Words of winemakers
Marie-France Masson – Domaine Bressy Masson
A story of partnership
‘When I started out, there were hardly any women in the vineyards.’
As so often happens, our story starts with a family – the Bressy family in this case, and the patriarch, the founder, the man with whom it all began – Marius.
Then along came son Emile, who spoke with the voice of wisdom and carefully chose, each and every vine they planted. It was Emile who bottled the Domaine’s first wine in 1947. Emile had only one daughter; and sadly, he died early, far too early. And when he died, his daughter Marie-France had only just taken her baccalaureate. She didn’t have the slightest experience of winegrowing, but she had spent her childhood surrounded by vineyards and farm buildings and now felt a fierce loyalty to this estate perched on a hillside in the Rasteau vineyards, somewhere between Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine. With no brothers or sisters to turn to and a family heritage to save, Marie-France refused to give up. It was 1976, two years after the oil crisis. She was 18. France itself seemed to be mid-crisis with no light at the end of the tunnel, but she kept the faith. Meanwhile, her fiancé Thierry was away doing military service; he had studied accountancy, but decided not to practice – “After all, it’s only fun when the figure on the bottom line has a good few zeros after it…” and became a winegrower instead. He and Marie-France married.
She suggested he join his name to hers – he was the one making the wine after all – and Domaine Bressy became Domaine Bressy-Masson.
Gathering in her first harvest at 19 years of age, Marie-France was to all intents and purposes the only female winegrower in the Rhône Valley. Today she is a member of women’s winegrowing organisation Femmes Vignes Rhône, along with some 30 other professional women in the wine business. Initially, she gave herself 5 years to succeed, but her 32 hectares of vineyard across 3 terroirs exceeded all expectation.
She markets a highly acclaimed Rasteau red, while her 3-barrel Vin Doux Naturel has been judged to be the best in its category. An erstwhile stable adjacent to the right wing of the house is now used for sales – and we can trace the history of the family’s success through the host of trophies and medals on display. On the other side of the house we find the winery with its special concrete tanks for making Suco d’Or (from the Provençal for ‘stump’) The aromas are so redolent of Rasteau – vibrant and powerful; and like the landscape, the wine is awe inspiring, soul-stirring and sumptuous. In the shade of the huge plane tree specially shaped to protect the house from the sun, the Masson family wait for the day when the next generation is ready to take over the Domaine.