Domaine Mourchon Cotes du Rhone Grande Reserve 2005
by Cynthia Hurley
The area around Mourchon
This is a great vintage and Domaine de Mourchon 2005 Cotes du Rhone Villages-Seguret Grand Reserve is one of the top wines in the the vintage. The Wine Specator rated it 91 in their annual Rhone review.
2005 is the year to stock up on Cotes du Rhones. Wine Spectator rates the 2005 vintage a 97 out of 100 points. Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate give the vintage a 95. Robert Parker thinks that Rhones are the best wine values in the world.
In April, I visited this completely modern, immaculate, hilltop estate and was thrilled with the success of the 2005s. Everyone is excited about this new vintage and for good reason. All the growers I spoke to in the Cotes du Rhone across several growing areas thought this was one of the easiest to harvest and most successful vintages in recent memory. The weather had been perfect and the grapes were perfectly ripe. They were very excited about the quality of the wines now that they are in bottle an of course the demand they were getting. Everyone is stocking up on these great ready to drink wines.
I was equally excited that I had made an earlier reservation for some 2005s, especially at the perennial favorite Domaine de Mourchon . And the good news I made a large reservation and the last part of my order is here now.
The Cotes du Rhone is in Provence and Provence has it all - the the landscape, the sun, the hilltop villages, the rosemary and thyme-scented air and, of course, the wine.
Provence is the Parisian Hamptons where chic Parisians have their country mas and the elite British families spend the summer. It is also the home to some of my favorite wines of summer: Cotes du Rhone.
As the Rhone flows south it fans out into a great agricultural plain north of Avignon and this is where the southern Cotes du Rhone wines are grown. The best area is the right bank or eastern side where the vineyards go for miles. The most famous come from the rocky soil around Chateauneuf du Pape ($45 - 60 and $45-$100 for special cuvees). Next in reputation are the designated Cotes du Rhone Villages towns which are clustered around the eastern side of the valley up against the Dentilles Mountains.
The east has pretty much a monopoly on the best Cotes du Rhone Villages These are the ones that are allowed to append their names to Cotes du Rhone Villages label designation i.e. Cotes du Rhone Villages- Seguret. These designated villages make up only about 15% of the area production but are the place to find the best wines of the area. They come from the quaint old wine growing towns like Cairanne, Rasteau, Beaumes de Venise and Seguret. These villages carry several quality requirements like limited production (42 hl/h) and minimum alcohol content (12.5%). Next down the food (beverage) chain are the simpler Cotes du Rhone Villages and then just Cotes du Rhone.
Each designation level can mean a big quality difference although there are definitely stand-outs at every level because the grower, his management of the vineyards, and the attention he puts on the vinification process can trump appellation.
Much of the wine in this area is still made by the Cooperatives but increasingly individual growers are taking back their production and establishing new estates and delivering outstanding results. One of the new rising stars in the Cotes du Rhone Villages- Seguret region is Domaine du Mourchon. The Domaine de Mourchon sits high above the picturesque Seguret village. The vineyards are at an elevation of 350 metres above sea level, almost in the mountain zone. The view from de Mourchon is beautiful with Mount Ventoux off in the distance and the rolling vineyards of Grenache and Syrah below..
The higher elevation prohibits the inclusion of the high yielding Mourvedre in the wines because they will just not ripen up here. This is, it turns out quite a good thing. It means that the blend is principally limited to the two great grapes of the region Grenache (65%) and Syrah (35%) which give this wine unique and classy pedigree.
After re-plantings, and construction including the transformation of an ancient pigeonnier into the quintessential Provençal chateau, Walter McKinlay (Right. Not French, but Scottish) has created a domaine that is a thing of beauty - not only in an architectural sense, but in a state-of-the- art wine making sense. From the sorting table on one level where the inferior grapes are cast out, to the shiny temperature- controlled Italian-made tanks where the first fermentation takes place, to the impeccable chais where the wine ages in barriques, all is ingeniously designed to let gravity do the work. You must visit here someday. It is a marvel and the landscape is very beautiful. But short of that, you should uncork some of these bottles for your summer drinking.
In the vineyard, Walter takes great care to harvest all manually (his hilly vineyards may offer no choice) and he takes up to three weeks to get the crop in, picking individual parcels only when they are ready. The simpler and cheaper alternative is to wait for a general or average ripeness and then go out and take all the crop at once. This is obviously a big compromise and he will not do it.
Here are some Robert Parker comments... Rated 91 + "The top cuvee for most vintages is the Grande Reserve, which is often a blend of about 55% Grenache and the rest Syrah. Yields are very small, in the 20-25 hectoliters per hectare range. The 2005 is stunning, inky bluish/purple to the rim, with a beautiful nose of creme de cassis, licorice, a touch of pepper, and roasted meats. It is dense, full-bodied, moderately tannic, and will benefit from 2-3 years of cellaring and keep for 12-15 years. It is an ambitious and brilliant Cotes du Rhone.
This is the best estate today in Seguret, and they continue to take the quality of their Cotes du Rhone to an exciting level. Of course, Grenache is the base for these wines. They are gorgeously made, pure, rich, beautifully textured, savory, and everything a wine in Provence should be. All of this can be attributed to Englishman Walter McKinlay, who purchased 40+ acres in 1998. It is amazing how quickly he has become a superstar in Seguret. The aging process here is relatively simple, with the wines kept in both concrete vats and oak casks. There is 100% destemming. Cynthia Hurley
This is a wonderful Rhone wine that compares well with Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Papes at twice the price.