Since André Alary in 1692, ten generations of grape growers from one to the next for over 300 years have worked on the same vineyard. Frédéric and François Alary have taken over the farm in 1984 and work 25 hectares on the Saint Martin hillsides including the oratoire, built in the middle of the vineyard, which gave its name to the estate.
The vineyards of Oratoire St Martin are hand tended and managed organically with biodynamic preparations. The vineyards are regularly ploughed, with some plots by horse. This is a costly, time consuming and difficult practice that offers a range of benefits over using a tractor for the same purpose. Very low crops also play their part, with the Oratoire vineyards typically yielding less than 30hl/ht on average.
In the winery, large wooden foudres are the norm as well as two egg shaped fermenters (one concrete, one in wood) and a gravity fed cellar allows the fruit to be handled gently. There are no additions and very little sulphur is used. Of course what truly makes these wines so good is the Alary family’s fantastic vineyard holdings high up on the hill behind Cairanne and the continuous ownership of these sites adds to the quality factor – they have been in the Alary family’s hands since the 1600s. Most southern Rhône wines come from vineyards on the flats whilst Oratoire’s are on the slopes near Rasteau and look out to Gigondas and down at Châteauneuf du Pape. They have a soil profile rich in limestone and clay which lends elegance and complexity to these full bodied, powerful reds.