Thu 26 May 2016

Cairanne: The Birth of a Rhône Cru


Once upon a time, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Tavel were the only two named ‘crus’ of the southern Rhône.

But of course it is the ambition of every village to aspire to cru status.

Making it happen can be a long process and has to involve a Paris-based body called INAO which stands for the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine. It alone can decree that Brie de Meaux can be called Brie de Meaux or that Chambertin can be called Chambertin.

In the case of Cairanne, that process seemed interminable.

Cairanne: 'a church at the top, lots of winding lanes and plenty of character.'

Cairanne: ‘a church at the top, lots of winding lanes and plenty of character.’

The case for Cru Cairanne began when the appellations were first created back in the 1930s. Growers then were far-seeing, and even then had begun by insisting on low yields and that only a certain number of grape varieties could be used.

There were geological surveys, an infinite number of tastings and meetings, and plenty of politics and negotiations to determine which could be crus and which vineyards couldn’t.

What makes a good Cairanne?
With a majority of grenache in the blend, Cairanne is never going to be anything less than a full-bodied, generous wine with a certain fruity charm and tannins that should always be well integrated and soft.

The upshot is that Cairanne is now the 17th cru of the Côtes-du-Rhône, joining the likes of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage; and it applies to both red and white wine though red is by far the more important.

As far as we are concerned, it means that from the 2015 vintage just ‘Cairanne’ need appear on the label. Goodbye ‘Côtes-du-Rhône Villages’!

Quality won’t change that much as most growers have been making such brilliant wine anyway. Yields are a little lower which will mean that the wines should have more substance and greater concentration.

Cairanne itself is a delightful place to visit. It’s an old village, typically laid out, Provence style, on a hill with a church at the top, lots of winding lanes and plenty of character.

These days there are some good places to eat with the choice possibly headed by the Tourne au Verre. This is very central and has an excellent wine list with most if not all Cairanne producers represented. The food is good and simple, and one can eat outside in the summer.

Cairanne vines

The 2015 vintage is looking very promising, and some of the wines will soon be in bottle.

As for the 2016 vintage, flowering is still a little way off but so far so good…

So, roll on Cairanne, the Rhône’s newest cru!

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer


  1. Nick Jones says:

    Long been a fan of this wonderful wine????

    • John F. Marcham says:

      We have been visiting the Rhone Valley for quite a number of years and 2 years ago stayed just outside Cairanne. There is a good cellar in the town selling a wide range of local wines, we bought six & they will form the basis of our visit there in the autumn. Have always visited Nick Thompson’s excellent estate. We are staying at Dom le Clos des Cazaux – wonderful wines – for 7 nights. We will also visit Dom. de Montine (always a warm welcome), Dom. Maby, Dom. Jaume – all make you very welcome, plus some more. Thank God we have a Volvo estate!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Russ Sainty says:

    The wines from this village have long been excellent. There are a few very good producers, Dom. oratoire de St. Martin and Alary spring to mind. Why can’t the society stock these wines?

    • Marcel Orford-Williams says:

      Thanks for your comment. Happy to confirm that Oratoire de St Martin will be available soon.

  3. Mark Vale says:

    Domaine de la Presidente do a really super Cairanne blanc which I’ve been buying for years.
    They did a rename and it’s now called Cairanne Galifay.
    Currently no UK importer 🙁
    Garuantee to buy every vintage if you stock it!

  4. W.J.McLaughlin says:

    I have long been a lover of Cairanne and could never understand why it was not included among the “Cru” villages. To me it was superior to many which were and I am delighted to see that its omission has now been corrected. As a matter of interest, it was my wine of choice for the delightful 80th birthday party which my extended family gave me. It may amuse you to know that my daughter in law, hostess for the occasion, tasted it but decided that if she were to start drinking as much as she wished, she would be unfit to carry out her duties. Some weeks later she confessed that she had “planked” two bottles of the lovely 15 year old wine and I could do no other than congratulate her. I also confided that, in her position, I would have done the same!

  5. Douglas Cowieson says:

    Long been a fan, and it is the best of the villages by some way. When I was living in Geneva, a visit to Cairanne was a must, along with Gigondas, and the wines from Oratoire de St. Martin were exceptional. That is good news the Wine Society will be stocking it soon. If I could suggest one other producer, what about Domaine du Terme from Gigondas. Very rustic, but wonderful wine.

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