Whether Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot or Chardonnay, most French wines you have likely enjoyed are identified with one grape and come from an officially recognized region known as an appellation. But one of the best French wines, especially suitable for rich holiday feasts, is a humble vin de pays-containing over 10 grape varieties. Writers like Hugh Johnson dub the Mas de Daumas Gassac the “grand cru wine” of southern France. I understood why when I tasted 12 vintages in November at the 10th annual Decanter Wine Encounter in London. Its vineyard, discovered in the 1970s to have a particularly fine microclimate, was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon-unheard-of back then because that grape was thought to be unsuitable for cultivation in the hot South-and the finished wine includes 10 other varieties. The result is an elegant wine with substance, power and the ability to age. The 1988, no longer on the market unfortunately, surpasses many a Bordeaux I have tried from the same vintage. The good news is that recent vintages, especially the 2005, 2001 and 1998, will prove just as age worthy. They are already delicious today-though the 2005 is still in barrel. Recent vintages fetch between $25 and $35, but older ones cost as much as $100, so seek out the wine upon release.
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