Cotes du Rhone Villages – Cairanne Cuvee Les Douyes 2011

Previously referred to as Cuvee Prestige but now taking its name from the local reference to the vineyard parcel, this amazing cuvee from Domaine de l’Oratoire Saint-Martin is composed of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre. Planted in 1905, the vineyards are entirely rooted in the limestone rich lieu-dit of Les Douyes. Here, it is the moisture retaining subsoil composed of yellow and blue clay that allows the Mourvedre to flourish in an area prone to drought. Desirable but temperamental, it is said that Mourvedre vines “like their feet wet and their head hot”, which makes Les Douyes an ideal location for this varietal. The vineyards were planted in the historical “field blend” fashion, which means the Grenache and Mourvedre coexist in this 109 year old parcel. The yield, on average, is 18 hectoliters per hectare. Organic and biodynamic cultivation are practiced.

 

Given the extremely low yield and the high proportion of Mourvedre in this cuvee, great attention is given to avoid over extraction which could result in a massive and tannic wine. On the contrary, the intention of the Alary brothers for Cuvee Les Douyes is a wine that exhibits a combination of the finesse, intensity and power that is offered up by these ancient vines. The wine is richly textured with supple, fine tannins. Following a fermentation period of 4 weeks the wine is aged for 18 months in large, old barrels (foudres) and then bottled without fining or filtration.

 

oratoire-st-martin-les-doyes-carianneThe vineyards of Oratoire St Martin are hand tended and managed organically with bio dynamic preparations. The vineyards are regularly plowed, with some plots by horse. This is a costly, time consuming and difficult practice that offers a range of benefits over using a tractor for the same purpose. Very low crops also play their part, with the Oratoire vineyards typically yielding less than 30hl/ht on average. In the winery large wooden foudres are the norm as well as two egg shaped fermenters (one concrete, one wood) and a gravity fed cellar allows the fruit to be handled gently. There are no additions and very little sulphur is used. Of course what truly makes these wines so good is the Alary family’s fantastic vineyard holdings high up on the hill behind Cairanne and the continuous ownership of these sites adds to the quality factor – they have been in the Alary family’s hands since the 1600’s. Most southern Rhône wines come from vineyards on the flats while Oratoire’s are on the slopes near Rasteau and look out to Gigondas and down at Châteauneuf du Pape. They have a soil profile rich in limestone and clay which lends elegance and complexity to these full bodied, powerful reds.

 

The large proportion of old-vine Mourvèdre in the Cairanne villages blends is almost unique these days, giving their wines greater density, complexity, structure and ability to age. While many producers have grafted over their Mourvèdre (they felt the variety was too temperamental) the Alary brothers have planted more and have shown what can be achieved with this wonderful variety in the right sites and with the right handling. The wines of Oratoire St Martin offer remarkable value and should not be missed by those seeking authentic, old vine, full bodied reds at very fair prices. In Oratoire we offer you arguably the finest producer in Cairanne. If you accept the often heard claim that Cairanne is the supreme Village in the Côtes du Rhône then you know we are offering something special. In short, these are delicious and very naturally made wines that offer outstanding value year-in year-out.

 

Reviews:

“This is possibly the best domaine in the entire Côtes du Rhône-Villages area. The wines are full, intense and concentrated, surprisingly sophisticated. At less than half the price of a top Châteauneuf this domaine offers splendid value for money.” Clive Coates

 

“Domain de l’Oratoire St-Martin is one of the Southern Rhone Valley’s most conspicuous overachievers, making wines that are far above their humble appellations. All of their wines go into the bottle with no filtration and only a light fining. This is the type of estate that brings smiles to consumers who happen upon their wines. They are reasonably priced and qualitatively equivalent to wines selling at two or three times the price.” Robert Parker

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