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.