Discover Lirac’s Southern Rhone Palate with the #Winophiles

Ever heard of Lirac wine before?

If you’re a typical American, probably not. If you’re a regular Rhone wine drinker, maybe.

Regardless it’s time to add the palette of Lirac to your palate!

When I was offered the opportunity to taste Lirac, I have to admit I had no idea whether it was a type of wine or a place where wine is grown, and whether we were talking white, red or rose wines. All I knew was it was French, that it was the theme for this month’s Winophiles hosted by Jeff Burrows of Food Wine Click and that I’d be getting samples from Teuwen to consider for my review.

When the box arrived, I opened it eagerly to discover four bottles of wine, three red and one white, and fortunately it didn’t take much research to learn that

Lirac is a place in the very southern tip of the Rhone Valley near Provence and across the river to the west from the city of Avignon and the famous Rhone region, Chateauneuf de Pape.

With this basic information, Sue set off to find recipes from the area and I to learn more about the region.

Five fun facts about Lirac:

  • Wine has been made from grapes grown in the region since the Roman occupation 2000 years ago.
  • By the 16th century, Lirac was so famous they had to protect against the misuse of their name by branding the barrels with the letters “C.D.R” for “Côte du Rhone” — meaning that Lirac is where the Cotes du Rhone appellation came from before being extended to other “Côtes du Rhone” wines.
  • Credit for Lirac as an AOC goes to Count Henri de Régis de Gatimel whose family inherited Château de Ségriès which still stands.
  • Lirac is the first Côtes du Rhône appellation wine to produce wine in all three colors: red, rosé and white.
  • Today annual production is around 20,000hl, and while little known in the US this will change if we #Winophiles have anything to do with it this month! Scroll down to see the links!

The geology of the Lirac is complex and varied, and many of the vineyards have bread loaf sized stones that both capture and reflect the heat:

Mistral winds are also prevalent; these cool the vineyards, dry out moisture, and kill bacteria.

We tasted and paired four wines from Lirac:

  • CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON “COMTESSE MADELEINE” LIRAC BLANC 2015 SRP $30
  • LA LÔYANE VIEILLES VIGNES LIRAC ROUGE 2016 SRP $16
  • DOMAINE D’ARBOUSSET LIRAC ROUGE 2015 SRP $15
  • CHATEAU D’AQUÉRIA LIRAC ROUGE 2015 SRP $24

Menu:

  • Tapenade with anchovies
  • Cheese plate with 3 brie: St Angel, St Andre, D’Affinois and pate
  • Instant Pot Risotto with roast mushrooms
  • Chicken d’Avignon
  • Goat cheese and nectarine tart

Sue found recipes here and here.

CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON “COMTESSE MADELEINE” LIRAC BLANC 2015 SRP $30
Lilac AOC; Alcohol: 13%; Soil: Sand and silt
Hand harvested grape varieties: 50% Marsanne, 20% Grenache blanc, 15% Clairette, 15% Picpoul
sample for my review consideration

In the 11th century, the castle of Montfaucon guarded the territory, and later collected taxes from ships carrying goods. Until 1995, fruit was sold to a local cooperative. Today, the estate is comprised of more than 112 acres including 90 year old vines of Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise ; winemaking seeks to preserves purity and complexity of the terroir.

“Comtesse Madeleine” is named after Rodolphe de Pins’ grandmother, who inherited the vineyards and managed them for 60 years. Read more about him here.

The five varieties in the blend were whole-bunch pressed and co-fermented in neutral oak with bâtonnage followed by six additional months aging in oak.

  • Color: Golden metallic shine, like the color of gold jewelry
  • Nose: Apple, pear, grass, fennel
  • Palate: Apple, pear, nice lingering mineral finish
  • Pairing: This is a lovely wine with our without food. They suggest “flavorful fish entrees such as bouillabaisse, grilled tuna or lobster with saffron.”

Pairing: Sue could not believe how well it went with the provincial tapenade; she felt that the salty olives would fight with the wine, but it was very nice. It did not like the pate so much, nor did it like the triple cream brie cheeses on the cheese plate leading us to believe that it would not be a great wine with a cream sauce. It would love anything with lemons, capers, or olives in it. The wine loves the bright tart flavors and has a way of taming those flavors down in such a lovey way. The earthiness of mushroom risotto was so nice with this wine.  The apple in the chicken was so lovely with the apple in the palate of the wine. What a perfect relationship, the wine and the fruit tart. This is not a sweet dish but more of a dessert cheese plate.

I would love to see this wine on a restaurant wine list!

LA LÔYANE VIEILLES VIGNES LIRAC ROUGE 2016 SRP $16
Lilac AOC: 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah
Alcohol 15%; organic
sample for my review consideration

In ancient times  “La Lôyane” meant a “territory occupied by wolves.”  While the winery was stablished in 2001, this family owned estate has been growing grapes in Lirac for four generations. Romain Dubois and his wife Laure oversee 75 organically grown acres  in Lirac and Tavel.

Before I knew this, I told Sue that I bet this was organically grown fruit. I have come to notice and be bothered by a chemical element in wines made by commercially grown grapes — and I didn’t get that in this wine. No wonder that recent research shows that wine that’s biodynamic scores on average 5 points higher than commercial wine!

This single vineyard wine comes from “Les Theys” and includes the oldest Grenache vines in all of Lirac which offer really low yields. Fermentation and aging takes place in stainless steel with a small portion of each wine is raised in their collection of their ten neutral 60 hl demi-muid barrels. We liked how fresh the resulting wine tastes — full of fruit and earth.

  • Color: Very dense, almost opaque ruby and garnet jewel tones.
  • Nose: Blue fruit with herbs, specifically lavender and sage.
  • Palate: Herbal notes of menthol, sage,  and herbs of Provence, lively fruit of boysenberries and blueberries. Clean mineral finish. There is earth, but there is also soil.

Pairing:  Tapenade brings out the fruit and the herbs. This wine also went really well with the pate and loved the triple cream brie cheeses on the cheese plate. With the D’affonise there is a funky earthy interesting thing. There is a magic that happens to change both profiles of the cheese and the wine — bringing out fabulous herbal qualities. This was also fabulous with the tart. We decided that if the fruit were roasted ahead of time and then sliced and put on the top it would even better.

All in all, this was both of our favorites tonight at an amazing price point. This wine was fabulous from beginning to end. We would absolutely buy this wine. It would be a great wine for Trader Joes to sell!

DOMAINE D’ARBOUSSET LIRAC ROUGE 2015 SRP $15
Lilac AOC; organic
Grape varieties: 70% Grenache, 10% each Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault
sample for my review consideration

Gérald Lafont consults for more than 40 prestigious wineries in the region, but his real passion is in Lirac where he organically farms two plots of clay, limestone, sand and gales rouléts: a small 6.1 acres that includes 50 year old Grenache vines he inherited from his father located in Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres and a second plot of 40-45 year-old Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault  located on a plateau.

Hand-harvesting expresses their terroir. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in concrete vats using only indigenous yeast for three weeks with gentle pumpovers and racking. Most of the wine matures in concrete and the remaining 30% in demi-muids for 18 months.

  • Color: Dense with a slight translucency, garnet, ruby, rosey coral ring.
  • Nose: Pomegranate, cranberry, wet stone, wet river or mossy stone, fennel, licorice.
  • Palate: Tart red fruit, not really cherry, more berries and currants, maybe plum, bright tannins, tannins and acidity in the front of the palate, anise, lingering finish.
  • Pairing: They suggest pairing with lamb tajine or slow-cooked ribs and truffled mashed potatoes — and we could totally see how rich lamb would work with this wine.

Pairing: Very nice with the pate as it enhances the herbaciousness of the wine, and played well with the triple cream brie cheeses that were on the cheese plate. I enjoyed the finish of this wine and really liked it with the d’affonise cheese and could see this as a versatile wine to bring to Thanksgiving wine. The chicken went well, so a roast chicken would also be fantastic. Cornish game hen??? The earthiness of the risotto was fabulous with the wine. The root veggies in the chicken are also very nice together. We were aware of the high alcohol on the nose. While this wine was good with the chicken, going well with the herbs, it was over the top with the mushroom risotto.

I’m not really a big carrot lover, but cooked with the brandy and the mushroom and the liquid the carrots are lovely and especially with this wine.

Sue wasn’t sure that this would work with the dessert course, but it does: the goat cheese in the tart (maybe the gaminess of the cheese) works well with the earth of the cheese.

CHATEAU D’AQUÉRIA LIRAC ROUGE 2015 SRP $24
Lilac AOC; Alcohol: 14.4%; Soil: Limestone, sand and clay
Grape varieties: 50% Grenache, 25% each Syrah and Mourvèdre
sample for my review consideration

Over four hundred years ago, at the end of the 16th century, monks from the Abbey of Villeneuve-les-Avignon transferred a large tract of land to the Count of Aquaria — and Château d’Aquaria was born and wine’s been made there ever since.

Jean Olivier purchased the estate in 1919 and his son-in-law Paul de Bez took over in 1943. Today a third generation of the Olivier family owns and operates the estate: grandsons Vincent makes the wines and Bruno does sales and marketing in a winery that was renovated in the 1980s.

After destemming and a gentle crush, each variety is vinified separately and then ferments for three weeks in tank with frequent racking to extract flavor. The pressed wine is blended, then 30% of the wine ages in French oak barrels for 8-10 months.

  • Color: Nice bright translucency to this wine, ruby red with a plum ring.
  • Nose: Very aromatic and inviting. When right out of the bottle, menthol and sage, algae, smells of a water environment, minerality, brine, seafood, fresh salty sea air, chaparral, after opened for a while it becomes blueberry pie, cinnamon and spice.
  • Palate: Blue fruit, smooth, silky tannins, earth, and herbs. In a petite syrah glass, there is so much more fruit, If you like the fruit than enjoy it in a petite syrah glass, but if minerality and herbs are your thing, drink this out of a bordeaux glass. Luxurious finish.
  • Pairing: This wine loves food and went well with everything on the menu tonight. They suggest pairing this wine with duck or lamb-based hearty stews or casseroles — and I’d love to see this with duck breasts with a berry sauce.

Pairing: So, so good with the herbs de provence that was in the tapenade. bright acidity. I loved this wine with the St. Angel cheese. Sue kept going back for the tapenade. The risotto brought out the earthiness in the wine. Great with the chicken dish; the fruit in the wine is fabulous with the chicken. The truffle oil in the risotto was so amazing with this wine. This was Sue’s least favorite  with the dessert. While it went so well with every other aspect of the meal, it did not carry through to the end of the meal.

YUM, YUM, YUM everything in our menu went perfectly with the wines this evening — including dessert! While all of the recipes were fantastic with all of the wines tonight, the dessert course was by far our favorite. Not too sweet and so, so wonderful with our wines tonight. What a surprise! We also brought out an Armagnac to enjoy with tonight’s dessert. All I could keep saying was toffee, creme brûlée, yum, yum!

Want to learn more about Lirac? Join our twitter chat on Sat. Oct. 20 from 8-9am Pacific time — or anytime!– by following the hashtag #Winophiles. Here’s a list of great Lirac wine suggestions from our Winophiles:

 

18 thoughts on “Discover Lirac’s Southern Rhone Palate with the #Winophiles

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  6. We really loved the tapenade with the anchovies and provincial herbs which we were told is very typical! We were surprised to discover how well it worked! And I’m glad we went with a traditional regional chicken dish because chicken is much easier to procure and an affordable pleasure — like these wines!

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