In the Southern Rhone, Cairanne rings cherries, dark cherries that is for its terrific AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages ruby-colored Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah blends from a region where wine has been vinifed for over 300 years.
Lacking the quaint charm of neighboring Rasteau, the village of Cairanne is a functional commercial nexus that services the expansive vineyards that encircle it. For wine enthusiasts, the gravitational pull of Cairanne asserts itself in the presence of what many claim is the most outstanding wine bar / restaurant in the Vaucluse: Le Tourne au Verre, where wine is treated as royalty.
It’s all about attitude. The service is serious and snappy. Spiffy servers, attired in white tees with a restaurant logo printed on the chest and “Staff” printed across the back, place each bottle of white wine in an ice bag, and each bottle of red is decanted at your table. (Wine is available by the glass.) The 500-bottle-plus wine list has inner depth — every French wine region is well represented. The menu choices pair well with either white or red wine, and the cuisine is top-notch fare.
Moreover, this is a winemaker’s wine bar. Conversation on all things wine is vivid. During our lunch there, a vigneron at our table was approached by a woman, another winemaker, who was captivated by our table talk and wished to exchange phone numbers.
And as it was a Thursday lunch, two groups of wine lovers escorted by Avignon Wine Tour, which makes Le Tourne au Verre its canteen as an interlude to their daylong tastings in Cairanne, Rasteau, Gigondas and Beaumes de Venise, animated the scene. Each day of the week, Avignon Wine Tour features a unique itinerary to the various wine regions in the Southern Rhone (see website below for information).
The Alary family name is legend in Cairanne; they have been cultivating vineyards in the region for ten generations. Frédéric et François Alary of the Domaine Oratoire Saint Martin, a winery of 25 hectares, produce 80% red, 18% white and 2% rosé.
This Domaine turns out two great bottles of red: A “Réserve des seigneurs ” of Grenache (60%), Mourvèdre (30%) and Syrah (7%) from 50-year-old vines, and a ” Cuvée prestige” of 60% Grenache 40% Mourvèdre from 100+ year old vines that have very low yields and intense fruit. The ‘prestige’ has a deep spicy texture, with notes of dark raspberries. Wines from the Domaine Oratoire Saint Martin are available in the states (see below for link).
A high-quality Cairanne producer not on the wine list at Le Tourne Au Verre whose richly flavored spicy reds are available in the states is Frédéric cousin’s Denis Alary of the Domaine Alary. Of note is his Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne La Brunote 2007 and his vintages from a parcel La Font d’Estevanas.
Le Tourne au Verre offers a lunch menu of Entrée – Plat – Dessert for 14.50€ and a dinner menu of Amuse-bouche – Entrée – Plat – Dessert for 25€.
Directions: Carainne is located northeast of Orange. Take Hwy D976 from Orange to Carnaret-sur-Aigues and then Hwy D93 to Carainne.
Le Tourne au Verre: Situated in the center of the village on the Route de Sainte-Cécile, closed Wednesday and Sunday, Tel 04 90 30 72 18, Website
Avignon Wine Tour: Website
Domaine Oratoire Saint Martin: Website, Winesearcher
Domaine Alary: Weygandt Wines