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Oratoire Saint Martin

Elegance over Power: A New Chapter for one of the Greatest Estates in the Southern Rhône

Oratoire is simply one of the greatest Estates in the Southern Rhône, a pioneer in biodynamics; low sulphur; the retention of old vines; and a producer of stupendous wines of depth, intensity, purity and terroir expression

While this Domaine can trace its winegrowing lineage back to 1692, it was tenth generation Frédéric and François Alary who turned Oratoire Saint-Martin into one of the most exciting estates in the Southern Rhône. A pioneer in biodynamics and low sulphur additions, all the while retaining a stock of old vines, this producer’s wines almost single-handedly elevated Cairanne to Cru status in 2016—putting it on a par with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Crozes-Hermitage. Nearing retirement age and with their children taking other career paths, Frédéric and François Alary began looking for a like-minded buyer in 2019. They found their new keyholder in the Abeille-Fabre family, owners of the impressive Château Mont-Redon in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

Taking over the reigns, in 2019, Mont-Redon has, according to main man Pierre Fabre, got hold of the “best terroir in Cairanne”.

The vineyards of Oratoire Saint Martin are hand tended and managed organically with biodynamic preparations. The vineyards are regularly ploughed, with some plots done by horse. This is a costly, time-consuming and difficult practice but it is one that offers a range of benefits over the tractor alternative. Very low crops also play their part, with the Oratoire vineyards typically yielding less than 30hl/ha on average. 

In the winery, large wooden foudres, as well as two egg-shaped fermenters (one concrete, one in wood) and a gravity-fed cellar, allows the fruit to be handled gently. There are no additions and very little sulphur is used. Of course, what truly makes these wines so good are fantastic vineyard holdings high up on the hill behind Cairanne and the continuous ownership of these sites adds to the quality factor—they have been in the Alary family's hands since the 1600s. Most Southern Rhône wines come from vineyards on the flats whilst Oratoire’s are on the slopes near Rasteau and look out to Gigondas and down at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They have a soil profile rich in limestone and clay which lends elegance and complexity to these full-bodied, powerful reds.

In Oratoire you get arguably the finest producer in Cairanne. If you accept the often-heard claim that Cairanne is the supreme Village in the Côtes du Rhône (and we do!) then you know we are offering something special. In short, these are delicious and very naturally made wines that offer outstanding value year in, and year out.

Currently Available

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias Blanc 2020

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias Blanc 2020

Biodynamic. 30% Clairette, 30% Roussanne, 30% Marsanne and 10% Grenache Blanc. This wine achieved cult status in France after Olivier Poussier (Sommelier du Monde 2000 and La Revue du Vin de France’s Rhône specialist) compared its quality to a white Hermitage. Haut Coustias is a selection from the Estate’s oldest, lowest-yielding white vines, which mostly face east in the chalkiest, coolest part of Oratoire’s La Montagne terroirs (the name given to the steepest area of Cairanne). The average age of the vines is 75 years, and these venerable plants produce a tiny 20 hl/ha on average. Each variety was harvested and vinified separately in concrete eggs before blending. This is layered, complex and confidently full-bodied in the best spirit of this benchmark wine. Opening with a hint of reduction, the palate is long and tongue-coating, and embedded with deep citrus, aniseed and sweet herbal flavours (not dissimilar to the scent of the local gorse that frames the vineyards). The finish is powerful and long, underpinned by a nip of food-friendly phenolics. There is so much going on; you want to pour it into a decanter and see it evolve as you contemplate the bottle. We’ve said many a time that we know of very few Rhône whites that can match the depth, complexity and sheer presence on offer here. The price is misleading in the best sense.

This is layered, complex and confidently full-bodied in the best spirit of this benchmark wine. Opening with a hint of reduction, the palate is long and tongue-coating, and embedded with deep citrus, aniseed and sweet herbal flavours (not dissimilar to the scent of the local gorse that frames the vineyards). The finish is powerful and long, underpinned by a nip of food-friendly phenolics. There is so much going on; you want to pour it into a decanter and see it evolve as you contemplate the bottle. We’ve said many a time that we know of very few Rhône whites that can match the depth, complexity and sheer presence on offer here. The price is misleading in the best sense.

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias Blanc 2020
Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias Blanc 2021

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias Blanc 2021

Biodynamic. 30% Clairette, 30% Roussanne, 30% Marsanne and 10% Grenache Blanc. This wine achieved cult status in France when Olivier Poussier (Sommelier du Monde 2000 and La Revue du Vin de France’s Rhône specialist) compared its quality to a white Hermitage. Haut Coustias is selected from the estate’s oldest, lowest-yielding white vines, which mostly face east in the chalkiest, coolest part of Oratoire’s La Montagne terroirs (the name given to the steepest area of Cairanne). The average age of the vines is 75 years, and these venerable plants produce low yields of 20 hl/ha. Each variety is harvested and vinified separately in concrete egg or old foudre before blending. We’ve often said that we know of very few Rhône whites that can match the depth, complexity and sheer presence on offer here. Seductive and textured, there’s a brew of ripe pear, garrigue and anise on the nose, joined by fleshy peach skin on the palate. The wine’s shapely richness is deftly controlled by deep-rooted energy (no malo this year) and mouth-watering phenolics. Despite the wine’s power, its classy subtlety, balance and length of flavour set it apart. If a hot white Burgundy grower made wine this far south, it might look like this... (wax cap and all).

“A fresh and precise white with aromas of white peaches, cooked lemons and fennel. It’s medium body with poise and vitality. Saline and succulent with a flavorful finish.”
92 points, James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut Coustias Blanc 2021
Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs Blanc 2022

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs Blanc 2022

Biodynamic. The limestone soils of Cairanne make it an outstanding appellation for white wines, while the elevation and Oratoire’s meticulously managed old vines produce average yields of just 25 hl/ha. In this wine, the domaine’s low-input, precise winemaking plays its part. However, the intense energy and vibrant mineral freshness can only be attributed to the vineyards and the work within them. The 2022 is a blend of 30% Clairette (planted in 1935), Grenache Blanc and Gris (also from the 1930s) and co-planted Roussanne and Marsanne from a beautiful old plot surrounded by pine trees. The fruit is fermented without additions and raised in the domaine’s old concrete tanks. This is a cracking, textural white Rhône. You get the intensity and concentration from the low yields alongside balancing freshness. The satin-textured palate offers layers of fleshy orchard fruits, golden lees, and almond notes with a chalky, pithy freshness cutting through the flesh. Closing with a fresh and floral finish, it’s another engaging white Rhône packed full of complexity and interest. Simply decant and add roast chicken.

“Shiny yellow; the bouquet has capacity, can emerge with interest, shows an aroma of crushed white fruits, peach and a little pear. The palate attacks with a rounded wave of citrus-tinged white fruits, holds its shape, has the gras to accompany sauced dishes, Munster, Brie de Meaux, Isle of Mull cheese. It seems to carry Roussanne, Gren blanc fat at its heart [tasted blind]. 13.5°.”
John Livingstone-Learmonth, Drink Rhône
Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs Blanc 2022
Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs 2021

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs 2021

Biodynamic. The Oratoire vineyards are located on steep hills in two climats of Cairanne: Saint-Martin and Les Douyes. This is a blend of 60-plus-year-old vines from both terroirs, mainly from the yellow clay and limestone of Saint-Martin, supplemented with a bit of fruit from their limestone-rich Les Douyes vineyard. The yields can dip as low as 20 hl/ha depending on the vintage. A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah, plus a sprinkling of whole-bunch Carignan and Counoise, all the harvest is fermented with indigenous yeast in concrete vats; split between concrete and large-format oak, the wine is matured for 12 months and bottled without fining or filtration. Only a touch of sulphur is used at bottling. The high proportion of Grenache (60%) really sings this year in a velvety, chalky, inky and long release that draws comparison with the finest vintages we have shipped. 

“This stunning Cairanne has a wonderful balance of complex Mediterranean herbs, wild blackberry fruit and candied orange peel character on the beautifully crafted medium- to full-bodied palate. Very long plush finish.”
93 points, James Suckling, jamesuckling.com
“Blackberry fruit with a cool thread features on the nose, mixed herbs, raspberry coulis also present, has a smoke coolness. The palate presents a lucid stream of red fruits with garrigue-rosemary touches, stimulating notes late on. It shows definite promise and verve, energy.”
John Livingstone-Learmonth, Drink Rhône.
Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs 2021
Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône P'tit Martin Rouge 2022

Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône P'tit Martin Rouge 2022

Biodynamic. An impressive Côtes-du-Rhône, this is taken from Oratoire’s younger vines, which mainly lie just 300 metres from the commune of Rasteau. The 2020 blend is two-thirds Syrah and one-third Grenache with small amounts of Counoise and Vaccarèse. This packs a serious punch for the money—touchstone Côtes du Rhône here. Despite the younger vine source, the domaine’s signature low levels and nuanced biodynamic farming means this wine consistently over-delivers.  This year’s wine hits the Côtes du Rhône sweet spot—juicy wild blackberry fruitiness, spiciness and supple drinkability—right out of the park. 

Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône P'tit Martin Rouge 2022
Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône Les P'tits Gars Blanc 2022

Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône Les P'tits Gars Blanc 2022

Biodynamic. This entry-point white comprises Clairette, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and a little Viognier. The idea here was to utilise the domaine’s younger vines (and slightly more generous yields) to offer a charming, easy-sipping white. Even so, the soil and the site's elevation shine through in the zesty, punchy personality. Fermented wild and raised in the domaine’s concrete tanks, it is a deliciously moreish and textural white drizzled with flavours of honey, flowers, orange and peach blossom, all supported by zesty acidity. It finishes with a nip of kernel bitterness and ripe pear juiciness. This 2022 release is loaded with personality and the kind of texture and food-friendly structure that you might not expect from an entry-level Rhône white.

Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône Les P'tits Gars Blanc 2022
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“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

“Domain de l'Oratoire St-Martin is one of the Southern Rhône Valley's most conspicuous overachievers, making wines that are far above their humble appellations. All of their wines go into the bottle with no filtration and only a light fining. 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.” Robert Parker

“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.” John Livingstone-Learmonth, drinkrhone.com

“…the wines remain an inspiring picture of balance and harmony amid a region of heat and turmoil.” The Wine Advocate

Country

France

Primary Region

Southern Rhône

People

Winemakers: Pierre Fabre & Geoffrey Guigue

Availability

National

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