Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne is an appellation for quality red, white and rosé wines from the parish of Cairanne in the southern half of the Rhone Valley in France. Cairanne is one of about 20 villages (this figure changes every few years) that are permitted to add their names to the Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation, having been identified as producing higher-quality wines distinctive of the regional style. Cairanne is seen by many as the most consistently excellent of the Cotes du Rhone villages.
(© Christophe Grilhé)
The wines of the Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation are a step up in quality from those of the generic Cotes du Rhone title, but are not regarded with the same esteem as location-specific appellations such as Cornas or Hermitage.
Cairanne lies to the east of Orange, just a short distance from banks of the Rhone river. The climate here is Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers bringing excellent ripening potential to the Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes used to produce most of the local red wines. Mourvedre in particular requires a hot, dry climate to fully ripen, as does Grenache. These two grapes are rarely found north of Montelimar, which marks the boundary between the northern Rhone and the hotter southern Rhone. Syrah, on the other hand, prefers the coolest of Cairanne's mesoclimates, as it is more susceptible to heat damage. The other red grapes that are permitted are those of a standard Cotes du Rhone red wine blend.
The Aigues river passes right through Cairanne on its course to meet the Rhone river just west of Orange. The river brings much-needed water to the hot, dry lands of the southern Rhone region. The soils of Cairanne are predominantly of limestone and alluvial types (explained by the presence of several local rivers and streams) and red, iron-rich earth over sandstone bedrocks. The topography ranges from the glacial plateau to the south of the town to the slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills to the north and west.