Ssshhh, it is a well-kept secret. Lirac is one of Rhône Valley’s hidden gem. Don’t assume it’s shyness is due to inexperience, for wine has been cultivated in the region since ancient Roman times. Lirac has been producing wine for over 2000 years.
This Cru village is just a hop, skip and jump away from its more famous neighbors, Châteauneuf du Pape. Though not as famous, Lirac can stand on its own with wines that are strong and structured yet elegant and fresh. It is the only Rhône Cru to be situated on the right bank of the Rhône River. Because of its right bank location, Lirac remains quiet, secret, and guarded from its bustling neighbors.
What makes Lirac unique is its various terroirs. The diversity of the soils is what makes Lirac stand apart from the other crus. It is composed of three major types of soils, each of which brings a unique quality to the grapes and ultimately to the wines. In Lirac you find soils composed of quartzite, red clay, fluvial sand, pebbles and limestone. Lirac is known for its large pebbles(galletes) which rest on clay soils. The galletes attract heat during the day while imparting warmth on the vines at night.
Having visited Lirac many years ago, what stands out in my mind is the beautiful Mediterranean climate. Lirac has gorgeous, warm, sunny days(2700 hours of sunlight) and around mid afternoon there is a brisk wind that whisks you away(Mistral). It is a region that is bathed by the sun and swept by the Mistral.
A rarity in the Rhône, Lirac paints itself with three brushes and produces red, white and rosé wines. The main red grapes are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Producing red wines that have intense ruby color with notes of dark cherry, black currant, savory spice and garrigue. Powerful, balanced and age worthy.
The white grape varietals are Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Roussanne. The Lirac white wines are known for intense and exotic floral and fruity notes, with undertones of honey, laurel and sage.
Lirac makes high quality wines at exceptional prices. The wines of Lirac are often at a more value price point than its neighbors. Lirac is a region on the rise, so when looking for Southern Rhone wines be sure to seek out Lirac.
DOMAINE MABY “CASTA DIVA” LIRAC BLANC 2017
The Maby family has been growing vines in the southern Rhône since the early nineteenth century. At that time shoemaking was their main trade, but as was typical, they tended a few plots of vines on the side, fermenting the grapes themselves and selling through the cellar door to the locals. Today, this charming domaine is comprised of 148 acres (60 hectares) in the appellations of Lirac, Tavel and Côtes du Rhône, all farmed sustainably. The estate is now in the hands of fourth generation Richard Maby and his wife Natasha, who took over from his father in 2005. A character of indefatigable energy, he is passionate about tending the vineyards and letting the terroir speak through the wines, respecting tradition but also embracing new techniques.
Tasting Notes – This Lirac Blanc is a harmonious blend of 68% Clairette and 32% Viognier. The Casta Diva is an incredibly feminine wine with a soft golden hue. The wine has notes of apple, lemon, peach and apricot. An elegant and fresh wine that has wonderful acidity. This Lirac Blanc will pair perfectly with shellfish, pasta, or even a hearty winter salad.
CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON “BARON LOUIS” LIRAC ROUGE 2014 (SRP $24)
The history of the storied Château de Montfaucon is intimately woven into the history of the Rhône Valley itself. In the 11th century, the castle of Montfaucon was established as one of a line of fortresses along the Rhône River constructed to guard the territory, and later to tax ships carrying goods up and down the river. The château traditionally had sold its fruit to the local cooperative, but starting in 1995, they began to bottle under their own label. Today, the estate is comprised of more than 112 acres (45 ha) of vines, under the management of Rodolphe de Pins. Their winemaking approach is to preserve the purity and complexity of the terroir.
Tasting Notes – An elegant wine that is a blend of 50% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, and 10% Mourvèdre. It is a rich, bold wine that has lots of fruit and notes of strawberries, and blackberries. There is bright racy acidity with smooth tannins. With the combination of fruit, acidity and tannins this is a wine that can be aged for another five to seven years. Its big body makes it a great pairing for steak, lamb or even a juicy hamburger.
DOMAINE DU CLOS DE SIXTE VIGNOBLES ALAIN JAUME & FILS LIRAC ROUGE 2016 (SRP $25)
The Jaume family has been dedicated to the art of wine growing since 1826. Since then, their aim as skilled wine growers has been to meticulously produce wines that are intense, rich and complex, so that each reflects and embodies the wonderfully diverse terroir of the southern Rhône Valley. To do so, they vinify each varietal and parcel separately so as to capture the full expression of the region. All their vineyards are certified organic.
Tasting Notes – A gorgeous blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Mourvèdre. Has a deep ruby-red color. The wine is extremely fragrant on the nose, with notes of dark cherries and black pepper. On the palate there are notes of blackcurrant, vanilla and spice. It is a wine that big, bold and voluptuous on the palate. This is a classic expression of a high quality Lirac that could match any high quality Châteauneuf du Pape at a fraction of the cost.
OGIER “LOU CAMINÉ” LIRAC ROUGE 2016 (SRP $15)
The domaine is named after an eccentric Danish soldier who fought with Charlemagne’s army in Basque country. When passing through the Rhône Valley on his return home, he was seduced by its charm and decided to stay. Generations later, Domaine Ogier was founded by Antoine Ogier, one of his descendants, in 1859. The estate experienced a renaissance in the 1990s under the management of Didier Couturier who secured long-term partnerships with growers and began farming organically. Taking a minimalist approach to winemaking, the house style today is recognized for its purity of fruit, freshness and depth.
Tasting Notes – A blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, the wine is deep garnet in color. The wine has loads of dark fruit with hints of sweet spice. The mouth is big and full with black cherries, licorice and crushed rocks. With nice firm tannins and smooth mouthfeel, it is a wonderful value at $15.
Posts from our other French Winophiles
Here’s a list of great Lirac articles from my fellow French Winophiles. Be sure to check in on them for more great Lirac wines and pairings.
- Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares Lirac AOC Produces Your New Favorite Wines
- Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Lirac AOC: Hidden in Plain Sight”
- David at Cooking Chat shares “Mushroom Mac and Cheese Casserole with Wine from Lirac”
- Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Discover Lirac’s Southern Rhone Palate with the #Winophiles”
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Savory Stew paired with Lirac is Luscious“
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Poulet au Citron et Lavande + La Lôyane 2016”
- Jane from Always Ravenous shares “Mediterranean Flavors of Bouillabaisse Paired with Lirac Blanc”
- Jill from L’Occasion shares “Lirac: Five Star Wine And Travel“
- Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Lirac – Castles, Keeps, Wolves & Divas in the Southern Rhône”
- Martin from Enofylz shares “A Taste of Lirac – Rhone’s Undiscovered Cru”
- Kat from Bacchus Travel and Tours shares “Lirac: The Rhone’s Hidden Gem“
- Susannah from Avvinare shares “Lirac Wines- Discovering the Southernmost AOC of the Rhone”
- Liz from What’s in That Bottle shares “Lirac: the Rhône Valley’s Secret Right Bank Ringer”
- Rupal from Syrah Queen shares “Discover Lirac – Rhône’s Best Kept Secret”
- Nicole from Somms Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Clos de Trias Ventoux with Bacon Teriyaki Burger”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Lirac: Wine from the Wrong Side of the Tracks”
Join in on the Lirac Mania! Please join our Twitter chat on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 10am CDT. Our hashtag is #winophiles Be sure to lookout for @rhonewines and hashtags: #rhonevalleyvineyards #lirac #liracwines