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Domaine de l’Oratoire St Martin - Biodynamic Rhône

Domaine de l’Oratoire St Martin - Biodynamic Rhône

“This is possibly the best domaine in the entire Côtes du Rhône-Villages area… The wines are full, intense and concentrated, surprisingly sophisticated. At less than half the price of a top Châteauneuf this domaine offers splendid value for money.” Clive Coates MW

“Leading name, STGT (soil-to-glass-transfer) leanings, highly skilled commitment to quality in vineyard and cellar, with the ability to adapt to whatever a vintage throws at them. Elegance favoured over power.” John Livingstone-Learmonth, drinkRhône.com

Explore the full available range from Oratoire here.

With tired bones, following a life of toil in the vineyards, and with no successors to take over, Frédéric and François Alary have now handed over the keys of their storied 25-hectare Cairanne estate. The new owners are the Abeille-Fabre family, owners of the impressive Château Mont-Redon in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. At the time the sale was announced, Pierre Fabre spoke of inheriting the “best terroir in Cairanne.” And so, earlier this year, we looked forward to catching up with the new owners to taste the latest wines and get the low-down on Fabre’s plans.

As it happens, there’s little to report! As a wine merchant, there’s always an element of the unknown (or a sense of trepidation) when a new regime takes over from the old. Are they going to modernise the style of the wines? Are they going to mess with the labels? However, nine times out of ten, the only thing that really happens (in our bubble at least) is that the domaine continues to strive for the finest quality. This is clearly the case with Pierre Fabre and Oratoire St Martin.

Fabre is a more outgoing character than the Alary brothers and takes it upon himself to stress that the purchase was driven solely by his love for the brothers’ wines. In fact, he faced some opposition within his own ranks, over concerns that the biodynamic farming and low yields would be too difficult. Fabre was not having any of it. Regarding changes at the domaine, Fabre turned the question back on us: “how can you improve on perfection?” So, it’s business as usual, although the new owner did admit that he is looking at harvesting slightly earlier than the Alary family.

As to the wines, Fabre’s evident passion for this estate is backed up by what is in the bottle. Reflecting the cooler year, the 2021 Côtes du Rhône rouge is super bright and pure—it’s simply delicious, but we have so little. The top reds from the previous year are a different proposition, each a variation on a theme of power and intensity. Balance was not an easy get in 2020, yet Fabre and his team have done a fine job harnessing the horsepower of Oratoire’s old vines and low yields. It’s a power year for sure, yet there is also balance and poise.

Alongside its reds, Oratoire has long been considered one of the Rhône’s great white wine domaines. At the time of writing, there are only five hectares of white grapes, including plantings from the 1930s. The chalky soils and the vineyard’s elevation enable this domaine to fuse exceptional depth and texture with superb structure and energy. As Rhônelyheart Matt Walls confirms in his new book, Wines of The Rhône, Oratoire’s “white wines deserve particular praise as some of the best in the southern Rhône.” The latest releases are gorgeous.

The Wines

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