Exploring Cairanne (4) Domaine Roche

Romain Roche came back to the family domaine in 2009. The vineyards had been in the family for seven generations, but the crop was sold to the cooperative. ‘It’s a classic story in the Rhône Valley,’ he says. In 2009 he started with 15 ha in the old cellar of Rabasse Charavin which he renovated, ‘One of the good points of the appellation is the collaboration in Cairanne,’ he says. ‘Corinne was happy to see a young person making use of the cellar. In 2014 his father retired and so he took another 10 ha, and built the winery. The family home is also on the same site.

Romain mainly has vineyard in the garrigue, and a bit in the mountain. Since 2022 he has been organically certified. He didn’t do it before because he was too busy farming his sizeable holding of 25 hectares, but from the beginning he has worked without herbicides.

‘I have a lot of old vines thanks to my father,’ he says. ‘He was convinced by old vineyards, particularly in the garrigue. Old vines are good at adapting to the dryness of the garrigue.’ Because of the lower plantation density there is less competition between the vines. ‘With climate change, if you plant at higher density you will need irrigation.’

Romain says that the mountains are interesting, with lots of clay and more humidity. ‘There are lots of different terroirs leading to more complexity in the wine.’

He has mainly Grenache in the blend. ‘It’s the king of the grape varieties here,’ says Romain. ‘We are lucky because we still have some old Carignan. This is often co-fermented with Grenache, and Carignan gives the spine.’

In the past he had some old vine Grenache and Carignan co-planted and he learned a lot from this. Now he is replacing vines with co-planting and he finds that the maturity harmonizes. He’s mostly using Carignan and Mourvedre. In the appellation they are looking to bring in some new old varieties to bring freshness and less alcohol, such as Counoise, Cinsault and Terret Noir. ‘We are still working with the appellation with this,’ he says. ‘We meet each other and share a lot. We are very lucky in Cairanne to have this kind of exchange.’

Agroforestry is interesting here. ‘We began 4 years ago to plant some trees in the vineyard, he says. ‘One way was buying the trees together and planting them as vignerons. The other way was to ask people who were interested to come and plant a sponsored tree which is then named after them. It’s another way to get customers interested. The first year a person came from Sweden to do this.’ They have also planted bat houses, and the sort of bats coming are being studied. And they also have bird houses in the vineyard.


Domaine Roche Cairanne 2021
14.5% alcohol. It was a fresh vintage, with some frost at the beginning: his father had never seen frost like this. All the vineyard was frozen except the mountain. This changed the blend: mainly Grenache was frosted because they grow first. After the frost it took five weeks for more green parts to appear on the vines, so it was a later vintage. Supple, fresh and sweet with lovely cherry and plum fruit with a sweet edge. Juicy and vibrant with nice fruit and good acidity, showing a floral quality. Nice potential for development with the good acidity. 93/100

Domaine Roche Cairanne 2020
15% alcohol. This was the perfect balanced vintage for me in the vineyard and the cellar. Rain infrequent but always at the good moment. Drinkable quickly, but keeping balance. Hot but not too hot: I hope to see another vintage like this. Ripe and sweet with lovely balance showing olives and spices, and also some liquorice, with just enough tannin. Sweetly fruited and with a nice spicy twist on the finish. Very expressive. 93/100

Domaine Roche Cairanne 2019
15% alcohol. Sunny vintage making concentrated wines with lots of density. The aim for us was to manage the luminosity of the sun and in the cellar to manage the extraction. Ripe, lush and sweetly fruited with cherries and berries with a slight salty edge. Rich with nice depth. Beginning to soften and open, with sleek ripe fruit. There’s some olive and spice here with nice grip on the finish. Generous but not unbalanced, and going in the right direction with some age. 92/100

Domaine Roche Cairanne 2018
15% alcohol. Very rainy, particularly during the spring. There was a lot of work in the vineyards, but it’s very interesting: the vineyard was green and the grapes went through maturity with a lot of water. Not a concentrated vintage but a fine one. Fresh aromatics with ripe strawberry and plum notes as well as a hint of green. There’s a supple quality to the palate with dried herbs and some white pepper spice, and sleek ripe autumnal fruits. Beginning to show some development. Really appealing. 92/100