Ch. Rayas is the most respected name in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The wines are fiercely collected and some of the most expensive in the region.
Rayas has been run by the Reynaud family since 1880. Albert Raynaud, initially from Avignon, bought the estate after he went deaf and, no longer able to work as a notary, decided on a career change. When he died in 1910, his son Louis inherited the estate and raised its profile by (illegally) adding “Premier Grand Cru” to the label.
Louis had two sons, Bernard and Jacques. Bearing their inheritance in mind, Louis bought two other properties, Ch. des Tours in Vacqueyras (purchased in 1935) and Ch. de Fonsalette in the Côtes du Rhône (purchased in 1945). When Louis died in 1978, Bernard took over Ch. des Tours and Jacques inherited Rayas and Fonsalette. Jacques stayed at the helm until 1997, when he suddenly died.
With no children of his own, Jacques’s nephew Emmanuel – the fourth generation of the family – took over. Today, Emmanuel Reynaud runs all three of the family’s properties – Rayas, des Tours and Fonsalette.
Of the 23 hectares under vine at Rayas, 12 are within the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, with 10 dedicated to producing red Châteauneuf-du-Pape and two hectares kept for a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Clairette and Grenache Blanc. Two red Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are made at the estate – the Grand Vin Ch. Rayas and their second wine Pignan. Both are made entirely from Grenache. The remaining 11 hectares at the estate produce fruit for a Côtes du Rhône called La Pialade.
All the vines are on very sandy soils, rather than the more famous “galets roulés” (pudding stone) terroir associated with the appellation. It is this distinct sandy soil that produces such a silky, sumptuous style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The north-easterly exposure, the clay-rich, sandy soils and the surrounding dense forest make it one of the coolest spots in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Yields are exceptionally low at Rayas, between 12-20hl/ha and the wines are made in a traditional style. Grapes are hand-harvested, with the majority whole-bunch fermented. Fermentation is in concrete tanks, with the wines then aged in old demi-muid barrels (600 litres) and larger oak foudres for 16 months prior to bottling, unfined and unfiltered.
Production levels remain very small with just 1,200-1,500 cases of Rayas made each year, and even less of Pignan (typically around 650 cases). Although seen as a second wine, Pignan tends to come from the most northerly part of the vineyard with its own unique terroir. Pignan is named after the pine trees that surround the vineyard.
The wines from Ch. de Fonsalette are also vinified at Rayas and that’s why they are listed here. Ch. de Fonsalette is situated just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, near the village of Lagard-Paréol. The estate comprises of 120 hectares of which 12 are planted to vines, the rest to agricultural farmland, woodland and olive groves – from which they produce their own olive oil. Two red Côtes du Rhône wines are made at the estate, a single vineyard Syrah and a Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut blend. They also produce a white Côtes du Rhône made from predominantly Grenache Blanc blended with small amounts of Clairette and Marsanne.