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. The wines were previously classified as 'Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne', but after an extended period where it was seen by many as the most consistently excellent of the villages, it was elevated to cru status in 2016.
This means the wines are now just labelled 'Cairanne'. They sit at the same level in the classification hierarchy as well known, location specific names such as Gigondas or Cornas, plus other more recently promoted appellations such as Rasteau.
Cairanne lies to the east of Orange, just a short distance from banks of the Rhône river. The climate here is Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers bringing excellent ripening potential to the Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes used to produce most of the local red wines. Mourvèdre and Grenache require a hot, dry climate to fully ripen, the former particularly so.
These two grapes are rarely found north of Montelimar, which marks the boundary between the northern Rhone and the hotter southern Rhône. 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 Côtes du Rhône red wine blend.
The Aigues river passes right through Cairanne on its course to meet the Rhône river just west of Orange. The river brings much-needed water to the hot, dry lands of the southern Rhône 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.
The appellation's fresh, floral white wines are produced from the classic southern Rhône varieties Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier.