95-point Cotes du Rhone Villages rosé and its fleet - August 2018

More 95-point Decanter panel tasting excitement, Exel?

Most definitely. What’s more, this particular Outstanding is only £12.00 a bottle. You don’t get many of those; last one we can remember was the Tinpot Hut in last year’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc exposé.

What's the category under review?

French rosé from outside Provence - so that's the Rhône, Loire, Languedoc, Corsica, Burgundy, Beaujolais, SW France, Bordeaux ... you name it. 92 wines from the 2016 and 2017 vintages underwent the rigorous Decanter panel tasting, all wines being tasted blind.

Three wines emerged with the rating of Outstanding (95 points or more), but two cleared the heady barrier of £28-a-bottle. Not so the third - our offering to you today - which comes in at the marvellous price of just £12 a bottle.

Yes, you mentioned that. That's my kinda bottle. Really?

Very really. Can we move on?

But, this one doesn’t really count, does it?

Does it not? Why so, not so?

Well. It’s… <awkward pause>…

It’s what?

It’s rosé.

It is indeed. What are you saying?

Oh… come on. I’m saying that it’s rosé. Which is to say, “not all that good”. Presumably Decanter have a different scale for rosé?

Aha. I get your drift. That old shibboleth that “because it’s pink, it can’t be great”? We hear that a lot. And we see why, but only to some extent. White wine looks refined and elegant; red wine has an altogether serious air to it. But rosé? Rosé looks light-hearted, fun, jolly and just not all that serious.

And it’s definitely true that there’s plenty of low-grade (= pretty awful) rosé out there… but that’s equally true of red and white wine, too.

But let's clear this up: there’s nothing inherent in the rosé winemaking process that means the wines should be anything other than as good/excellent as good whites or reds. Indeed, as this fine article explains, rosé is almost invariably made in exactly the same way as white wine (just with red grapes) or red wine (just with less maceration). Good rosé – made well, with care and attention and with good rosé as the key objective (see below) – is, genuinely excellent.

And I guess this… what’s it called?...  'Loubié' from Domaine de Mourchon … is genuinely excellent, is it?

It is. It really is. We were most impressed at our tasting (more below). Decanter were in no doubt. The (only) two companions it keeps in their 95-point+, ‘Outstanding’ category are priced at £28 and ~£50 respectively (we do offer the latter): price-points where one would (hope very much to) take quality for granted.

You mentioned that, too. OK. I give up. Tell me about it.

It’s made by pressurage direct – the method mainly used in Provence to produce delicate, refined rosés, with only low amounts of tannin(s) extracted from the red grape skins. The Rhône, from where this wine hails (the Loubié being a Côtes du Rhône-Villages) more often plays host to a heavier, denser, more tannic style of rosé – most famously in Tavel (and Lirac) - made by the saignée method.

Indeed, it’s saignée that can give rose a bad name – not because it’s a bad technique in itself, but because it can be used to make an afterthought rosé by winemakers seeking to intensify their principal red wines by drawing off thinner elements.

What pressurage direct - as used here - gives you is a more Provençale style: big on aroma, fruitiness and flavour but typically lighter in body and colour.

Aren’t most Provençale rosés quite sweet?

Yes, in the main. But this definitely isn’t: you’d have to class it as fully dry at around 3g/litres of residual sugar, and with great acidity to match. In this regard – dryness/sweetness - the Loubié is far more akin to its homeland and the rosés of the Rhône, where dryness is more the norm. Also, the Loubié is “more Rhône” by its employment of Grenache and Syrah (60%:40%) – there’s no Cinsault or Carignan here, or any of of Provençale white grapes (eg Rolle) that can make an appearance in the rosé wines out east.

What else makes it special?

The yield.

The yield, you say? Do tell…

Very important, yields. Huge topic, this, but if you try and crop too much wine off a hectare of land, you get dilute, very ordinary wines. Low yields, on the other hand, largely result in wines with much greater aroma and flavour concentration. Seriously – and although it’s a topic of some controversy - If there’s one single factor in wine production that tends to define quality more than anything else, it’s yields.

Get below a figure of 50 hectolitres (hl) of wine per hectare for whites and 40 hl/ha for reds - which is to say, about half-a-litre from every square metre of vineyard - and you’re starting to talk serious quality. Some wines – eg the very best Priorats from Spain or the very highest quality dessert wines result from incredibly low yields (<10 hl/ha). Most rosés see yields well in excess of that 50 hl/ha figure; the Loubié, par contre, is cropped at just 35 hl/ha, this being the same as the limit for Châteauneuf-du-Pape (of which, more below).

Somewhere out there, you’ve forgotten to tell me where this wine comes from and who makes it.

Right you are. This is a Côtes du Rhône-Villages (that much, we did mention) from the Southern Rhône commune of Séguret, a village that is allowed to append its name to the appellation, in just the way that Vinsobres and Cairanne were until they were recently elevated to appellations in their own right. As the Southern Rhône goes, this is hilly country, allowing vineyards to benefit from hillside plots with superior aspects and soils.

The producer is Domaine de Mourchon. Set in a secluded valley between very picturesque Séguret and the mighty Mont Ventoux, Domaine de Mourchon was created by the McKinlay family in 1998. The vineyard had some twenty hectares of mature vines but no facility to make wine so, using modern technology and high standards, a winery was constructed and completed in 2000. As they put it (do see their excellent website), “careful husbandry using organic techniques in conjunction with combined traditional and advanced methods of vinification results in a well-structured wine with pronounced fruit aromas and strong colours. We are currently in the process of converting to complete organic farming and expect to be fully certified in 2020”.

And do they just make rosé?

The domaine most definitely do not “just make rosé” (although they do, as we've said, put a lot of love and expertise into their rosé in a way that many ‘multi-colour’ producers do not).

We take the view that, if one of a producer’s wines is pulling in big ratings scores, their other wines are likely to be impressive too. And so it is with Mourchon. Across their range, as you can see here, their wines have been much-lauded by Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and Decanter.

Parker, you say?

It’s no surprise that Parker is a fan, when you think about it. The Parker/US market is famously all about power, concentration and intensity. All of which links to that yield point above: the whole ethos of Mourchon’s viticulture is about low yields, quality and flavour depth. QED.

We leave very little to chance at Exel. Despite all the ratings, we tasted the range, and these are also on offer to you here, at (as you would expect) UK-best prices. The five wines all appear at the foot of this page. And here they are, here...

As well as the Loubié, you will find the La Source – Mourchon’s very affordable, white Côtes du Rhône. For this blog writer, this was the pick of the bunch. White, 'standard' CdRs (as distinct from CdR-Villages), like the reds, can vary hugely in quality, such is the high tolerance allowed under the appellation rules. The best can be better than a good many Châteauneufs, while the worst can be barely any better than basic vin de table. What good white CdRs do very well – being a blend – is something that very few single-varietal whites can: provide acidity/refreshment and weight/body. The best have great fruit and aroma profile, too. And this you have with La Source – good weight from the Grenache Blanc/Marsanne, great fruit from the Roussanne, great acidity from the Bourboulenc/Clairette and great aromas from the Viognier. At £12 – as for the Loubié – the La Source is a bottle of tremendous value, and great for summer drinking.

We turn to the reds, where all three are from the (very) highly-rated 2015 harvest.

Tradition - a red Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret of 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 10% Carignan, which sells at £13. As quality-for-price goes, this is an impressive wine indeed: we’ve tasted very few CdRVs of this quality for this little outlay. Great depth of flavour, great tannins, great blackberry fruit ... and a £13 bottle of red that will actually age well!

Grande Réserve – another CdRV Séguret… but you pay a bit more (£17.50)… and you get a bit (= a lot) more: older vines, super-low yields (a stupendous 20 hl/ha!!) and no Carignan (65% Grenache, 35% Syrah). You also get a little oak treatment (although CdRs are largely far better without heavy oakwork). Big fruit, big (but very supple) tannins, real depth – this is a CdR with serious attitude.

Family Réserve Syrah – a rare beast indeed, this… watch out Cornas! Indeed, as Jancis says, this “almost recalls Hermitage”: praise indeed.  100% Syrah with incredible depth, intensity and body, and plenty of ageing potential (given the great acidity, concentration and tannins). Team Exel universally thought this was glorious, and there was some fight for the remnants of the tasting bottle at the end…

So, when I’ve nearly filled my case with this rosé of yours… I should fill the gaps with the above, should I?

You should. We really couldn’t have phrased that better ourselves.