Thursday, October 18, 2018

LIRAC AOC: HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT!



This month the French #winophiles explored Southern Rhône wines including some from Lirac AOC. A few of us, including I, received a generous four bottles of Lirac AOC wine from Teuwen Communications (http://teuwen.com/). Read to know more about the red Lirac wines I received!

Although the 1700-acred Lirac AOC in the Gard department of the Rhône Valley is literally across the street river from the very well-known Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it is most certainly not as well known as it should be. With a history of viticulture and winemaking dating to pre-Roman times, ongoing excellent wine making by a small group of small domains making large wines, a Mediterranean climate, a location more protected from the harsh Mistral winds than the Northern Rhône, and a slew of grape-friendly soils like galéts rouléts, limestone, sand, and red clay in various combinations, Lirac is poised to produce world-renowned excellent wines. Wines that should be as famous - if not more - as Ch.-du-Pape to the east. Instead, Lirac is full of "boutique" wineries that are family-owned and operated for generations, and many that are formally committed to Sustainable Farming practices.

Before Lirac was designated as a separate AOC in 1947, it was part of the Côtes du Rhône AOC, a designation that has existed since the mid-1700s, and at a time when Lirac was far more important a wine producing region than Ch.-du-Pape. Lirac AOC is spread over four communes, with  red, white, and rosé wines being produced. The wines here are similar to the Côtes du Rhône-Villages and Ch.-du-Pape wines. The main red grapes are grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault, red picpoul and clairette, and a few other varietals that complement the main three - GSM - grapes.

https://domainedarbousset.com/
A note on galéts rouléts: these rounded pebbles (called as such when they are within a specific size range, somewhere between boulders and various grades of sand) - are common in areas where rivers or oceans previously extended to present-day inland. The pebbles are formed by erosion from the force of the water, and are various types of rocks depending on the local geology: basaltic in Walla Walla, WA river channels, granitic in some parts of the Languedoc, and quartzite in Lirac and the rest of Southern Rhone. The pebbles, no matter what stone they are, are inert and offer no effect on the minerality or flavour of wine. But the fact that the pebbles retain heat from the daytime hours and keep the bases of the vines warm at night makes a difference to the ripening of the grapes and ultimately, the wine. They are a distinct part of climat.

The Lirac AOC wines and pairings we had...

FOOD
  1. Cheese and charcuterie plate, garnishes
  2. Icelandic lamb crusted with rosemary, lavender, thyme, savoury, marjoram, sage; Puy lentils
  3. Duck salmis (a very old-fashioned but outstanding way to cook duck), pommes fondantes, sautéed mushrooms, croutons
  4. Herb sausages, Puy lentils, pommes fondantes
  5. Duck rillettes, roasted grapes, fig jam, and gougères (with Comté and Füürtüfel cheeses)

2014 CH. DE MONTFAUCON "BARON LOUIS" LIRAC ROUGE, $24
http://www.chateaumontfaucon.com/en/index.html

Domain: From the famous Chateau de Montfaucon, as much a historic site with les ruines as a winery, with a long legacy dating to the 12th century and prehistoric times even before that! Owned and operated by Rodolphe de Pins, a UC Davis (CA) grad.


Grapes: 50% grenache, 15% syrah, 15% cinsault, 10% each mourvèdre and carignan. Destemmed and co-fermented for 7 days, then two weeks extended skin maceration. Aging: 70% of the blend aged in oak barrels, + 8 months bottle aging before release. 

Soil: sandy loam, limestone


Colour: Deep ruby, almost opaque


Nose: Berries, earth

Taste: Fresh berries, bramble, turned earth, hint of peppery spice. Silky tannins, medium+ acidity, lush, balanced with a long finish.

Pairing: 1: cheese and charcuterie plate. Absolutely perfect!


2015 DOMAINE D'ARBOUSSET LIRAC ROUGE, $15
https://domainedarbousset.com/

Domain: Gérald Lafont of Domaine D'Arbousset consults for 40 different wineries but Lirac is his passion. He farms sustainably on a 6.1 acre plot in Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres that he inherited from his father, and on another plot in the Claretière plateau in Lirac.


Grapes: 70% grenache, 10% each syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault, destemmed and fermented in concrete vats using indigenous yeasts. Aging: 70% in concrete, 30% in demi-muids, 18 months. 

Soil: galéts rouléts, sand, clay, limestone


Colour: Deep ruby, almost opaque


Nose: Berries, licorice, some earth

Taste: Raisins, red berries, pepper. Silky tannins, lush, balanced with a long finish. Very elegant wine.

Pairing: We had this with 2, 3, 5. This was one of our favourite wines of the four!


2015 DOMAINE MABY "BEL CANTO" LIRAC ROUGE, $20

Domain: The Maby family were originally shoemakers who, like the rest of the village, grew some grapes and made wine to sell locally. Now they have grown substantially in production and area, but are still very much a family-owned winery formally committed to Sustainable Farming practices.


Grapes: 100% grenache, whole cluster fermentation in 600 litre oak barrels (demi-muids) for 15 months


Soil: galéts rouléts, sand

Colour: Rich garnet, medium opacity


Nose: Red berries, peppery, floral, some earth

Taste: Cooked red berries, cherries, dried flowers, licorice. A lush wine with a peppery finish, medium-plus acidity, b
alanced tannins, and a medium-long finish. Delicious on its own or with food, even better after decanting for ~15 minutes.

Pairing: We had this with 2 and 3. While both pairings were delicious, the lamb was the star of the food pairings!


2013 DOMAINE DU CASTEL OUALOU CUVÉE FÛT DE CHÊNE ROUGE, $20

Domain: Terra Vitis certified family-owned and operated domain, since 1961.


Grapes: 
40% grenache, 50% syrah, 10% mourvèdre. Destemmed, foulage (grapes stomped with feet), fermented in steel tanks, and aged in concrete vats buried 17 ft. underground for 4 months then 225 litre oak barrels for 18 months.

Soil: clay, sand

Colour: Deep red, some purple, medium opacity


Nose: Red berries, vanilla, woody

Taste: Wood, pine needles, cocoa, peppery spice at the end. Medium acidity, balanced tannins, medium finish. A savoury and unique wine!


Pairing: 2, 3, 4. All delicious!


See the other rave reviews of  Southern Rhône wines from the rest of the #winophiles...

15 comments:

  1. Your pairing sound and look divine! And thank you for the details on the Galete Roules. Your knowledge of the soil and geology are always so impressive!

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  2. All your cheese and charcuterie plates look so good with those wines!

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    1. Thank you, we enjoyed them, especially with the wines!

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  3. I definitely missed the boat not having lamb with one of these bottles. Need to get some more Lirac and try that pairing!

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    1. We thought the lamb went wonderfully with the wines.

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  4. All of your pairings look delicious and I know went well with the wines.

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  6. Love your pairings with the Lirac wines, looks like you had delicious fun!

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  7. Looks like a great spread and the pairings all look great!

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  8. Great explanations about the soils and stones -- thank you!

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  9. Wow! Your food and food pairings are amazing Payal! Great post!

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