Chapel at the charterhouse
The chapel at the charterhouse in Mougeres
In the footsteps of explorers and nuns! Matthew Kirk and Marcel Orford-Williams join Nicolas de Saint-Exupéry to blend some summery whites.
Chartreuse means charterhouse, and the winery of Nicolas and Gersende de Saint-Exupery (yes, grandson of the famous explorer and author Antoine) is opposite the large charterhouse of Mougères, now occupied and brought to life by a group of nuns who we glimpsed occasionally. The chapel at the charterhouse is open to visit, and they have craft workshops which produce lovely carvings and sculptures in wood and stone, some of which are sold in Nicolas's winery shop.
Nicolas, who runs the estate with his wife (who has her own online baby clothing business as well as helping with the winemaking) comes from a winemaking family from a few miles down the coast in La Clape. He moved full-time to Mougères a couple of years ago though he had been looking after the vineyard for a few years prior to that on behalf of the religious order at the charterhouse. He is now owner of the vineyard and the winery, but still has close links with the charterhouse and the nuns.
A man with many projects
Nicolas admits that now he is full time in Mougeres, he has lots of projects - planting four hectares of cinsault and muscat à petits grains (for rosé and white), co-planting olive trees with vines and converting some of the disused part of the winery buildings into chambres d'hôtes for visitors.
Blending the 2014 vintage to make a great summer white
We tasted through the different cuvées from his 2014 vintage and he and Marcel blended together sauvignon blanc, vermentino, maccabéo and a little muscat à petits grains for the next vintage of a great summer-drinking white – Pèlerin Blanc, Pays de Caux, Chartreuse de Mougères (we are currently selling the 2013).
Each grape brings something to the party and, much like cooking, if you get the proportions right, you get something harmonious and better than the sum of the parts. If you get it wrong ....luckily after several refinements we came to a very nice wine which should arrive in time for the April List. For a small winemaker like this, and in a relatively short but concentrated vintage, the discussion then turned to volumes and prices as Marcel is keen to ensure that we guarantee the supply and price before others get there.
Nicolas and Gersende then very kindly gave us lunch – they are very friendly and invited us into their home for côtes de boeuf which set us up for the afternoon. It was a welcome respite as we are trying to fit in as many visits as possible in a day but also need to eat. Sharing a meal is important in fostering relationships – these count for a lot, particularly in this part of France. I also got the sense that there are some winemakers with whom Marcel has become a good friend as well as a customer.
Nicolas de Saint-Exupery
Nicolas de Saint-Exupery blending his wine
And then to lunch!
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