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Lirac – Secret gem of Rhone Valley



I enjoy to discover wines that creep in the dimness. If nothing else, a rare grape or out-of-the-way region most of the times point to a  good value. Lirac, a French appellation in the southern Rhône Valley, is not exactly off the beaten path. But it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Directly right  across the river from famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it reminds me of an independent music store versus an HMV. Once recognized for rosés, Lirac, one of the exclusive villages that form part of the Côtes du Rhône vineyards, now excels in red and white wine.


The historical Lirac appellation has about 1,700 acres of vineyards, mostly situated in the titular village. There are also some vineyards in three other communes in the vicinity. In 2015, the appellation produced 24,601 million hl of wine which represents roughly about 35% of the total production of the Rhone Valley AOC’s. Lirac is red wine territory;85% is red, 10% is white and 5% rose.


Historians have discovered that Lirac’s wines were very beloved among the governing class of France about 2,000 years ago. In fact, in that early past Lirac was possibly the most famous wine region of the Rhône. However, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region’s wines gradually overshadowed those of Lirac, and by the Middle Ages the region’s wines had only minimal popularity. Lirac was granted AOC status in 1945


The Lirac vineyards border the Rhône river; this is a major climatic asset. The climate here is purely Mediterranean with exceptional exposure to the sun, with 2,700 hours per year. Lirac’ soil is also favourable for the production of wines for ageing potential. The appellation has a mix of clay, sand and pebbles. For instance, around the area of Gard, the fine layer of red clay
and pebbles favours the production of strong wines with solid tannins for a long potential for aging. On the other hand,  the terraces’ slopes around Saint-Géniès-de Comolas give rise to sand laced with small pebbles from various landslides. The wines from this terroir are finer with less tannins.
Over a dozen grapes are allowed here. In the red and rosé wines, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsaut are the dominant grapes. Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Trebbiano, and Viognier are the major white grapes. Most of the red wines have simple but bright, vibrant flavors of red and dark fruit. The rosés are nervy wines based mostly on strawberry flavors; whites tend to be made in a perfumed style.


Generally Lirac wines offer outstanding value and are very consistent quality wise. At the SAQ, we can find 8 products with the Lirac appellations. From this small list, my favorite includes Chateau Mont-Redon and Jean-Paul Daumen. Other interesting producers include: Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine, Domaine de la Mordorée, Domaine Roger Sabon and Château de Ségriès. However, these may be found in the private importation network.



Focus on Chateau Mont Redon



Staff at Mont Redon proudly displaying their bottles.
Staff at Mont Redon proudly displaying their bottles.

Chateau Mont Redon is one of  the largest wine producer in Chateauneuf du Pape with 165 hectares of holding land. That includes 100 hectares planted with vines. They also own several hectares of vines in Lirac and the Cotes du Rhone appellation. Not only is Chateau Mont Redon the largest producer of Chateauneuf du Pape wine, they are also one of the oldest estates with the longest sagas in the Southern Rhone Valley. The official vineyards of Chateau Mont Redon go as far back as 1344, when it was known as Mourredon.


Mont Redon produces a stunning red lirac with a floral and dark fruit profile. However, I have an interest in Rhone whites, and Redon produces a fascinating white Lirac. Made with the classic Rhone varieties of Clairette, Grenache blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, this a mediterranean white made with great care. A slow cool fermentation and careful maturation in french oak and aging in its lees makes this wine bright and aromatic with a potential for medium term ageing.


The estate is currently in the hands of the related Abeille and Fabre families, who have been running the domaine since 1923. With a continuing focus on innovation and a seamless generational transition currently underway, Mont-Redon continuation as one of the great crus looks set to be as bright as its past.



liracChâteau Mont-Redon Lirac 2015. SAQ: 12258973. Price: $24.05


On the nose, explosive and aromatic nose reminiscent of honey and beeswax. Noble aromas of oak accompany the purity of white fruits Rich and mouth coating with flavors reminiscent of orange zest and apricot. Gracious roundness with a luscious finale. A connoisseur wine. Drink now or keep it for the next 7 years. Enjoy it with fish dishes in a cream sauce.  92/100


By: Marco Giovanetti – totimes.ca

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