Mourgues du Grès
- Costières de Nimes, Rhône, France
Château Mourgues du Grès is one of the pioneers of the Costières de Nîmes and is recognized as one of the very best estates in the region in the French magazines Revue de Vin de France, Guide Hachette, and Gilbert et Gaillard. Mourgues du Grès is run by Anne and François Collard. François’s father was the first owner and he made wine, but mostly sold grapes in bulk. François started his career in Bordeaux, working in the cellar at Château Lafite-Rothschild. In 1990, soon after the Costières de Nîmes received appellation status, François was inspired by the potential to make great wines from this little known appellation and he moved back to run the family winery. The first vintage bottled under the Château Mourgues du Grès name was in 1993.
Nîmes historically made great wines that were famously served centuries ago to the pope of Avignon. The wines were made by the Ursulines nuns of Beaucaire. The nuns were identified by their location; the nuns of the river, nuns from the sea, or nuns from the stones. Mourgues means ‘nuns’ in Provençal, an ancient French dialect. Mourgues du Grès means ‘nuns of the stones’. The nuns managed fruit orchards and vineyards and the Collard family still manages both today.
The Costières de Nîmes is the southernmost region of the Rhône Valley. The terroir is influenced by the Rhône and the Mediterranean Sea. Like most of the southern Rhône, there is abundant sunshine, the weather is hot and mostly dry, and the Mistral wind helps to keep the vines healthy. The vineyards are covered with galets, the same round, flat stones that are famous in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Costières de Nîmes is unique within the Rhône region because of the influence of the Mediterranean. The sea cools the nighttime temperature, giving the wines a lot of freshness.
Château Mourgues du Grès is on the plateau of Beaucaire, where they benefit from both northern and southern sun exposure. They have a mix of soils, galets stones, sand, and they even have an area with limestone, which is quite rare in the appellation. The Collard’s have always been innovators, working to unlock the very best of the terroir. François’s father was the first to plant Syrah in the region and today it is the most widely planted variety in the Costières de Nîmes. Syrah grows especially well here because of the cool nights. François planted Marselan in 2007 and reported the results back to the appellation administrators and it’s now allowed to be up to 10% of the blend in the red wines. It adds complexity and freshness and has a lower alcohol.
François and Anne are both very passionate about nature. They have practiced organic agriculture since 2004 (certified in 2011); meticulous care and attention are paid to the work in the vineyards. François and Anne Collard never rush to make changes, but at the same time, are constantly searching for the best way to manage their vineyards to get a very pure expression of the Costières de Nîmes. In 2018, they began the process for biodynamic certification and in 2020 the wines will be certified.
Like the work in the vineyards, in the cellar, all decisions are carefully taken with the aim of getting the best expression. For the Collards, this means making wines in a natural way while maintaining a classic style. Whites and rosés are fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks; the reds are fermented in cement so that there is an oxygen exchange, and then are aged in cement or barrels depending on the cuvée. Since 2015, no sulfur is used during vinification or aging on any of the wines, only a small amount at bottling. Total sulfur used is approximately 50mg/L on the whites and rosés and 40mg/L on the reds. Making wine without sulfur has its challenges, but it is worth the risk for all that is gained in greater fruit purity.
Each bottle shows the emblem of the sundial that is on the wall of the winery, with the words "Sine Sole Nihil," which translates to "There is nothing without sunshine." For Mourgues du Grès, this symbolizes the maturity and harmony expressed in their wines. The Collards are dedicated in every step of the process to make the best wines and their work shines a light on what is possible from this modest appellation. The culmination of more than thirty years of the Collards work has established Château Mourgues du Grès as one of the very best in the Costières de Nîmes.