The brothers Frédérick and François Alary are cousins to the legendary winemaker Denis Alary. Together, they represent two of the finest winemaking points of reference in the entire Southern Rhône.They are in fact the 10th generation of winemakers to tend this estate in the Côtes du Rhône over the last 300 years—with a family history that goes all the way back to 1692.
Vineyard work at Domaine de L’Oratoire is organic (and now certified), as well as natural (unfined and unfiltered), although the Alary brothers may prefer the term traditional, since they just continue to plow as their father did and his father before him and so on. They use no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Robert Parker wrote that this domaine “is one of the finest estates in the Côtes du Rhône…and one of [its] most conspicuous overachievers, making wines that are far above their humble appellations…. 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.”
Cairanne is a picturesque hilltop village in the southern Rhône Valley, and is considered at the top of the several villages allowed to use the “Côtes du Rhône Villages” classification. The other top CDR villages include Rasteau and Seguret. Generally speaking, a “Côtes du Rhône Villages”—particularly from these three communes—has more class, complexity, and concentration than a straight Côtes du Rhône appellation and stricter standards prevail in terms of lower yields and alcoholic minimums. The best Cairanne wines (like the ones from Oratoire) can rival nearby Châteauneuf du Papes—at half the price.
Their Cairanne Blance is made from grapes that were harvested by hand, following immediate pressing and fermentation for 6 months in vats. This special selection of the estate’s oldest, lowest-yielding vines—some 70 years old—from the lieu-dit “Haut Coustias,” the chalkiest, coolest part of the appellation, combines 40% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, 10% Grenache Blanc and 10% Clairette. Aromatics of pear, quince, stone fruit and white blossom. On the palate, silky and rich with pear and white fruit, candied cirtus, vanilla, roasted almond and thyme. 13.5% alcohol. Recommended.