Lirac AOC Produces Your New Favorite Wines

Is it possible to be a wine producing region for over two-thousand years and yet remain largely unknown? Seemingly unlikely, yet the Lirac AOC in southern Rhône remains a best kept secret. Please allow myself and the French Winophiles to introduce you to your new favorite wine region – Lirac.

 

By the 16th century wines produced in Lirac were widely popular, exported as “Côte du Rhône” to Paris, England, and Holland. Winemakers began branding their barrels “CdR” and “Côte du Rhône” to certify their quality cru contents, making Lirac wines the original Côte du Rhône wines. Granted AOC status in 1947, Lirac was the first Cru to produce red, white, and rosé wines.

Defined by progress and humility, Lirac embodies hard work and dedication of its winemakers and negociants. Rather than fame, Lirac focuses on preserving the terroir, controlling the yields, and continuing to improve viticulture.

Galette anyone?

Don’t be fooled by this humble wine region, the wines of Lirac deliver high quality at value prices. After spending yesterday in Lirac I am blown away these wines are not in demand in the US. Due to the 3 types of terroir, limestone, red clay topped with galette, and sand, Lirac wines are expressive, fresh, and elegant. They offer a unique tension between their full bodied expression and their fruit driven, high acid finesse. It is no wonder so many Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers also own vineyards in Lirac. In many cases, Lirac delivers the weight of CDP in a more approachable style and a much lower price tag.

Limestone is important soil in Lirac

 

Facts about Lirac:

  • Situated about  10  miles  northwest  of  Avignon,  on  the  right  bank  of  the  Rhône
  • Four districts  are  included  in  the  Lirac  appellation: Lirac, Roquemaure, Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres, and Saint-Geniès-de-Comolas
  • Lirac is  rare  among  the  17  Rhône  crus  to  offer  red  (83%), white  (8%)  and  rosé  wines  (9%)  within  its  AOC
  • Vineyards span 1,905 acres across 4 communes.
  • Annual production: 528,344 gallons.
  • 56 independent wineries, 16 négociants and 6 coopératives.
  • Comprised of  3  major  types  of  soils,  each  of  which  imparts  its  own  qualities  on  the  grape  growing: Limestone, Galette River Pebbles on top of red clay, and sand
  • Mediterranean with  lots  of  sunlight  (2,700  hours  annually) and  dry  with  low  rainfall  (27  inches  annually).
  • Average temperature is 57° Fahrenheit.
  • Vines are  kept  healthy  by  the  Mistral,  a  dry,  northerly  wind that persistently  blows about  180  days  out  of  the  year
Disclaimer: media samples; all thoughts & opinions my own.

Notes on wineries and wines I sampled:

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.

I had the pleasure to visit the Domaine Maby Viognier vineyards yesterday. The soil here is sand.

2017 Domaine Maby Lirac Cuvee Prestige Casta Diva Rhône Valley France ($28): 68% Clairette and 35% Viognier (see vineyard above); inviting notes of orchard fruit, citrus, ginger, white flowers, melted caramel, toasted cedar, and cinnamon; rich mouthfeel, flavors of caramel apple pie on palate, round, linear focused acidity follows through to a long finish; pair with poultry and rich pasta. To locate this wine near you, use wine-searcher or Google.

Château d’Aquéria has been making wines in southern Rhône since the end of the 16th century, when monks from the Abbey of Villeneuve-les-Avignon transferred a large tract of land to the Count of Aquéria. Aquéria planted vines on lands that have continued to flourish over the past 400 years.

2015 Chateau D’ Aquéria Lirac Rouge Rhône Valley France ($24): 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre; Brooding nose of slightly jammy plum, black cherry, black berry, baking spice, black pepper, smoke, trailing vanilla; smooth on the palate, silky integrated tannins, balance lean acidity, elegant, long finish; pair with red meat – duck and lamb. To locate this wine near you, use wine-searcher or Google.

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.

 

2016 Alain Jaume Domaine du Clos de Sixte Lirac Rhône Valley France ($25): 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 15% Cinsault; Dazzling aromas of black cherry, black berry, black currant, garrigue, kirsch, black pepper, black licorice, slate; incredibly fresh and elegant, crushed velvet tannins, round acidity, complex, lush, full-bodied; delivers way beyond its price; pair with red meat – steak, bison, lamb. To locate this wine near you, use wine-searcher or Google.

The Ogier 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.

2016 Ogier ‘Lou Camine’ Lirac Rouge Rhône Valley France ($15): 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre; aromas include black cherry, black berry jam, strawberry, baking spice, black pepper, toasted cedar, trailing vanilla; this is a rich wine while maintaining nice lift and elegance, slightly grippy tannins, integrated acidity, full-bodied, long finish; pair with red meat, hearty pasta, stew. To locate this wine near you, use wine-searcher or Google.

Here are some of my favorite pairings:

To learn more about Lirac wines and discover more delicious food pairings read my fellow #Winophiles articles:

  • 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”

When looking for Lirac wines, keep your eyes peeled for their bold new bottles featuring the Lirac coat of arms along with the AOC name. Inside you will find quality that far out weights the price, and your new favorite wines.

Please join our chat tomorrow morning at 10 CST on Twitter using #Winophiles. We will share our Lirac discoveries and hope to learn more with you. Cheers!

 

23 comments

  1. It was great having you “reporting” live from Lirac and the photos!! The galette stones are just amazing and makes me realize how those vines really struggle to produce those outstanding wines.

  2. Looks like you had an amazing trip to the Rhone Valley! So cool you could visit a couple of the producers that were part of my sample wines. Want to hear something funny? There was an issue with my shipment because I wasn’t at home. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my wines in time so I purchase a bottle of the Château de Montfaucon Comtesse Madeleine, then I received my samples and it was in there! Cool..it’s a wonderful wine! Cheers Michelle!

  3. Love the photo of you in the vineyard with those crazy stones! It really helped me to understand the soils, and especially those stones! I can only imagine how rough it must be to walk — or work in them! Hopefully one day I’ll get a chance to experience it myself!

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