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Ancient and modern at Séguret. View from the Ouvèze plain. The cabane is for tools (inside), but also wandering artists (outside). Not much chance of les flics intervening, either.

SÉGURET

Now a senior Village, but still short of a concerted profile

Séguret is one of the second tier Rhône Villages, with Cairanne now leading the pack after the promotion of Rasteau to full cru. Cairanne is due to follow in 2013 or 2014. Delay there has been caused by "debates" about what vineyards would fail to ascend to the higher status. There are areas low down towards the Ouvèze river whose soil is too rich to make really good wine. The trouble is, domaines with such vineyards will be penalised. Cue a longstanding very French discussion about the whole thing.

Once Cairanne is sorted out, it will leave a collection of Villages names, but few strong village identities. It is also possible that domaines - or the name of the family running the domaine - will in some cases become more important than village groupings.

Among the better Villages, I would group Laudun, Sablet, Séguret, Visan and, from the four most recent promotions the Massif d`Uchaux and Plan de Dieu. Saint-Maurice in the lower Drôme is also an improver. However, there are ways to go before any of these really clinch a strong Villages identity.

Séguret is representative of this state of affairs, as evidenced by a July 2011 tasting held at the accomplished, fun restaurant Fish in the rue de Seine (home of amazing art galleries, much dinero needed) in Paris. First of all, under half the domaine submitted wines. It isn`t expensive to despatch a couple of samples to Paris, but there you go - one of the problems of French whine and its marketing in a nutshell. The style of the wines varied a lot, with winemaking playing more of a role than perhaps it should have. Seekers of a "Séguret style" would find that a hard and extensive search.

First of all, it is worth explaining that there are different terroirs at Séguret. North of the village are gentle slopes which produce attractive wine, led by finesse. Domaine du Prieuré Saint-Just, owned by the Mayor, Thiérry Golliad, has its vineyards here.

Low down near the Roaix-Séguret Co-operative and west of the picturesque village itself, are more ordinary terraces with lime soils, their covering of about 18 cm not regarded as a contributor to high quality. Galet stones and gravel are present. These are called the Terrasses de l`Ouvèze. Their wine is easy going, supple, not a real central contributor to a wine that aspires to live.

The higher terraces are relatively sandy, such as where Jean David has his vineyards - these are called Le Coteau. Here there is safre - compacted sandstone that is also found in areas such as the Domaine Les Pallières at Gigondas. These zones produce wines that are full, thick with spice at times and can hover with high degree.

The highest vineyards are called La Montagne, reasonably. This is where the Scottish-owned Domaine de Mourchon has its vineyards. One view about these lands is that they give naturally stylish wines, not requiring the full-scale cellar treatment practised by Mourchon.

The Montagne is the northern prolongation of the Romane plateau of Gigondas, where Pierre Amadieu has its high quality vineyard. In similar fashion, the influence on these wines is often herbal, such as laurel. The soils on the mountain are clay-limestone, in pretty much equal proportion, old Alpine stones and marl, with iron in the clay. While there are blocks of limestone created by erosion, that does not mean that more limestone is available to the vines. Indeed, the Mountain is notably less able to absorb organic matter than the Terraces zones, which, with their ability to store water, offer more textured wines.

Across the River Ouvèze lies a small part of Séguret`s appellation zone, a little block that extends from the Plan de Dieu, and resembles the soils of Sablet.  Domaine de Crève Coeur, a new domaine under the guidance of Pablo Hoct, who works at Château Saint Cosme at Gigondas, has one or two vines here.

The locomotive at Séguret in recent years has been the Domaine de Mourchon, which has attacked the international, especially English-speaking markets with gusto and commitment. Walter MacKinlay worked in the oil industry before, and his outlook was wider than usual in setting out to achieve sales. As stated earlier, these wines, made by a young man whose education was in Bordeaux, are big, and heady - the tasters in Paris found them rather too full on, especially the 2009s, and I cannot disagree. 15° to 16° wines represent work rather than play for me. The fresh virtues and lower than usual alcohol degrees of the 2010 vintage are a God-send for much of the Rhône - and Domaine de Mourchon is a prime beneficiary of that.

Another quietly effective ambassador for Séguret has been the Swiss-owned Domaine de Cabasse, also a very agreeable hotel-restaurant on the right hand side of the hillside road to Sablet. I knew this domaine in the 1970s when it was owned and run by two sisters, somewhat arty and Bohemian, from Paris. Nadine Latour was the winemaker, and the domaine style for finesse continues today, successfully, in the hands of the Haeni family. Much of the Grenache dates from the 1960s and 1970s, and is notably supple and elegant. The Gigondas from just 3 hectares is also a good`un. Here, too, international reach and connections help to broadcast Séguret.

A more recent ambassador, but a committed one, is Christian Voeux, who was the oenologue employed at Château Mont-Redon for many years, where I first knew him. He moved to Château La Nerthe in 2008, and is now the President of the Syndicat des Vignerons. With his good contacts from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, he has helped to raise the Séguret profile. His wines are very tight, very clean, just as are the Nerthe wines. His white is stylish and crisp.

For many years Gérard Meffre at Château La Courançonne was the President of the Syndicat, a quiet, unassuming but serious man. The Courançonne whites have always been a favourite of mine, while the 2009 red La Fiole du Chevalier d`Elbene is very good, juicy and drinkable, pushed along well by 35% Syrah, higher than usual. These vineyards are on the lower, flat zones. 

The wild card at Séguret is the organic, genuine Jean David, who with his wife Martine is always ready to sit, discuss, have the odd verre or two. Jean`s wines reflect the sun rising (soleil levant) and the sun setting (soleil couchant). Up on the higher terraces north of the village, he is a far cry from Courançonne, and his wine have spice and bite, sometimes the degree a little severe. They are long on character, and the STGT marker applies to some of them. His white is 50% Bourboulenc, incidentally, the front seat accorded to this discreet back seat resident for once. In 2006, the wine was 100% Bourboulenc, and his great trick was to serve it blind and demand "qu`est ce que c`est que ça?" Curved ball, Juan.

A recent domaine to keep an eye on is the Domaine Fomtaine des Fées, which is converting to organic, and whose 2010 red I regarded as STGT. Meanwhile, I have visited the Cave Co-operative of Roaix-Séguret, on the left hand side of the plain road to Vaison, on and off for many years. I find the wines "correct", clean enough, but a little short on dimension and interest. They are not expensive, though.

With young growers coming into Séguret, I expect more profile and chat to surround this Village in the years to come. However, a clear notion of a typical Séguret red will remain elusive.

PREFERRED WINES AT SÉGURET TASTING
FISH LA BOISSONNERIE RESTAURANT,  69 rue de SEINE, 75006 PARIS, JULY 2011
***(*)  2010 Domaine de Cabasse Cuvée Cassa Bassa red 
***(*)  2010 Domaine de Cabasse Cuvée Garnacho red 
***(*)  2009 Domaine Jean David red 
***(*)  2009 Domaine Jean David Les Couchants red 
***  2010 Domaine de l`Amauve Laurences red 
***  2009 Domaine de l`Amauve Laurences red
***  2010 Domaine de Cabasse Les Primevères white
***  2009 Domaine Jean David Cuvée Beau Nez red 
***  2010 Domaine Fontaine des Fées red
***  2010 Domaine de Mourchon Tradition red 
***  2010 Domaine de Mourchon Loubié rosé