The wealth of tradition in French winemaking that has developed many of the world’s most highly regarded wines is worth protecting and nurturing. The AOP system recognises that France’s best wines are not solely concerned with ‘expressing the best of the grape’ as many new world wines might be categorised. In France, there is as much concern with ‘expressing the terroir‘ – the environment that the grapes were grown in; the minerality of the land, its exposure to wind, rain and sun, the way certain grape varieties are affected by these characteristics. Thus a grape variety grown in one part of France may produce a wine completely distinct from another produced from the same variety in a different region.
The Côtes du Rhône region stretches 250 km along the sides of the river Rhône valley from just south of Lyon in the North, to Avignon in the South. As such it is one of France’s largest wine producing regions and includes a broad variety of different geologies and climates. To further distinguish the better wines of the region, the AOP system divides the Côtes du Rhône into a series of subdivisions :
First there are the ‘Crus’ – the best known wines of the region with the strongest reputations and strictest controls. These are wines produced in specific areas where the quality and style of the wine are both sufficiently high and distinct that the name of the commune and its reputation alone are considered sufficent to brand its wines. In the north of the region this includes such wines as Crozes Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, and in the south (around Mourchon) includes Gigondas, Tavel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Furthermore, in the south of the region there is an area within AOP considered of higher quality and reputation than the rest of the region. This group of 95 villages is branded ‘Côtes du Rhône Villages’ and 18 of these villages are considered to be sufficiently distinct and of consistently high quality that they are permitted to display the name of their village alongside the Côtes du Rhône Villages appelation. In order to achieve this higher status, producers must adhere to much stricter criteria concerning yield and viticultural techniques. These individual Côtes du Rhône Villages wines tend to be both more concentrated and more characterful with a marked improvement in quality.
Our village of Séguret is one such village, where the wines are labelled Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret and are steadily gaining in reputation. Domaine de Mourchon is widely recognised to be leading this development.