Saturday, May 2, 2009

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cairanne Cuvee Prestige, 1998

I've been buying Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin since the early 1990s, and I can always depend on it to deliver a decade or so of decadent pleasure. I prefer the Cuvee Prestige to the Reserve des Seigneurs--although both are excellent. And the 1998 vintage produced particularly noteworthy wines from this estate.

There is still a deep, dark robe surrounding this 1998, and the bouquet is as fresh and lively as it was 10 years ago. I'm still eating Provencal lamb leftovers, delicious at any stage, and this wine, with its intense garrigue character, is a perfect match--thyme, rosemary, lavender and sage, then fresh berries and peppercorns. It too is delicious at all stages of development. Deep, layered, ripe and lovely. In the mouth, the wine is all that the nose promised and more--ripe, ripe, ripe front to back with a pleasant hint of Provencal olives on the long finish. I would not compare this wine to Chateauneuf du Pape because it is Cairanne and has distinctive Cairanne traits. It will not keep for two or three decades as some Chateauneufs will. But in terms of quality and the enjoyment it delivers, it's every bit as good, in my estimation.

The price tag on this bottle reads $13.99; that was before the Ann Arbor Wine Club discount. Today, this cuvee retails for $25 to $30 (the Reserve is about $5 less). That's high for a Cairanne and outside my price range. Is it worth the premium? There is no question in my mind.


  1. Fred, I've been keeping an eye out for Domaine L'Oratoire. what are the distinctive Cairanne traits you mention, and what is the Reserve des Seigneurs like?


  2. Eric, the 2006 Reserve is on the list of newly available wines this week at Village Corner--$22.95 minus 10% discount this week for any number of bottles.

    I have several notes on the Reserve, the most recent from November 20, 2008. It's an excellent wine, in many ways more enjoyable than the Prestige because it's usually richer and more open.

    In his notes, Dick Scheer writes of "Cairanne black earth," but I tend to associate black earth and licorice with Rasteau and Vacqueyras. L'Oratoire Saint Martin has brighter fruit and spice qualities. That may be because of the relatively high percentage of Mourvedre in the blend. Compared to other Mourvedre wines, these mature more quickly. The web site advises 6 to 8 years. I found that about right for the 1993 and 1995 vintages. The 1994 and 1998 needed two to three years' extra, for my taste. But they are very enjoyable from day one.

    I also have a note on the 2000 Reserve. I drank it alongside a 1995 Clos Saint Jean Chateauneuf du Pape. Both wines were excellent, but I clearly preferred the Cairanne. Use the search function if you want the notes.

    $22.95 is a lot of money for a CDR Villages, but this one is worth it. In fact, I might spring for a few bottles myself at the 10% discount.


  3. Hi Fred -

    I just opened up a new wine from Walla Walla WA -- named simply "Jack" from Saylah Cellars.

    Their number is 509 520 5166

    They fit in the big fruit bomb for $13 category -- I have enjoyed the same bottle for 3 days. I liked the first day best-- but thought you might like to try it some time. Found it up in La Conner WA at a little store on the side of the road in the middle of the country.

    What surprises me is their alcohol content says 14.1% -- but the flavors are not overwhelmed by it.