The story of a young woman, and old vineyard and a new wine – Mas des Dames

‘From the valley a narrow road leads up the mountain’.  Het Domein  / The Domain starts with a description of  the road leading to Mas des Dames,  an 18th century Mas  (farm house villa) and wine estate surrounded by 14 hectares of vines in Murviel les Beziers.

Lidewij van Wilgen winemaker / vingeronne of Mas des Dames did what a lot of people dream about, but only a handful of people have the guts to do.  Lidewij van Wilgen came, saw and conquered the art of wine making. “I have two lives for the price of one”, she said in an interview, “I’ve done two things which are fun, advertising and wine”.  It was her love of wine and a desire for a life closer to nature that led her (and her former husband) to the narrow road up the mountain to find this old southern French wine estate in 2002. The property is located in the foothills of Faugères, twenty minutes from Beziers and the Mediterranean. The vineyards are located in the hills and consist of several small plots, surrounded by natural vegetation and oak trees, olive trees, pine trees and fragrant herbs like thyme and rosemary. Scientists discovered that this ‘garrigue – mix of vegetation’  creates a balance in nature and provides a natural protection against disease. All vineyards are oriented to the south and situated around the main building: the 18th century Mas.

In the Netherlands I had everything I wanted, but then you start to take a closer look, what do I really want to do with my life? In our case it was a wine estate in France and indeed that sounds like a romantic cliché, but reality hit hard after the initial romance.  Lidewij’s husband could not settle in the South of France and went back to Amsterdam to continue his career in advertising.

“One day you open the shutters of your house and realize that you are all alone in the middle of nowhere with three children. It was like going cold turkey from the life you had before and it was also quite sad, you sit there with your little baby and not a friend you can go to. You want to do something that all those people who live here already hundreds of years are doing and then you come as a foreigner without any experience or knowledge about wine making. I realized that I had no choice, I started this and I thought, well, I want to do this well. I wanted to know how to make wine. ”

Lidewij studied oenology and wine growing at the local agricultural school, amidst the sons of farmers, to learn the trade and has been responsible for the operation since, but her three daughters often help.  Moreover they became the inspiration for the name of the domain. “What is is important to us? The girls of course! Three times, three girls – Mas des Dames”.

Lidewij’s philosophy is to make original wines, which give a natural optimal expression of the terroir. With the help of the ‘garrigue’ Mas des Dames got rid of the insecticides, uses no synthetic fertilizers and minimal  treatment. All grapes are picked and sorted by hand. Yields are relatively low (35 hl / ha). After years of hard work Lidewij has succeeded in making wines that are highly regarded and praised.  Mas des Dames wines can be found in the Netherland at Okhuyzen, in Britain at Berry Bros, Rudd and Roberson, Germany at Walter und Sohn and United States at Vintage 59. I personally prefer the expressive but elegant La Diva. A deep, supple, unusual red wine made with 15% very old Alicante.

Two lives for the price of one. Does she want a third? ”I like my life now; it is like I always lived like this, I do not need a third, but it’s nice to know that I can”. Lidewij’s story Het Domein (The Domain) has been published in Dutch. At the moment The Domain is not available in English.

Video gepubliceerd op : 23 september 2011 | door Marjolein Stoop (Beeld: RNW)

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