Costières de Nîmes, France
180 Hectares (444 Acres)
Like Father, Like Son
Born in Nîmes, Maurice Barnouin followed in his father’s footsteps and became a farmer. Like him, he first started growing fruit trees and then expanded to tomatoes and asparagus. Finally, he opened a nursery, which he still owns today.
Maurice was quickly attracted to the wine business, as it is close to his culture and encourages festivity, for which the region is so renowned. Indeed, the Fête de la Pentecôte (Whitsun Feria) attracts one million people. Staged for the first time in 1952, it lasts for five days. Like the Munich beer festival, it is one of the most popular festive events in Europe. Maurice would not miss it for the world.
Vines have been cultivated in the region since the 6th Century BC. Domaine de Gournier may have already existed at that time, as it belonged to the lands of the « Sancta Agatha Villa », now called St Chaptes, whose main tower lies half a mile away from the Domaine. After passing through the hands of noble families, the Domaine finally became an independent entity during the French Revolution. The qualities and secrets of these millennial wines were passed on from father to son for several generations.
In 1959, Maurice’s father bought Gournier. At that time, there were more fruit trees than vines. Without a cellar, the grapes were sold to the village’s co-op. A pepinierist by trade (vine rootstock and clone expert), Maurice’s father became one of the first in the region to plant « noble » varietals when hybrids were the norm. Starting in 1970, he planted Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, followed closely by Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
At the beginning of the 80’s, Maurice took over the Domaine and decided to focus on the vineyard. In 1983, he left the co-op for good, amidst clashes with other members of the organization, and created his own cellar. At this time the reputation for the region’s wines was poor and changing that opinion for the better became Maurice’s challenge.
Maurice has remained faithful to his natal region, but he has also traveled extensively abroad. He worked for a long time in Morocco and Spain and he is part owner of a Romanian domain today. It’s certainly because of his pepinierist background that he enjoys experimenting with varietals from other regions.
Gone with the Flood
During the night of September 8th through the 9th 2002, violent and abundant rains fell on the South of France. Many were impacted, thousands were displaced, some lost it all, but Gournier, like the phoenix rising from nothingness, came out of it stronger and better. During that fateful night, the waters rose rapidly and flooded the grounds for miles around. Mud slides created havoc, taking with them trees and damaging houses. Within a matter of hours the entire Domaine was under water. Maurice, along with the Canadian staff who had landed a few days prior to help with the harvest, was now a captive of the rising waters. They first attempted to save important equipment, but soon realized they had to save their own lives first. Trapped in Maurice’s house, they took refuge on the highest story and finally climbed onto the roof when the water reached 24 feet. Maurice could only see water where his vines, his car, his cellar, his house used to be. Everything was gone! Maurice, his Canadian workers, his staff, and Alain Demezon (his consulting oenologist who also works with us on other properties) were rescued by helicopter and carried to safety.
As the water came back down, all that was left was a devastated landscape: pallets were hanging from trees, vines were covered in mud, the grounds were strewn with papers, plastic objects and other personal items from the neighboring houses. Everything had been destroyed; the empty stainless steel vats actually went through the roof of the house. Maurice’s home had been invaded by mud... Thankfully, the vines didn’t suffer too much as the water receded fairly quickly. But Maurice remained upbeat, he announced “let’s clean up, rebuild and keep on with our work!” And so they did. Nowadays, the cellar is as state-of-the-art as it gets and even though the houses are still being rebuilt, the vines are healthier than ever.
How They Met...
Maurice and Bobby met 22 years ago and became friends right away. It was at the time when Bobby was looking for varietal wines in the region. They shared memorable feasts, either at the Nîmes feria or under the shade of the Domaine’s chestnut trees. Maurice is always cooking delicious, simple foods made from the best produce grown on local terroirs. He mostly buys directly from his friends, where he can pop in and be welcomed with totally unaltered friendship that warms the heart (and the rest of the body after a few glasses). And they know their welcome is reciprocated ten times over when they visit him. Maurice typifies the word “bon vivant”. An encounter with Maurice is always unforgettable! His specialties include les tellines de Saintes-Marie de la Mer, home-made brandade de morue, oysters from Bousigues, grilled baby goat, pellardons des Cévennes and truffles... He is also known by his friends for preparing some mean lunches “a la plancha”, where he cooks octopus, mussels and fish on the barbecue, foods which pair so well with his Sauvignon Blanc.
The team at Robert Kacher Selections
Domaine de Gournier - Merlot
The Merlot clone planted here is sourced from vineyards on the right bank of Bordeaux. The grapes are hand-harvested and vinified in stainless steel tanks in order to focus on the fresh fruit. This Merlot exhibits a saturated purple color and a spicy, blackberry nose and flavors. This beautifully made chunky little Merlot has long been recognized as a great value.
All right, guys, this is very special... Maurice has agreed to pass on his “secret” grilled baby goat recipe. Even though we realize it may not be easy to find baby goat in the States, or you may not want to, you can easily replace it by lamb. In any case, enjoy! It’s not every day someone tells you such a juicy secret and that you’re allowed to repeat it!!
Grilled Baby Goat
(60 minutes – 8 people)
• 1/2 a baby goat or leg of lamb (4 pds)
• 1 pd of fingerlings potatoes, unpeeled
• Herbes de Provence, salt, pepper
• Olive oil (1/4 cup)
• 1/2 bottle of Gournier Sauvignon Blanc
1. Cover the bottom of the pan with whole potatoes
2. Season with salt and pepper
3. Lay the meat on top, pour olive oil and wine on it
4. Sprinkle with Herbes de Provence
5. Bake in pre-heated oven at 450 °for 45 minutes for medium rare
6. Baste the meat with juice from the pan bottom occasionally
7. Enjoy with a delicious Merlot from Gournier!
Courtesy of "Chef" Maurice Barnouin!
Other Wines produced by this Domaine:
Vin de Pays des Cévennes
Viognier . . .()