Lirac: Wine from the Wrong Side of the Tracks #Winophiles

 

Lirac Southern Rhone wines by the fireplace with a one pot sausage meal.

A simple one pot meal to warm you up on a cool autumn evening, served with wines from the “Secret Cru” of the Southern Rhone, Lirac.

The Urban Dictionary tells us the “wrong side of the tracks” is the poor, seedy, low-rent part of a town or city. In the Southern Rhone, the Cru Villages with the most fame are all on the Left Bank (east side) of the Rhone river. The Right Bank (west side) seems to be the “wrong side of the tracks”. Poor Lirac on the Right Bank seems to have found itself on the wrong side of the river tracks. Why? Who knows?

This display was in a wine museum in the Rhone. The French consider the Rhone as a single region, north and south. If you look carefully, you’ll see Lirac in the top section of the pyramid along with Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Southern Rhone AOP Heirarchy
Like many French wine regions, there is a recognized hierarchy of AOP (or AOC) regions. The basic regional designation is Côtes du Rhône. Above that is Côtes du Rhône Villages, then above that are the villages allowed to append their names to the label. Finally, at the top of the Rhone heap are the Cru’s. The Cru’s are named only by the village, “Côtes du Rhône” no longer appears on the label. 

The Cru’s of the Southern Rhone:

  • Beaumes des Venise AOP
  • Cairanne AOP (elevated in 2016)
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOP
  • Gigondas AOP
  • Lirac AOP
  • Tavel AOP
  • Rasteau AOP (changed in 2009)
  • Vacqueyras AOP
  • Vinsorbes AOP (elevated 2006)

While Châteauneuf-du-Pape isn’t officially above all the others, it is definitely the most famous and the wines command the highest prices among all the cru’s. Lirac, on the other hand, is almost unknown. Even their own website lists Lirac as “a secret cru“.

galets stony vineyard soil cotes du rhone

Not just in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The ground is filled with galets from ancient riverbeds.

Lirac features close proximity to the Rhône and the famous Mistral wind that howls down the river regularly. Lirac even features the same galet stones forming the basis of the “soil” in the vineyard.   Lirac seems to be the odd one out, left out of the limelight.

For the savvy consumer (that’s you after reading this!), knowing a bit more about Lirac means you can take advantage of Lirac’s “secret”: delicious, authentic Southern Rhone Cru wines at affordable prices. Let’s take some Lirac wines for a spin.

Disclosure: The wine in this post was provided as a sample. No other payment was involved and all opinions are mine

Chateau de Montfaucon “Comtesse Madeleine” Lirac AOC (sample, $30 SRP, or online here)

Wine makeup: 40% Marsanne, 35% Clairette, 20% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picpoul. The wine was fermented and aged for 7 months in French oak barrels. 13% abv

Eye: Clear, pale gold color.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Pears, white peach, finishes with almond and a touch of bitter almond skin.
Mouth: Dry, medium intensity, medium+ body, medium acidity, well buffered. Medium alcohol. Nice rich, soft waxy texture with fresh fruit, pears and peaches, and again a bit of almond with a very slight bitter note in the finish. Wine is drinking beautifully now, and would cellar well for 5 years. A very nice rendering of a Southern Rhone Blanc.

Domaine Castel Oualou “Fût de Chêne” Lirac AOC 2013 (sample, $20 SRP)

From the winery: “Terra Vitis certified, signifying sustainable growing practices. Grapes are destemmed and undergo a 25 day fermentation in temperature controlled tanks. Wine is then blended and aged for 4 months in concrete vats that are buried 16.5 feet underground. The wine is then transferred to large oak barrels for 18 months. This is an age-worthy wine that will continue to improve for the next 3 to 5 years. 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre

Eye: Clear, medium ruby with a nice gradual taper to a ruby edge. Legs are lightly stained.
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Intensely spiced fruit is immediately noticeable. Ripe strawberries, cherries, black cherries, and lively garrique herbs, vanilla, cinnamon and pepper.  Alll seem to be in a race to reach your nose.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity. Medium+ body, medium+ alcohol, medium tannins. The intense fruit masks the tannins a bit, as they persist in the finish. Overall, ripe intense fruit with plenty of herbal tones and a nice medium+ fruity finish. This is a high quality wine which will benefit from further aging of 3-5 years. It can certainly be enjoyed now, but will be even better giving some time for the flavors to further meld. Again, a worthy example of a Southern Rhone cru wine deserving a place at the dinner table.

More Lirac & Environs Reading

  • While we didn’t visit Lirac, we have been all over this area on a prior trip to France. When you visit, you might enjoy some of these communities near Lirac. Prior post link here.
  • Our friend and fellow Winophile, Jill, has visited Lirac and even wrote about one of the producers I highlight in this post. Her article is here.

When you visit, take a picnic, some Lirac wine and enjoy a day at the Pont du Gard, a short 30 minute drive out of town.

Posts from our other French Winophiles
Here’s a list of great Lirac wine suggestions from our Winophiles

Saucisses de Sunshine Harvest Farm


Not all French cuisine is complicated and fancy. This one is a simple weekday evening idea nearly anyone can cook and enjoy. Original recipe is from Stephane Reynaud’s “French Feasts“. The best approach? Go to your local farmers market and buy what’s fresh. Our favorite livestock farmer is Sunshine Harvest Farm, so we’re featuring their sausage in this meal, along with potatoes, carrots and green onions from the Mill City Farmers Market.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. local farm fresh pork sausage. Ours is from Sunshine Harvest Farms
  • 2 large Idaho potatoes
  • 1 lb. fresh local carrots
  • 1 bunch of scallions
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (NOT from Minnesota!)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In just enough water to cover, boil the sausages for 20 minutes
  • Meanwhile, Peel and cube the potatoes, peel and cut the carrots into bite size pieces
  • Slice the white parts of the scallions lengthwise to form long strands, cut the green sections across the grain for color and flavor. Set aside
  • After the sausages have cooked 20 minutes, add the potatoes and carrots
  • Cook at a low boil another 20 minutes uncovered.
  • When all the liquid has boiled away, drizzle with a bit of EVOO and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn the ingredients into a bowl, top with the scallions and enjoy with a glass of Rhone wine!

Comments
31 Responses to “Lirac: Wine from the Wrong Side of the Tracks #Winophiles”
  1. culinarycam says:

    Love this…and the wrong side of the tracks analogy though the two wines I tried weren’t my favorite. I have two more to change my mind. Fingers crossed.

  2. Jill Barth says:

    Thanks for mentioning my Lirac story! This is a great month to celebrate some yummy Rhône wine!

  3. Love discovering these “secret” wine regions. Lirac really is an undiscovered gem!

  4. That graphic from the museum is a good way to break down the Rhone hierarchy. The white blend sounds interesting; I don’t recall seeing Picpoul in many blends. I’m more familiar with in a 100% Picpoul.

  5. lizbarrett says:

    Love your pos and v. envious of your fireplace situation. I am still obsessing on the Chateau Montfaucon Blanc – glad you liked it too!

  6. Lynn says:

    It’s only a matter of time before people discover Lirac wines! Liking your dish, the simplicity of it and oh so wine friendly.

  7. I fell in love with Lirac. The wines are incredible quality. The 150 year old Clairette vine I shared on Instragram belong to Chateau de Montfaucon. His wines are incredible. Btw, they do have limestone soil in Lirac. I shared a photo I took in my article. Your meal looks delicious as well. I spend as much time studying your photos as your words. I am hoping to finally take a photography class this fall. well done!

  8. outwines says:

    Just printed out that delicious sounding (& looking!) recipe. Seems easy enough for even a non cooking-savvy person like me! 🙂

  9. wendyklik says:

    Simple is often best, I find, and these wines from the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks were lovely. Thanks so much for hosting this month.

  10. Payal says:

    The sausage pairing looks terrific! I had the Oualou this time and loved it, and the Comtesse Madeleine a few months ago. The richness and pithiness offset each other splendidly… overall a very fresh wine, we loved it!

  11. I am okay with Lirac staying a little under the radar. As they produce so little wine comparatively, it leaves more for those of us in the know! Your fireplace photo is the perfect welcome to fall, by the way.

  12. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    Love the way you frame this. And dinner looks delicious as always!

  13. I really enjoyed the writing in this one Jeff! Very entertaining! And the meal sounds simple yet rich and delicious and affordable — much like the wines of Lirac!

  14. Love the wrong side of the tracks analogy Jeff!

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