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The Hunt for Value

Domaine de Mourchon's Côtes du Rhône-Villages bottlings overdeliver
Photo by: James Molesworth
Domaine de Mourchon is a value star in the Southern Rhône.

Posted: Jul 26, 2017 4:00pm ET

It's always fun to taste the wines from the established estates that set the benchmark for their respective appellations. But the Southern Rhône is a huge wine region, with scads of values from equally hard-working vignerons.

Walter McKinlay, now 84, continues to run Domaine de Mourchon, the winery he founded in 1998. It's a family affair, with his son-in-law Hugo helping out. Sébastien Magnouac handles the winemaking.

McKinlay has continued to cobble together parcels in the hills above the charming town of Séguret, most of them situated on distinctive blue marl limestone soils. The estate now totals 89 acres of vines producing about 11,000 cases annually while a small négociant side of the company adds another 4,500 cases. For more background, reference my notes from my visit here in 2012.

The 2016 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret Tradition has been blended and is now being aged before bottling. Expect lively plum and blackberry fruit with a touch of licorice through the finish and a light stony spine to keep it honest. Aged entirely in concrete vats to preserve the fruit expression, it's a textbook introduction to the house style here: ripe, juicy textured wines that overdeliver at their price points. This bottling typically retails for under $20.

The 2016 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret Grande Réserve includes some 65-year-old Grenache vines. Combining 65 percent Grenache with Syrah, it gets a touch of wood aging—20 percent in 600-liter demi-muids (none new). It offers a deeper core of kirsch and plum sauce flavors with a licorice-coated finish.

The two main red varieties here are also offered alone, with the 2016 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret S Family Reserve sourced from the estate's oldest Syrah vines, planted in 1970. It starts with a bright violet note and gives way to a sanguine thread before letting its core of juicy blackberry and plum fruit take over. The ganache-edged finish has ample depth but stays focused.

Its sibling is the 2016 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret G Family Reserve, which uses the estate's oldest Grenache vines. As with the Syrah bottling, this is fermented and then aged in wooden vat. It offers a huge core of kirsch and sweet tobacco flavors with ganache, tar and licorice-fueled finish. It's gutsy and rich, but has the overall freshness of this exciting vintage.

McKinlay, who has personally worked the U.S. market over the years, has seen the benefits of his labor come to fruition—his tasting room (open to the public) is busy "with so many Americans these days," he says.

And despite a recently replaced hip, McKinlay seems as keen as ever on his winery. I asked him what keeps him going. "That's easy. Just keep doing things and enjoy life. And is there a better business than this to do that in?"

Follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.

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