Friday, April 13, 2012

Cairanne Wine Festival

Cairanne is a medieval village on a small hill about 10 kms from Sablet known for very good wines produced from the vineyards surrounding the village. There is a newer part of the village with a few shops, the Mairie (Town Hall), school and a very good wine bar and restaurant called Le Tourne au Verre in the center of the village.

There is also a Vieux Village (old village) on top of the hill. The small settlement became a fortified village of the Knights Hospitaller in 1123 with construction of the ramparts (fortified walls). The ramparts provided both protection and housing for the local population. The only thing that remains from those days are some fortified walls.

This weekend on Saturday April 14 and Sunday April 15, the "3ème Marché aux Vins" will take place in Cairanne. This is a great chance to taste some of the wines from Cairanne as well as some wines produced in neighboring villages. The wine fair will take place in the community hall located in the center of Cairanne.

If you go, make sure you take time to explore the Vieux Village. As you explore the village, you will find three towers and three portes (doors) including the Porte Notre Dame des Exés.

You will also discover four chapels including the 16th century Chapelle de Notre-Dame des Exés which was built outside ("exés") the fortified walls. People who contracted the plague (La Peste), were placed in the chapel to try to prevent the spread of infection to the rest of the population.

As is the case of almost every village in France, there is a monument to the children of Cairanne who died for France during WWI and WWII.

The Chapelle St. Roch was built into the ramparts (fortified wall) in the 18th century beside the Porte d'Autanne (pictured here).

The main reason to go to Cairanne is for the wine and our favorite winery in Cairanne and in my opinion, the best one, is Domaine de l'Oratoire St-Martin.

Domaine de l'Oratoire St-Martin is run today by brothers Frédéric and François Alary, the tenth generation of the family to oversee the winery (the family history goes back to 1692). They succeeded their father in 1984 and grow grapes on 25 hectares (nearly 62 acres) of some of the best vineyards in Cairanne.

The Alarys’ vineyards are located on steep hills in two main lieux-dits (locations), les Douyes and St-Martin.

The Domaine name comes from the small chapel (oratoire) that stands in the St-Martin vineyard. The soil is very rocky, with a high proportion of limestone and two types of clay, yellow on the surface and blue deeper down.

Les Douyes’ exposure is east, north-east and well-suited to growing white grapes and Syrah, all early maturing varietals. St-Martin is warmer, facing south, south-west and that’s where Grenache and Mourvèdre grow. Most of the vines are over 40 years old and some are reaching their 100s.

The Domaine produces mainly red wines from 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah. The proportion of Mourvèdre is high for the region but this very late ripening grape helps balance the high alcohol level often reached by Grenache and brings aromatics and structure to the wines.

18% of the wines made by the Domaine are white from 50% Marsanne, 30% Roussanne, 15% Clairette and 5% Viognier. The Domaine also produces a little bit of rosé every year.

Frédéric and François Alary are first cousins with Denis Alary of Domaine Alary, another very good winery in Cairanne. Both tasting rooms have similar Alary family trees on the wall showing the previous generations back to 1692 who have tended these vineyards.

Regardless of whether or not you go to the 3ème Marché aux Vins in Cairanne this weekend, look for wines from Cairanne to try as they are excellent and reasonably priced. You will be glad you did.

Bon weekend mes amis et à bientôt.


  1. Interesting post about parts of France I have not seen. I love the photos of Cairanne and I am intrigued about the people with the plague being put into the chapel. Yet another war memorial, I wonder just how many there are in France?

    We went to a wine festival Easter Saturday, but I have yet to get in on the blog!! Keep well Diane

  2. Hi Michel! Yet another interesting and for us overseas, tantalizing post about your part of France! How lucky you are to have such great things to see and visit!

  3. I love all the little villages you have that are so close to you. It's wonderful to make day trips to them and they are so full of interesting places. I don't really drink (but have been know a few times to have half a glass of wine), but I will tell Dude to look out for the ones you mentioned. He likes trying new wines for sure.

  4. We're planning on taking a trip through all the vineyards mentioned on that flyer next month and I can't wait! They are some of my absolute favorite wines :)

  5. Diane - Thanks for the nice feedback. I guess there are probably almost as many war memorials as there are villages in France or at least that is what it seems based upon what we see in Provence.

    Claudia - We are fortunate to live in an area with so much beauty and diversity; history, art, natural beauty, food, and wine. There is something for everyone.

    Ashley - There are many small villages within a few minutes drive from us and we have not visited most of them yet. The wines from Cairanne are definitely good choices when you are looking for red wines.

    Sara - Sounds like great fun. Trust me, you can taste wine every day in one of those villages for a year and you wouldn't be able to get to all of the different wineries. The hard part is deciding which ones to try.

  6. Hi, I just found your blog by way of "French Girl In Seattle". Your photography is so enchanting, it just pulls me into this beautiful country. I am going to so enjoy meandering through France with you. Your newest follower, Connie :) If you have a little time please come on over for a visit, my welcome mat is always out. Who knows you may decide to follow me.

  7. Connie - Thanks so much for checking out my blog and leaving such a nice comment. Thanks especially for becoming a follower. I will definitely check out your blog.

  8. Nice entry! We went to the marché aux vins on Sunday.

    St. Martin de l'Oratoire is one of my favorites from Cairanne.

  9. Sullivans - Thank you! Lucky you guys to have been able to make it to the Marché aux Vins. There is a lot of things that go on in early April in yours and our corner of Provence.