Monday, February 4, 2008

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs, 1998

The Alary brothers, Frederic (40) and Francois (39), have 35 hectares of vineyards that have been in their family for 10 generations, dating back to 1692. As they state on their web site: "How could the two of them not adore their art with a 300 year heritage behind them?"

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin is located in the northeast corner of Cairanne, only 200 meters from the Rasteau hills; yet the wine is distinctly Cairanne without the black licorice/mineral element that is typical of Rasteau. For red wines, the vineyards are planted with 60 percent Grenache, 30 percent Mourvedre and 10 percent Syrah. Five hectares of vines are 95 plus years of age, and 80 percent of the vineyards face east. This is a very special domaine, and I have been buying two cuvees--Cuvee Prestige and Reserve des Seigneurs--since the 1991 vintage.

The Reserve des Seigneurs is the cuvee for earlier drinking, although neither is for long aging. Grapes are harvested and sorted by hand, de-stemmed, matured nine months in vats and bottled without filtration or fining. The color is deep with some amber at the edges. It's very ripe and forward, with spicy Mourvedre out in front. The red berry Grenache characters are more in the background at this point. The texture is silky smooth.

As the Alary brothers state on their website: "We want wines to drink, not to taste." Until the 1998 vintage, Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin wines were less than $10 a bottle, and I drank them often. Since that time, prices have risen fairly rapidly. At $20 to $25 a bottle, I will drink them less frequently but with no less pleasure.

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