Oratoire St. Martin
Oratoire St. Martin
France • Southern Rhone
The finest leaders lead by example, and that is exactly what Frédéric and François Alary of Domaine de L’Oratoire Saint-Martin have done for decades. Their personal modesty belies their unparalleled talent in crafting organically raised wines that sing of southern landscapes and summer-ripe flavors, bottles that are not only best in their class but also set an example for elegant, site-specific reds the world over.
The family’s roots run deep in the region, with the brothers representing the family’s tenth generation of winemakers in Cairanne. In terms of natural winemaking, the Alary family has always been ahead of the curve. They adopted organic agriculture long before it was fashionable; they pioneered a return to cement tanks for vinification when everyone else was spending absurd amounts on the latest technology. The region’s finest talents today all had their start in this family’s cellars.
The best wines of Cairanne are marked above all by an effortless finesse in both perfume and flavor. While other lower-land southern Rhônes struggle with heat and higher alcohol, Cairanne’s top wines are poised and pure, hailing from the village’s chalky hills. This natural cooler character is preserved faithfully at L’Oratoire Saint-Martin; here the soul of the wine comes directly from the soil and the vine.
The estate is located in the northeastern part of Cairanne, on a series of hills locally referred to as the “mountain.” The area’s key vine-growing regions are ‘Les Douyes’ and ‘Saint-Martin,’ found on the steepest slopes. ‘Les Douyes’ faces east/northeast and is the coolest part of the mountain; here are the estate’s oldest Grenache vines, and most of its white grapes. ‘Saint-Martin’ faces south/southwest; grapes grown here are often riper and more aromatic. The lieu-dit ‘Haut Coustias’ gets the most sun, and is where Grenache and Mourvèdre reach perfect ripeness.
All vines are cared for according to organic as well as biodynamic principles; the estate is certified in both. Vines are on average 40 years old, with some even more than 100 years. Grapes are harvested by hand, and fermented on indigenous yeasts in open-top cement fermenters for Cairanne wines, and in temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks for Côtes du Rhône wines. Depending on the cru, wines are aged in a combination of tank, demi-muid and foudre. All wine are bottled unfined and unfiltered, with little added sulfur.
Wines We Carry
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