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A new Cru for the Côtes du Rhône

Last year's harvest, 2015, is the first vintage for Cairanne, the Côtes du Rhône’s newest Cru. On February 10, 2016, the Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne appellation was officially recognised by Institut National des Appellations d’Origine as an ‘appellation communale’ – an appellation defined only by the name of its village (commune). This will be confirmed in a decree due to be published shortly. 

Since 1953, when it was first entitled to add its name to the bottles of Côtes du Rhône wine it produced, the Cairanne appellation has shown enormous drive and energy. Two examples best illustrate the ‘Cairanne state of mind’: the first goes back to 1959 and the creation of Caveau du Belvédère, the first cellar to feature a range of Côtes du Rhône wines, while the second is more recent: the creation of the “Vendanges d’Artistes” event – an initiative inviting artists to transform harvest trailers into temporary works of art.

Cairanne’s winegrowers have always been fully aware of the quality potential of their products. In 2008 they submitted an application to INAO requesting promotion to Appellation Cairanne status.  This week, the Comité National handed the file over to the French authorities for approval before passing it on to the European Commission.

“For us, promotion to Cru status is an acknowledgement of the huge improvements we have made to the quality of both our white and red wines,” says Denis Alary, president of the Syndicat des Vignerons de Cairanne - an association comprising 37 winegrowers in private wineries and three cooperative wineries. 

One Cru, two colours

Red wines: The diverse range of grape varieties particularly suited to the Cairanne terroirs ensures production of unique, refined and elegant wines.   Grenache accounts for 60% of the total AOC surface area, Syrah for 16%, Carignan for 15% and Mourvèdre for 6%.

60% of these varietals are over 30 years old, and 70% of plots are over 20 years old.

The combination of the broad varietal mix and the Cairanne terroir produces a range of rich, complex wines. Cairanne’s winegrowers are determined to preserve their old vines to safeguard the quality potential of their wines. Vines over 50 currently account for over 400 hectares of vineyard.

White wines account for 5% of appellation production. These are made from Grenache, Clairette, Roussanne, Marsanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier.

Clairette and Roussane grapes when blended together give wines with a nose of white flowers, and a fruit-filled, mineral-tinged palate. Add any of the other secondary white varietals and you have a wine with great complexity.

After a few years’ ageing, Cairanne white wines show good complexity, with aromas of baking spices and beeswax; their flavours of candied citrus peel are lifted by a good edge of minerality

Cairanne lies within the Rhône Valley area, 40 km north of Avignon and 15km north of Orange, at the heart of Haut Vaucluse.

16 February 2016 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor