The hilltop village of Cairanne on the left bank of the southern Rhône between Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine is a picture of Provençal fantasy where fields of lavender paint the landscape purple and proud plain trees line the marketplace in the center of town. Cairanne belongs to the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation and is widely regarded as the star among the seventeen villages that have the right to use this designation.
Catherine Le Goeuil’s taste for adventure has made her a leading pioneer in Cairanne. Having been born in the Congo to French parents, she had already lived in interesting places, but she longed to return to her roots. In 1993, with little experience and great determination, she and her family bought a six-hectare domaine. Soon after implementing one of their first chemical treatments on the vines, Catherine became very ill. The viticultural direction for the domaine became instantly clear. In her mind, farming as naturally as possible was the only way to go. Over time, she started the conversion to organic farming, and is now fully certified in this methodology. In a village just shy of one thousand inhabitants and only two others who farm organically nearby, her decisions have been met with suspicion and trepidation. Though rooted to the place both figuratively and literally, she is still considered an outsider—not that she lets this dilute her conviction in any way.
Cairanne is located deep in the heart of the Vaucluse and boasts spectacular views of the famous Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux. Catherine’s vineyards are frequently subject to the forceful mistral, which is known to purify vines of excess moisture when it is not wreaking havoc on her beautiful flower garden. Her vineyards enjoy all the benefits of organic farming: a grassy cover crop in between vineyard rows that provides nutrients and microbiotic growth and well-aerated soils in a typically tough and relatively impermeable sandy molasse. She credits this soil for giving her wines with finesse and approachability, but she deserves credit, too. Brave trailblazing, risk-taking, and persistence in the face of scrutiny have given this creative maverick the fortitude to make delicious, elegant blends year after year.
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