The story is truth which is distorted, the legend of the false which is embodied… Rayas!
Whilst meditating on those Cocteaunian words and heading north on the curvy D68 just a few kilometres before you get to Orange, on the right there is a little road that takes you through some beautiful Chateauneuf-du-Pape countryside and, of course, its vineyards, until you see a sign that simply reads Château Rayas. Rayas was founded in 1880 by Emmanuel Reynaud’s great-grandfather, Albert Reynaud. In 1920, his son Louis was the first in the Appellation to actually bottle and market the wines, physically on the estate. Between 1935-38, he acquired Domaine des Tours in Provence, and then in 1945 Château Fonsalette just north of Orange. In 1978, Louis’s son, Jaques Reynaud breathed new life into the estate, paying particular attention to soil balance. In 1997, Emmanuel Raynaud took over the reins of the three family properties, and was then joined a few years later by his son Louis Damien.
Château Rayas stands out in the family portfolio not only because its red wine sits shoulder to shoulder with the other great legend of the area, Henri Bonneau. The domaine has 12 hectares under vine, 10 of these hectares are Grenache Noir and 2 hectares are the whites Grenache & Clairette. The vines are nestled into fine sandy soils with a touch of clay in the mix. The vines face due north and enjoy a cooler micro-climate than the neighbours do. These characteristics make the wine of Rayas a nectar that is incomparable to all other wines of the appellation, bar H.Bonneau. This arid land is protected by the surrounding forest, and the vines produce very low yields, around 10hl/hectare. The grapes are always picked very ripe, often month’s later than their cousins, then vignified in whole bunches to bring freshness, purity and depth to the wine. All the wine is then aged in old wooden tuns.
Tasting the red wine is quite frankly an incredible experience. But lesser few have tasted the white. In the red you will find a pale red colour, a bouquet of extreme delicacy caressed by aromas of crushed strawberries, in a Burgundian style (if you get my drift). On the palate you’ll find an unrivalled texture, the expression of very delicate ripe fruit mixed with aromas of dried flowers, full of energy and freshness. The red is always shy in its youth, and having followed the property now since 1978 vintage, even today those bottles still available 1978, 1989 & 1990 vintages all show that they still do have a future, for those with deep pockets. Each year they manage to produce around 10,000 bottles in all and this mythical red can only be surpassed by the even more mythical white, that almost nobody has ever tried, as it is produced in such tiny amounts. We have a few vintages of the white available (please see the short list below) but once they have gone, I don’t think I or you will ever see the wine again at under 600 pounds a bottle. Here is an idea of what the Rayas Blanc tastes like:
1998 Château Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc @ $old Out
Less fruity and more reticent on the nose than the 1999; hints of peach skin, hay, spice and nuts. Fat and spicy in the mouth, with a lemony note but not quite the cut or the flavor development of the 1999.
1999 Château Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc @ $old Out
Complex, fresh aromas of flowers, mint, grilled nuts and musky ginger. Intensely flavored and spicy, with impressive fat and sound supporting acids. Quite stylish and lively. Finishes long and ripe. This shows more grip than most white Chateauneufs I sampled from this vintage. A very strong performance for this wine.
Made from the usual blend of Grenache (50%) and Clairette (50%)
Château Rayas Blanc in stock today, 1er August 2021:
2 bottles 2000 @ £595bt
1 bottle 2003 @ £595bt
2 bottles 2007 @ £575bt
1 bottle 2008 @ £575bt
1 bottle 2009 @ £560bt
As ususal priced in GBpounds sterling ex LCB VT, ex locals taxes & shipping!
‘L’histoire est du vrai qui se déforme, la légende du faux qui s’incarne..’ Jean Cocteau