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Sophisticated and Affordable Southern Rhône

Domaine de l’Oratoire St. Martin (Cairanne Côtes-du-Rhône Villages)
– 2011 Les Douyes Rouge Special Price: $26/bottle SOLD OUT
– 2010 Haut Costias Blanc Special Price: $15/bottle SOLD OUT

L’Oratoire Saint-Martin estate is a benchmark in the villages of Côtes-du-Rhône. The Alarys are perfectionists. Painstaking effort is employed in the organic and biodynamically farmed vineyards, some with slopes so steep they require special tools to cultivate. At harvest, the grapes are sorted three times to ensure only the very best fruit is fermented into wine. A gravity fed cellar allows the fruit to be handled gently. Given all the work that goes into making wines of this caliber it’s surprising to see them still modestly priced.

Ten generations of grape growers from the Alary family have worked the same vineyards northeast of the village of Cairanne on the hillsides of Saint Martin. Presently it’s Frédéric and François Alary farming the family’s 60 acres on these slopes that look out to Gigondas and down at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This is the southern Rhône, the air filled with scents of wild juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender, the wines heady and sun-drenched.

Cairanne is one of the most well-known and regarded of the Côtes-du-Rhône villages and likely will be awarded their own appellation status. The Alary’s cobbly terroir abounds with yellow and blue clay with a high percentage of “active” limestone, helping create wines with great balance and depth.

Named after one of their very old vine parcels, with an average age of 100 years, cuvée Les Douyes is a blend of 60% grenache and 40% mourvèdre. Following fermentation with indigenous yeasts the wine is aged for 18 months in large, older foudres and then bottled without fining or filtration. Absurdly low yields and a high proportion of mourvèdre help fashion a wine with the fruit concentration and finesse of wines from the more esteemed real estate of nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Haut Coustias Blanc is a blend of marsanne, roussanne and viognier. It’s aged for 10 months with frequent lees stirring for a wine that’s rich and filled with aromas of beeswax, almond, flowers and poached white fruits. This is a white wine for the transitional spring months that might find you having a glass outside on a warm day filled with birdsong or sheltering inside from wind and rain.

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Posted on 2015.03.19 in France, Saturday Sips, Southern Rhone


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