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2012 Cairanne, Les Douyes, Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin
Our search for a top-notch Cairanne has led us to the Alary family in L’Oratoire St Martin. The family can trace its origins to the same decade as Berry Bros. & Rudd (1698 for us, 1692 for them) and now farms over 28 hectares, in the middle of which there was once, apparently, an oratory of some description.
Low yielding old vines are farmed biodynamically and the wines are vinified first in opentop fermenters and then in large foudres of 3,400 litres.
Cairenne reserve des Seigneurs is produced from vines planted on clay-limestone soils and 50-year-old vines. The blend is made up of 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah. Pumping over for 12 days, followed by nine months’ ageing.
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.
The wine appellation of Cairanne is located on a limestone plateau in Sourthern Rhone, its vineyards generally less elevated than those of Vacqueyras and Gigondas which are situated a few kilometres to the east.
The wines are benchmark Côtes du Rhône Villages, made from Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre, combining ripe fruit, pepper and spice.
Recommended Producer: Domaine de L'Ameillaud