Chateau Rayas

Emmanuel Reynaud
Chateau Rayas, 84230 Chateauneuf Du Pape.
(Between Vaudieu and Clos du Caillou.)
Tel. (Rayas) +33 490 837 309
Direct sale: Chateau Rayas: No.

Chateau des Tours, Les Sablons 84260 Sarrians.
Tel. (Tours) +33 490 654 175
Direct sale at Des Tours: Monday - Saturday 9.00-17.00.  
No tasting or sale of wines from Rayas
Mail: Not used by Emmanuel Reynaud.

The history of the Reynaud family at Rayas started in 1880 when a notary from the Avignon area Albert Reynaud became deaf when he was 45 years of age. He had to change profession and bought Chateau Rayas.
His son Louis inhereted the property. Of course Louis had to arrange the future for his two sons. For the oldest son Bernard he bought another property Chateau des Tours in Sarrians in 1935. In 1945 he also purchaced vineyards located in Lagarde-Paréol. The wines from here were made at Rayas. After the death of Louis his youngest son Jacques inherited the two estates, Rayas and Fonsalette and were the owner of the two domains from 1978 until he suddenly died in 1997.

As Jacques had no heirs to take over his nephew Emmanuel owner of Chateau des Tours became the 4. Reynaud at Chateau Rayas.

Jacques Reynaud succeded in making Chateau Rayas one of the most famous, most rewarded and most expensive wines of the appellation. You can't say he did much in marketing. Many wine writers have visited the place and have left it without many comments  from Reynaud. He was really a loner and some would call him a very excentric person. His cellars were not known as the most clean ones you could imagine. Probably none of the barrels have been renewed since Emmanuel became the owner. Most of them might very well be from the time of Louis Reynaud.
If you visit the cellar and have had the priviledge also to visit the cellars of Henri Bonneau you will discover for the second time and be finally convinced that a high tec winery is not absolutely needed to make world class wines.
Ordinary visitors - like myself - are not allowed to use a camera in the cellar.

Emmanuel Reynaud. Photo by Michael Davis

From the cellars of Rayas. Photo by Michael Davis

I have never seen a convincing "recipe" for making wines like those from Reynaud - or for that matter those from Henri Bonneau.
The plots at Rayas are surrounded by forest stands which, together with the clay and sandy soils, provide a special wet and cool microclimate. Rayas are always among the last to pick the grapes in Chateauneuf du Pape, and you can't taste any kind of cockiness in the wines - On the contrary.
The output doesn't exceed 10-20 hl./ha. Here are not many rolled pebbles if any - those big stones which are often mentioned as a reason for the high quality of the wines from Chateauneuf du Pape. Rayas is a challenge to this argument.
The vineyards of Rayas only cover 10 ha. Two ha are with white varieties. Taking in consideration the low yield and the famous brand it's not surpricing that the wines are expensive.
If you like the special style and you are lucky to enjoy a good vintage at the right moment you will .... be happy!

Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape
100% Grenache, at least 98%. Fermentation in cement tanks and maturing in old foudres, barrels or steel tanks for about one year.

Pignan Chateauneuf du Pape
100% Grenache, at least 98%. 
This cuvée is a kind of second wine to Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape. It's some times the best wine according to what's said on the net

Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc
50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Clairette.
Normally the malolactic fermentation is blocked for the whites wines in Rhone. This is not found necessary at Rayas. 

Chateau de Fonsalette might be the most famous brand of all Cotes du Rhones.
The vines for this wine are situated in Lagarde-Paréol a small village 16 km to the north of Orange. 
The vineyards of this commune was Cotes du Rhone area until 2005. Since then it's a part of the Cotes du Rhone Village Massif d'Uchaux, but Emmanuel Reynaud will probably never use this name.
The vineyards here cover 10 ha. The wines are vinified at Chateau Rayas. A red and a white Cotes du Rhone are made:

Chateau de Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone
50% Grenache, 35% Cinsault and 15% Syrah.

Chateau de Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone Blanc
85% Grenache Blanc, 5% Clairette and 10% Marsanne.

Both wines are of a remarkable quality for a Cotes du Rhone and they are of course quite expensive wines. 
Price at the domain in 2010 was 34€ for 2004 and 2005.
When the wines are finaly blended some parts of the yield might not be of satisfying quality or typical for the great wines of the estate these wines are then used for a Cotes du Rhone called La Pialade

Emmanuel Reynaud April 2010

The plots of vineyards at Rayas are surrounded by trees and you will hardly find any of the famous stones in the poor sandy red soil. Photos fra March 2010


Robert Parker gives in his book "Wines of the Rhône Valley" from 1997 this picture of Jacues Reynaud and Chateau Rayas:

"...No one would suspect that inside the drab, unpainted building that houses Château Rayas (sitting unmarked at the end of a deteriorating dirt road in the appellation of Châteauneuf du Pape) are some of the world’s most distinctive wines. The credit goes to Jacques Reynaud and his late father, Louis, who passed away in 1978. Jacques Reynaud (he reminds me of a cross between Dr. Seuss’s Grinch and Yoda from the Star Wars trilogy) is the brilliant, unassuming genius behind these wines, which are made from low yields from some of the oldest vines in the southern Rhône Valley. Reynaud is assisted by his sister, Françoise, who is cut from the same eccentric mold as her brother.
Château Rayas is the antithesis of modern-day winemaking. No stainless steel, no temperature controls, no new oak, and no oenologists are to be found in the Rayas cellar, which contains a hodgepodge of barrels, demi-muids, and foudres. The sto
ries I could tell about Jacques Reynaud could fill a book, but behind his decidedly antifame, anti-twentieth century facade is an extremely well-read gentleman with exceptional knowledge and a love of many things, including fine food, as I discovered over several meals with him at the nearby La Beaugravière.
Getting precise information on what goes on at Château Rayas is not an easy task. Despite having visited and tasted with Reynaud more than a dozen times during the last decade, I stil
l have not figured out what magic takes place in these cellars. Given the extraordinary quality that emerges in the finest years, I can live without the answers. We have gotten to know each other reasonably well, and I will convey a few stones to give readers a glimpse of Reynaud’s impish character. Early in my tasting experience with him, I became irritated after tasting through four different barrels without Reynaud’s saying one word about what was in each barrel. Finally, I asked what we were tasting. His response was, “You’re the expert. You tell me.” Another example of his sense of humor emerged over dinner at La Beaugravière while we were sharing a magnificent bottle of Chave Hermitage. I asked him whom he admired the most. His deadly serious response was, “You.”

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Updated 2015-11-18