Lirac: Five Star French Wine And Travel

Lirac Vineyard
A view of a Lirac vineyard at Château de Montfaucon. Photo Credit: Jill Barth

France’s Rhône River runs north to south, beginning in the Swiss Alps and eventually finding its way to the Mediterranean Sea. Populating its banks are world-renowned vineyards, divided into Northern and Southern designationsthe latter of which includes the Lirac Cru.

In a valley where wines are classified by region – not variety – possessing this Cru designation is a key distinction, as there are only 13. Though Lirac was officially recognized as such in the 1940s, the area has been known for quality vineyards since the middle ages, famous for fresh, aromatic and structured wines.

Domaine Clos Sixte Lirac
Photo Credit: Jill Barth

The AOP – which includes the communes of Roquemaure, Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres, Saint-Geniès-de-Comolas and Lirac — produces red, white and rosé wine from 782 hectares. It is home to 44 domaines and châteaux, 18 négociants and 5 co-ops. Most of the producers here are in the family business, having learned their skills from their parents. The appellation’s website calls themselves the “sober and inconspicuous cru.” Also, “progress and humility are two core values.”

Lirac is the across-the-river neighbor to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is like living next to royalty—a heritage that can’t be duplicated. Generation after generation of comparison gets frustrating. But what if the time has come—a friendly revolution so to speak—when duplication and comparison no longer count? This is what de Pins feels is happening in Lirac, a fresh undertaking of the familiar processes of wine growing, making and selling.

From my story The Good Wines of Lirac (Palate Press).

Lirac Vines
Beautiful vines that are said to have been a ‘nursery’ for wartime vines, when soldiers brought back this-and-that from their travels. Interesting fodder for field blend enthusiasts. Photo Credit: Jill Barth

Since writing this story a new vintage has been released, and to introduce a fresh set of wines I think it’s also time to discuss Lirac from a travel perspective.

France’s hilltop wine towns and the surrounding villages and natural spaces are well worth spending your precious vacation days. They are arguably up to the standards of any wine region around the world.

Lirac isn’t the biggest village or most boastful cru, but it is substantial and visitors always pause at the comparisons with across-the-river Châteauneuf-du-Pape because CdP is so well-known that newbies to Lirac can’t help but wonder how did I miss this? Even CdP enthusiasts, those familiar with the elevated status of being a cru rather than Côtes du Rhône, are still puzzled by Lirac as if someone pulled a fast one on them.

Lirac, Vacqueyras, Rhône, Gigondas, Rasteau
Hélène Jaume, Alain Jaume et Fils and Bernard Callet, Domaine Coudolis—Lirac producers. Photo Credit: Jill Barth

Lirac is home to a mere 715 hectares of vineyards and annual production hovers around  23,000 hectolitres, that’s less than 2M bottles, just a teardrop’s worth equalling 0.5% of total Rhône Valley wine production. To benchmark: 770M bottles were produced in Bordeaux in 2016. And yet—there is enough to go around, Lirac is not too precious to obtain. You just need to know where to look…

…and why not look at the source. Back to the idea of a trip. Most visitors from the U.S. fly into Paris from there many wine travelers decide to pop over to Champagne or the Loire if they rent a car. Maybe Bordeaux or Burgundy if they are up for it. Add Lirac and her Southern Rhône neighbors to the list.

Avignon at Night
Beautiful Avignon, former home of the Pope, lit up at night. Photo Credit: Jill Barth
How to Get There

Readers of L’Occasion know I am a fan of the French road trip, and we’ve driven to most of the major wine regions in rental cars over the years. (Hint to my fiction friends: my second novel, underway, is the story of a modern marriage told through a road trip from Paris to Provence…)

But I understand not everyone wants to drive around on their vacation—for some people, that level of responsibility on holiday is a turn-off. Here is another reason why Lirac and its neighbors (in French they translate this into English as environs, which is apt) are excellent for a trip: the TGV into Avignon.

Now, I’m not one to give step by step travel advice, but you can get it direct, or with a Part Deux stop in Lyon, which happens to be one of my favorite cities in the world, so relish a long layover if you can. I’ve done both and it’s an easy way to travel.

red wine from France, south of France, travel to France for wine
Lirac vineyards above the village in sight below. Photo Credit: Jill Barth
Where to Stay

Here I could categorize a number of wonderful places to stay and eat, but the list would be endless. I can personally recommend the Avignon Grand Hotel, which is right in town and about 20 minutes by car to Lirac, and Château de Massillan which is about 40 minutes by car to Lirac.

For a holiday home on a vineyard (40 mins or so from Lirac) I can personally suggest Domaine l’Ameillaud in Cairanne—home to pretty damn good wines itself. You all know I love Château des Alpilles in St. Rémy-de-Provence and it’s really just a bit farther, down south about 45 mins.

Wine to Try
Lirac, Alain Jaume, Best wine in French
Clos Sixte, Château de Montfaucon, Ogier, Domaine Maby— Lirac stunners. Photo Credit: Jill Barth

Domaine Maby Casta Diva Lirac 2017 ($28)
Clairette at 68% and Viognier at 32% come together in this rich white wine from the fourth generation of Maby winemakers, Richard and Natasha Maby.

Château de Montfaucon Baron Louis Lirac 2014 ($24)
A classic Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvèdre—a perfect Lirac emulsion. Old vines on ancestral land (pictured above) and read about this domaine in my story linked above.

Clos Sixte Lirac Vignobles Alain Jaume et Fils 2015 ($25)
This bottle presents the affordable luxury of well-done Southern Rhône Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Lots of expressive fruit with balanced tannins from one of the regions foremost producers.

Ogier “Lou Caminé” Lirac  2016 ($15)
Caminé: a sheltered, isolated place in the Provençal dialect. Here’s your Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre to age. A total steal at this price.

Posts from our other French Winophiles

Join our chat on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 10:00 am central time. Look for our hashtag #winophiles:

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”

Here on L’Occasion we go with 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”

Liz from What’s in That Bottle shares Lirac: the Rhône Valley’s Secret Right Bank Ringer”

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”

 

Please note that these wines were media samples, but all opinions are my own and despite the fact that I pretty much gush about these wines, no one paid me to do it—they are just that good.
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25 Comments Add yours

  1. Nice article! I’ll have to give Lirac another try. Every time I’ve had it in the past it’s seemed kind of heavy and not very interesting. But maybe I haven’t tried the right producers–I’ll keep my eyes out for the ones you recommend.

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Sorry for the delay here — have you visited Alain Jaume in Orange?

      Like

  2. You have me dreaming of a vacation in Lirac! Keeping those hotel recommendations in my dream file.

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Heavenly travel idea!

      Like

  3. wendyklik says:

    Oh how I wish I could go on a road trip with you. So much wonderful knowledge that you have to share

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thanks Wendy! I spend a lot of time learning.

      Like

  4. Excellent advice, Jill. I’m with you both on Lyon and on jumping on the TGV to Avignon. We stayed in the vineyard BnB at Ch. Rouge-Bleu, also a fun home base in the region.

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    1. Jill Barth says:

      Endless good times!

      Like

  5. Great overview. We flew in to Marseille and drove an hour to Avignon, another option for entry. DIdn’t you love Montfaucon? We over-extended our stay there because we were so enamored with his wines. I love your photo of the vineyards, as I just stood in the same spot. Our only disappointment was not having enough time to visit his castle. Well done as usual. Cheers!

    Like

  6. Payal says:

    Terrific summary, and agree about the TGV into Avignon. Or anywhere… it’s a great way to get around if hiring a car isn’t on the cards.

    Like

  7. You Palate Press piece inspired me to pick up a bottle of Lirac earlier this year and I fell in love with the wine and the region. Your travel tips will be tucked safely away for planning a trip. The vine shots are stunning. Question…one of the Lirac’s I tasted came from 150 year old Grenache. Were there vines in the region that survived pheloxera?
    And…I’m with Wendy, I would love to go on a road trip with you in Lirac

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Let’s do a Winophiles field trip! I’m not aware of Lirac vines that survived phylloxera and in fact the area is believed by some to by the origin of the outbreak.

      Like

      1. I love the idea of a Winophiles field trip! And I will have to do some further research on that old vine grenache.

        Like

  8. Ah, travel! Yes please! I did get to Champagne because it is so close to Paris! But it’s not that big of a country — when you live in Southern California and think nothing of driving for a long weekend in Napa or Sonoma! Thanks for the background and travel tips for when I go!

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      We Americans are accustomed to some long distances! My furthest drive was Chicago to Miami = 24 hours!

      Like

  9. Thanks for the Lirac travel guide. It may come in handy now that this month’s topic has piqued my curiosity about visiting!

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Definitely a great trip, Martin!

      Like

  10. I enjoyed a virtual visit to Lirac through the recent #Winophiles sampling. Now you have me wanting to make a trip there!

    Like

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