Don't talk to Sylvie Milhard-Bessard about converting to organic. “We've always been organic, our vines have never seen weed killers or pesticides!". Even back in 1970, her father, Yves, refused to use agrochemicals. “He would say there was a skull on the bottles and he didn't want to poison his customers. It was simple farming wisdom”.
Almost half a century later, his descendants continue to apply his philosophy. Although you won’t see it stated on the labels – “it’s too restrictive and there’s too much red tape” - biodynamics is nevertheless the order of the day. The estate works according to the moon, following its cycles to rack the wines. The vines are always treated with plant decoctions and egg shells. When the Milhard-Bessard family bought five hectares to expand their estate, the vendor was their neighbour and a former classmate of Yves', who followed the same principles.
With the support of her children, Laëtitia and Jérémie, who divide their time between a permanent job and the Château, Sylvie Milhard-Bessard now focuses on the farming skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. “It was my children who encouraged me to apply for organic certification. That’s where the future lies”. But that doesn't mean you can't look back over your shoulder.
Since 2017, the family has brought in a draft horse every two months to plough two of its plots. It provides an opportunity to organise an event amidst the vineyards, and increase the number of potential customers. 50% of the wines are sold at the cellar door, with the other half sent abroad to countries as far apart as China, Scandinavia and Russia where Château Vieux Mougnac has managed to establish a market by word of mouth alone. Its success can be ascribed to the typicity of its wines that are designed for lengthy cellaring and show distinctive aromas of liquorice and prune.
By Alexandra Reveillon