Domaine de Gournier is a large estate located off the beaten track in a relatively unknown part of southern France. It is situated in the foothills of the Cévennes mountains, which form a triangle in shape, with the medieval town of Uzès at its apex its base comprising the city of Nîmes and the Pont du Gard.
Its current owner, Maurice Barnouin, was born in Nîmes, and followed in his father’s agricultural footsteps. Like him, he started his career growing fruit trees and vegetables, and opened a nursery that he still owns today.
His father first bought Gournier in 1959. His agricultural career had led to him become something of an expert on vine rootstock and cloning, and he bucked the trend of using local hybrid grapes, choosing instead to plant international varieties. One of the first in the Cévennes to plant merlot and cabernet sauvignon, over time Maurice’s father expanded the range to include sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.
At the time, there was no cellar on the property, and the grapes were all being sold to the local co-operative. When Maurice took control of the domaine in the 1980s, he continued this practice, and remained focused on the vineyard. However, by 1983 disagreements with other members of the co-op meant he decided to stop working with them, and embarked on his own adventure.
Of course, this meant he needed to build a cellar, and he took this as an opportunity to explore the technology available that could heighten the poor reputation of the region’s winemaking. Over the years, he used his experience of working in wineries abroad to introduce methods that would increase his wine’s quality levels.
In September 2002, tragedy struck: a monumental flood destroyed much of the region’s homes, vineyards and businesses. Maurice and his team had to be airlifted from the roof of the cellar, and when they returned, once the water had receded, they found that most of the domaine had been destroyed. Against considerable odds, Maurice remained positive, and although many of the houses are still being rebuilt, he has worked hard to create a new, state-of-the-art cellar.
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