There was a time--many years ago--when Cairanne wines were considered better than those of Chateauneuf du Pape. A few years ago, when I tried a 2000 Clos l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cairanne Reserve head-to-head against a 1995 Clos Saint Jean Chateauneuf du Pape, there was no question in my mind: both wines were very good but the Cairanne was superior.
L'Oratoire Saint Martin ranks near the top of Cairanne producers, but Rabasse Charavin is right there too or not far behind. Unfortunately, Rabasse Charavin has not been available in my marketing area since the mid-1980s. That's why I was so excited when I saw this 2004 and the 1999 Cuvee Estevenas of Rabasse Charavin available by auction on WineBid.com. For a ridiculously low price of $10, I scored eight bottles of the 2004 and four of the 1999. My first taste tonight confirms that I was indeed a winner.
A beautiful bouquet is just forming, and it's classic Cairanne: dark cherries, lavender, spice and black pepper. Very concentrated and very yummy. Still smells and tastes young. I think some of the grapes (probably the Syrah) were picked earlier than is typical for Cairanne because there is some tart acidity on the mid-palate. But that's no problem; it just accentuates the deep pepper traits. Good acid, good tannic grip and lovely, lovely fruit. Some of the Grenache vines at Rabasse Charavin are pushing 100 years. I love it.