guiberts on their farm in 1971 and declared on examining the site that the soils and climate were perfect for growing vines. He went on further, proclaiming that with cabernet sauvignon, a great wine could be made.

And so it began.

Mas de Daumas Gassac

Mas de Daumas Gassac

Aimé with his wife Véronique put all their energy into creating a vineyard where none had existed before. Remarkably, and with the help of another academic, professor Emile Peynaud of Bordeaux, the first vintage was made in 1978.

Aimé’s vision was extraordinary and all encompassing. Making a wine was not enough. Daumas Gassac had to be a great wine that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best. From his previous career he bought sales and marketing expertise that at the time was probably unique in the world of wine, at least outside Champagne and Bordeaux.

No appellation existed for the valley of the Gassac so his wines were labelled as mere vin de pays, becoming the most expensive non-appellation wine. But that didn’t seem to matter and Mas de Daumas Gassac gained a large and devoted following around the world.

From the start, Aimé and Véronique Guibert wanted to work as close to nature as possible. They were pioneers in creating an environment that promoted biodiversity. Though cabernet sauvignon is the principal black grape, others were planted with varieties coming from elsewhere in France, Italy and even Georgia. Plots of vineyard were kept small and surrounded by woods and hedges. Other wines followed including a viognier-inspired white.

That the Guiberts were sitting on a gold mine did not go unnoticed. Others moved in nearby with mixed success. Robert Mondavi became interested. An offer to buy Daumas Gassac was rejected and a plan to create a Mondavi estate vigorously and successfully opposed with the passionate Aimé very ably leading the local population in revolt. In the film Mondovino, Aimé Guibert is seen as the champion against what he saw as the industrialisation of wine.

His greatest achievement was to prove the notion of terroir. In creating Daumas Gassac, Aimé Guibert created the Languedoc’s first grand cru.

Many other vignerons would follow often with the same energy, spirit of enterprise, determination and individuality as the great man himself. The Languedoc owes him an awful lot and will miss him.

He is survived by his wife Véronique and his nine children including Samuel, at the head of the business.

My time as buyer for the Languedoc was greatly enriched by his wisdom and I shall miss him too.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Categories : France, South of France

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