When I was asked if I wanted samples of wines from Lirac from our friends at Teuwen Communications, which represents the region, I said oui, because I’d never tasted wines from this somewhat obscure part of the Rhône Valley and I love learning about new wine regions.
Here’s what usually happens when I get samples: I line up the bottles, I assess, I read whatever info sheets might be included and then I carefully consider which one to open first and taste. I consider food pairings, wondering if I have anything to cook or do I have to go to the store, what can I cook that is photo-worthy, blah, blah, blah. It turns into a whole over-wrought exercise in over-thinking, for fuck’s sake!
But with these? Like a hyperactive, over-excited 6 year-old on Christmas morning, I threw all caution to the wind and opened them all at once! Buh bam! That’s when I realized one was a white, so that had to go into the fridgeroo.
I’m not going to bore you with a lot of technical details about soil types or elevations, because you know what? This blog is about basic info, for regular people who want to learn a thing or two about wine without having to think too, too much. So you’re going to get the low-down on Lirac and my goal is to familiarize you with an interesting new region – because these wines are Rhône Valley, for crying’ out loud – one of my favorites regions of France – so maybe you want to look for them when you next hit your wine shop. Ready? Let’s go to Lirac!
Where the Hell is Lirac?
Lirac – pronounced leer-ahck – is the most southerly part of the Rhône Valley, as you can see in this super-handy map, courtesy of the Society of Wine Educators). The Rhône Valley is split up into two parts: the only red wine made in the Northern Rhône is inky dark Syrah and the whites are made from Marsanne, Roussanne and/or Viognier grapes.
In the Southern Rhône, things get a little more complex, with 24 grape varieties grown and most wines being a blend of at least three grapes. Lirac earned its AOC designation in 1947, so it’s not new – just off the beaten track.
Across the river are several super-posh AOCs, including Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise (famous for its sweet Muscat wine and good reds). But Lirac lies low, next to Tavel (famous for rosé), turning out some really pretty wines. You can drink high-quality Côte du Rhône wines for as little as $10. That, my friends, is a wine value!
What Are They Like? What Do You Eat with Lirac Reds?
The samples I received included three big, reds, and one delightful white. I threw a whole mess of veg (whole Cremini mushrooms, red potatoes, rings of Delicate squash, sweet onion) onto a sheet pan, along with two Italian sausages, doused it with good olive oil, garlic salt and some other seasonings and slammed it into a 425 degree oven for an hour. Perfect.
It was a plateful of autumn and umami (that “fifth flavor” that is earthy and savory and so good with red wines). Here are my impressions.
Clos de Sixte 2015, $20. Yes, a GSM – short for Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend. I love GSMs, because they are such a happy trio of grapes together in a bottle! This one – 50 percent Grenache, 35 percent Syrah and 15 percent Mourvedre – has huge structure and I imagined a skyscraper built of canned black olives, because I got a nice savory, black-olivey edge to it, in addition to blue and black fruit. And if you were to landscape the skyscraper made out of black olives and blue/black fruit, it would be with violets, because there is an underlying floral element that surprises you on the long finish. Yasss, I really like this wine!
Château de Montfaucon Blanc, 2016 $20. Wait, wait, wait! One taste and I was like, “YES! Marsanne! And then I checked the back label and there he is – my buddy, Monsieur Marsanne. I love Marsanne – it might be my favorite white grape of all. It’s got a sort of peachy-almond richness and satiny texture that I just love. In addition to 40 percent Marsanne, there is 35 percent Clairette (an aromatic white grape), 20 percent Grenache Blanc and 5 percent Picpoul (another delicious white grape). This wine is absolutely delightful, like sunshine with peaches and almonds on top, jumping happily out of the bottle and into my glass. (Over and over again, to be honest … it was easy to keep drinking this one, especially with some salty Parmesan.) Well-done, Château de Montfaucon!
Domaine La Lôyane 2016, $20. Wow – I poured it and it was the inkiest-dark of dark purples… which gave me a hint … SYRAH! Yet one turn of the bottle reveals that it is 60 percent Grenache and 40 percent Syrah and one sip reveals that it is freaking delicious. It’s a big boy – kind of like a linebacker in a tutu – powerfully built (that’s the Syrah) but with an elegance that balances it out (that’s the Grenache). I really liked it and wish I’d had a rack of lamb delivered to my door, because that would be delicious. You know what else would be delicious? This double entree of sirloin steak and salmon that my friend Chef Tom Van Lente made at an event I was at the other night.
Castel Oualou 2013, $9. Uh huh – $9. Now, I’m not gonna lie, this was not my favorite, as I’m not a huge fan of the level of Brett that this bottle was showing. (Brett is short for Brettanomyces, a bacteria that can form during winemaking that lends an aroma of plastic or rubber – like a BandAid or a garden hose). But when I shared it with my neighbors they liked the black fruit and powerful weight and tannin of this one.
Posts From Other French Winophiles
Here’s a list of great posts so you can keep learning about Lirac if you like! And join us on Twitter on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. CST – use #Winophiles – we’re going to jam on Lirac for an hour! Cheers, everyone!
- 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”
- 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”