Mourchon is a comparatively new winery, created by the McKinley family in 1998. Walter’s previous business career was in the oil industry (to this day he knows so many Texans that the state imports more of his wine than any other in the US!) whilst his wife Ronnie was a talented chef and restaurant owner. Daughter Kate manages the company accounts (chapeau to her) and her husband Hugo makes the wine alongside oenologist Sebastien. A tight knit, hard working team. The estate today comprises 25 ha – there are at present only red varietals grown, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan but whites are planned for the future. In just 17 vintages they have swiftly risen to be regarded as perhaps the best producer in this Cote du Rhone Villages Seguret AOC. Located spectacularly at 400m in the Dentelles, we always receive the warmest of welcomes from the family as well as a private tour of the cave and an extensive tasting. The cuvée Grand Reserve and the 100% Grenache ”Family Reserve” reds are a favorite with our tour guests…as are the range of ancillary products (anyone for anti-aging cream made from grape skins?) made by Ronnie. The rosé “Loubié” is excellent here – cutting a deft path between the refreshing acidity of a Cotes de Provence and a tasty summer fruit laden Tavel. More recently they have added a negotiant business – meaning we can also taste a Mourchon Chateauneuf – juice is purchased from carefully selected small producers and blended at the Mourchon winery.
The Alary estate sits on the road to Rasteau with parcels of vines around the house, across the D69 known as the “Garrigue”” and an independent parcel on higher ground, around 250m, nearer the village of Carainne. Denis Alary, who has taken up the reigns from his father Daniel, is generally regarded as one of the top 4/5 private producers in the appellation . . . he is also an extremely affable man and the president of the local syndicate of vignerons.
Denis is the latest in a long line of family members who have made wine here since 1692. The Alary approach if one can summarise is about intensive care in the vineyard, traditional vinification in the winery . . . for instance, Denis stripped out the new stainless steel fermentation tanks some 5 years ago and reinstalled traditional cement tanks because he wasn’t happy with the temperature control achievable with the former! He also has no truck with small barrels/new wood . . . all maturation takes place in huge old wood foudre for a minimum of eight months.
The range comprises red and white AOC Cairanne, these are Grenache and Rousanne dominant respectively, a more tannic/spicy Reserve du Vignerone ou Brunote still Grenache dominant but with 20% Mouvedre, two premium red cuvees the Syrah biassed Font d’Estevenas (inky black, blackberry and smoke and notes of Provencal herbs), and the La Jean de Verde , from 60 year old Grenache, a veritable Vin de Garde.
Denis in his role as President of the producers is at the forefront of the push to promote Cairanne from CduR Villages status up to a full Cru . . . Denis’s opinion is that yes it will happen , but not before a long drawn out process perhaps taking quite a few years yet, that the key issue for the independent vigneron is not, for example, yield control (Alary is already producing only 35-38 hl/ha) but the delimitations of which parcels can be AOC Cairanne Cru, which simply CduR or even Vin du Pays. As every producer here like Alary owns a mosaic of land (something he argues is a real net benefit – the art is in the assemblage of these diverse terriors) this is going to be a tricky one to manage with the authorities.
This 50 hectare estate used to be a bulk producer furnishing the Rhone negociants but under brit Nick Thomson’s management in the 1980’s and subsequent ownership has embraced the domaine bottled business with passionate skill, producing a range of reds with an international reputation (they were proposed as the star buy in the Kings College Cambridge pantry Christmas offer for example!).
Nick’s approach to wine making is to treat the raw materials with great respect . . . they are not quite organic but only a whisker away from being able to make this claim. Nick is no believer in wood, the wines are matured in traditional cement tanks before being transferred to stainless steel before bottling. The bulk of production is behind a Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (this is a delicious bargain), the remainder a Cotes du Rhone and the star of the range the dense, extracted and wonderfully rich Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne.
All the reds are based primarily on Grenache (around 60%), with support from Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan. Nick had been making an experimental white but has given it up to concentrate his talents on the reds. There is also some Carainne made under license for Meffrethe mighty Gigonda negociant sold under the brand name Laurus. These are matured in 275 litre barrels . . . the only wood to be seen in the huge winery building here. The Thompson’s side-line is a new gite business, two adjacent stylishly appointed appartments converted from the domaine’s stable block.