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.
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.
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
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.
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!