The wonderful wines of Lirac

On the eastern bank of the Rhône in southern France, vintners have produced Lirac wine since before the Roman Empire. In the 14th century, both Popes ordered casks and casks for their respective papal courts, and once the schism was healed, the Pope in Rome continued the tradition. The Lirac vineyards have always had a friendly rivalry with those on the western bank: Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Lirac wine is pressed from a combination of grape varieties, the most dominant of which is the Grenache noir. Grenache noir grapes are spicy and fruity and have extremely strong raspberry and strawberry palates. The Grenache noir grapes also produce wines of above-average alcohol content, and Lirac wine must be at least 11.5 percent alcohol by volume.

The other notable grape varieties included in every vintage of Lirac wine are:

  • Syrah
  • Mourvèdre
  • Cinsault
  • Carignan

Syrah grapes produce stronger tannins than Grenache noir, and their berry flavor tends more to blackberry than to raspberry. Some vintages also have a slight chocolate flavor. Mourvèdre grapes are the most astringent of the four because they are exceptionally high in tannins. The grapes also produce even more alcohol content than Grenache noir grapes. Cinsault and Carignan are like twins who are polar opposites. While Cinsault grapes are soft and fruity, Carignan are almost as astringent as Mourvèdre.

The winemakers in the Lirac region use specific blending rules to differentiate their wines from those of other winemakers in the surrounding area. Any Lirac wine must use at least 40 percent Grenache noir. At least 25 percent must be a combination of Syrah and Mourvèdre, and at least 10 percent must be a combination of Cinsault and Carignan.

In all, the region is as diverse as it is popular. Aside from its famous reds, the Lirac region's 100 vineyards also produce excellent white and rosé wines. The Rosés are almost dark enough to be reds themselves, and the whites are as floral and fruity as reds made from Cinsault alone would be. Heavy investment from international investors in the 1950s begat the region's rise from "pretty good" to remarkable.

Lirac wines are popular not only because of their excellence but also because of their reasonable price. Certain other regions, although not Châteauneuf-du-Pape, nearby that have much more prestige, in many cases undeservedly, drive up wine prices. The wines of the Lirac region, however, remain affordable for the average budding connoisseur.

One exceptional example of the great value for money wines to come from this appellation is the Domaine des Cigalounes Lirac. This exceptional value for money wine retails at only £12.17 a bottle with extra case discounts available for those who wish to lay this wine down and watch it mature.