M. Guibert’s philosophy

When a wine is labelled as organic or biodynamic, I tend to greet it with suspicion. This is partly my cynical belief that many producers describe their wines as such mainly for marketing purposes and partly a suspicion of movements in general that I alluded to in a previous post. Patrick Matthews in his book the Wild Bunch puts it well. He notes ‘echoes of cults, evangelism, even show trials’ in the language used by organics more dogmatic adherents.

As much as I don’t like organics as a movement or a marketing tool, I do like the philosophy behind it purely because it seems to make better wines. Or I’ll put that differently because there are some awful organic wines: the producers I like tend to either be organic or use such a minimal amount of fertilizer, fungicide etc that they might as well be. That is why Samuel Guibert from Mas de Daumas Gassac is a man after my own heart. When I asked him about organics he said that he wasn’t interested in politics, yes they farm organically but they don’t put it on the label. There’s no worthiness and no dogma. Many of the wines he enjoys are not from organic, biodynamic or ‘natural’ producers. He just wants to keep the family estate as nice as possible and that means not polluting the locale. He described it with mischevious gleam in his eye as ‘selfish environmentalism.’

And what a spectacular environment it is. Most vineyards are actually very dull. Vines themselves are not interesting to look at but at Mas de Daumas Gassac the vines are interspersed with garrique – the local name for the bush. They integrate into the landscape.  You can see the effect in this video of M. Guibert:

The red, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of many other varieties, is justifiably famous. I liked it a lot but would like to try it after at least ten years in bottle. You really need to treat it like a good Bordeaux. The white, a blend of Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Petite Manseng, Chardonnay, is more immediately accessible but will also age. The 2003 was delightfully nutty when I tried it recently.

The one I am going to recommend is a little bit different. I had it on New Year’s Eve and then again in France. It’s a fizzy rosé made from the Cabernet vines too young to go in the red and it is delightfully frivolous. So much nicer than those dreary rosé champagnes and only £15 a bottle. Sound too expensive? A decent rosé champagne would cost you at least twice as much and be half as much fun. It’s also six times more delicious than the best prosecco and eighteen times more stylish than cava. It will also make you irresitible to the opposite sex.

Mas de Daumas Gassac Frizant Rose 2008, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault Vin Mousseux

About Henry

I’m a drinks writer. My day job is features editor at the Master of Malt blog. I also contribute to BBC Good Food, the Spectator and others. You can read some of my work here. I’ve done a bit of radio, given some talks and written a couple of books (Empire of Booze, The Home Bar and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary).
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6 Responses to M. Guibert’s philosophy

  1. worm says:

    very fine reading Henry, and makes me ashamed that I sit here at my computer armed only with a can of Heineken 😦

    The one thing I do know about organic wines from working in a wine shop is that lots of people who are allergic to, or who just don’t like sulphites seek them out because they don’t contain any

  2. Henry says:

    I’m currently drinking cobra beer.

    Organic wines don’t necessarily contain less sulphur. I also a little sceptical of people who claim to have sulphur allergies. They’re like people who say they can’t eat Chinese food because of their sensitivity to MSG. I’m not saying they don’t exist but it’s very unusual to be so sensitive to the amounts of sulphur in wine. Sulphur is such a common food preservative being in dried fruit etc. but it’s only in wine that people complain about it.

  3. worm says:

    oh I agree Henry, I am by no means an expert in the ways of food allergies, as I don’t seem to be allergic to anything! There’s certainly plenty of people who claim to be though… So is it not true that to be labelled an ‘organic wine’ there should be no suphites added then?

  4. toby clements says:

    Can you absolutely guarantee that this wine will make me irresistible to the opposite sex? Or is that mere puff? It looks top, for many other reasons, but I’d have to deal with Avery’s… Is it worth that?

  5. Henry says:

    Mr Worm – Organic wines are meant to have lower levels of added sulphur but wine-made from organic grapes – a differen thing – can have as much as they like.

    Mr Clements – it was hyperbole but if I was a carefree batchelor I would keep a bottle or two just in case. Are Avery’s so bad? I know that they are basically Laithwaiter’s in disguise but you don’t have to join a club do you?

  6. Pingback: Organics sans worthiness « rowensalemy

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