François Collard's father was a farmer. He grew grapes, and also fruit trees. Today, the vines and the fruit trees are managed separately (François's younger brother runs the orchard business) but the vines and the trees still grow side by side. As François says, the aroma of the viognier grape reminds him of the aroma of the apricots that grow nearby. You can learn more about Collard's beliefs about the total effect of sun, soil, water, and agriculture here.
I spent a little time with Emeric Garcia, "maître de chai" at the winery. When we arrived he was busy with the new vendage; it was a hot, dry summer right up to a week or so before harvest, when it rained. They waited while the Mistral came through and dried everything up—which turned out to be the right decision. We tasted a tank sample of the syrah; it’s just a few days old, but on the tongue you can already taste the abundance of fruit. The winery uses concrete tanks to ferment the reds in the traditional style of the region. Garcia says he gets plenty of extraction with minimal pump-over. He ferments a small amount in barrels; he jokes that these are the only places he does any punching-down. White wines and rosés are fermented in new stainless tanks (there is also just a bit of barrel fermentation). He is a careful winemaker, but not “organic.” Hoping a wild yeast will initiate a healthy fermentation is too much of a risk for a winery like this.
While Château Mourgues du Grès is neither organic nor "biodynamic," this is clearly a property run with great sensitivity to the interaction of man and nature. So to me, it is no surprise that the wines are excellent and very much of their place.
Thanks again to Anne and François for their hospitality (We agree that "eggplant" is a very strange name for aubergine.)Thanks to Sophie Laurent for the vineyard tour and the tasting. I'm sorry we didn't get a photo of Sophie as good as the one you'll find here.
The Mule with the Collards (and dogs). Behind us, on the wall, Anne's design for the winery: "Sine Sole Nihil" "Without the Sun, Nothing."